Looks Like University Of Illinois - Derrick Smith
Hey, a player I've actually seen in person! OK that's a stretch. I haven't seen him play football. But I did walk past him the other day during the Smith Center tour. My takeaway: he's pretty tall. At the time I thought he was going to be a safety, so I was curious about a 6'-2"/6'-3" safety (once you get to a certain height you have to be crazy fluid and athletic to play the position), but then an hour later, in his press conference, Lovie said they plan to use him at linebacker. That makes a lot more sense for a 6'-2" guy with a pretty big frame.
I should start with the background here if you're not familiar. Halfway through fall camp at Miami earlier this month, Derrick Smith found himself with the second string and third string. It was going to be his junior year, and he started thinking about running with the backups for two more years, so he announced a transfer. If he transferred now, he could sit out 2019 and still have two years of eligibility. If he waited until the season started, he was basically stuck using a year of eligibility.
On Twitter that day, I saw Illini defensive tackle Deon Pate retweet Smith's transfer announcement. That usually means they know each other, so I looked it up and sure enough - they were high school teammates. I wrote on The Deuce at the time...
Miami safety Derrick Smith is transferring.
High school teammate of Deon Pate.
We need safeties so go get him, sight unseen.
I honestly didn't know if he'd even consider us (or if we'd even consider him). I just saw "Pate teammate" (connection) and "safety" (need) and said "yes please".
I'm a little less excited to learn that he's not a safety. But if his move to linebacker means that, say, Delano Ware moves back to safety, then I'm on board. I mean, I'm on board no matter what because this was an open scholarship that we filled in late August with what appears to be a serviceable player, but I'm on board with another player at Sam linebacker.
I should probably first note how strange it is that we've added this many players in the summer. Here are the roster changes in the last five months (April 1 through today):
Players who left: Jacob Hollins, MJ Rivers, Ron Hardge, Brandon Jones
Players who were added: Wole Betiku, Trevon Sidney, Josh Imatorbhebhe, Brandon Peters, Chase Brown, Devon Witherspoon, Derrick Smith
Adding seven players from April to August is... rare. Many schools will be right at 85 scholarships on April 1st. But I guess it's not so rare in the age of the Transfer Portal. Players leave and other players arrive.
How good is Smith? It's hard to say. He tweeted that he was choosing between Illinois, Nebraska, Florida, and Texas but... I'm not sure I buy that? I don't doubt that those other schools kicked the tires, but it's fairly rare for schools like Nebraska, Florida, and Texas to have available scholarships in late August. I would suspect that some may have approached him with "take a semester at Xxxxx Junior College and then join us in January", but I have my doubts that all four had rides available.
Of course, that doesn't matter. He's in Champaign. And he slides into that "is he a strong safety or is he a Sam linebacker?" spot. Which, I should also note, are quite similar? When the defense is in Cover 3, the free safety drops to centerfield. The corners drop to deep right and deep left. The Mike and Will linebackers take the center of the field. Which means the strong safety takes one flat and the sam linebacker takes the other flat. So if you can be a guy on third and nine who charges forward to nab the tailback or tight end sneaking out to the left or right, you can be a Sam or you can be a strong safety. Smith will be one of those two in Champaign. As will Delano Ware.
I watched a little film on Smith and nothing really sticks out as great and nothing scares you. I can see why he was second string at Miami and I can see why those other schools were interested. So when that happens, the Tom Cruises seem fairly clear. This is not a SOUND THE BELLS OF ALTGELD THE NEW KING HAS ARRIVED and this is not "son you might be more comfortable at a Sun Belt school". This is right down the middle.
Derrick Smith - two and one-half Tom Cruises