The 90 Illini #34: Derrick Smith
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This one was an adjustment. I do that a lot as I go through this list. I had Smith somewhere around 22nd on the list, but then when Tony Adams moved to safety (it's assumed he'll be the starter next to Sydney Brown), I moved Smith down here to #34. That's a simple "if Adams is being moved, they're not 100% that Smith can do it, and if they're not 100% that Smith can do it, then I need to move him down on my list". It's a harsh world out there.
34. Derrick Smith
Uniform number: 2
Year in school: Junior (2 years to play 2; with the Covid rule, technically 3 to play 3)
Height: 6'-2" -- Weight: 220 lbs.
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
High School: Trinity Christian
Former team: Transfer from Miami (FL)
Five best offers: Miami, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Kentucky, North Carolina
Tom Cruise rating: 2.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Sat out the season after transferring from Miami.
If Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Florida sounds familiar to you, it's because we just talked about Trinity Christian with Deon Pate. Pate and Smith were high school teammates. And if "high school teammates" sounds familiar to you, it's because we have a lot of them:
Trinity Catholic (STL) - Isaiah Williams, Shammond Cooper, James Frenchie, Reggie Love
Trinity Christian (FL) - Deon Pate and Derrick Smith
Deerfield Beach (FL) - Daniel Barker and Jakari Norwood
St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) - Mike Epstein and James McCourt
IMG Academy (FL) - Verdis Brown and Brian Hightower
Then you've got the Brown brothers from St. Stephens, the Bhebhe brothers from North Gwinnett in Georgia, the Bobak brothers are walkons from Hinsdale Central (where Doug Kramer went to HS)... lots of teammates. (AND you used to have both Calvin Avery and Kievan Myers from Bishop Dunne in Texas before Myers left the program.)
OK, so this is supposed to be about Derrick Smith's background. He went to Miami. Played in nearly every game his freshman and sophomore years (appeared in 25 of 26 games). Coming out of training camp last August he didn't like his spot on the depth chart (not starting) so he announced a late-August transfer. Picked Illinois. Arrived on campus right at the start of school, sat out last season, has two years of eligibility (which now stretches to three).
My first thought is the Tony Adams thing above. Right or wrong, if the plan was for Smith to replace Stanley Green as the starting safety next to Sydney Brown, and then in September they switch Tony Adams back to safety, that's not a great sign for Smith. Now, as I wrote in other posts, there's a chance that the Adams thing was "we have all these great cornerbacks - how do we get them all on the field?" But still - it looked like Smith was going to be the starter during camp in August and now, in October it looks like Adams will be the starter.
That doesn't mean Smith won't be a big part of the defense. They put Smith on a Zoom call last week with the media which generally means "player who will be a big part of this season". More than two safeties will play throughout the game, and they might even put in some "three safeties" packages like the 2007 defense or something. So this is not "Adams moved - Smith must be done".
This is this: Smith transferred from Miami to Illinois in search of playing time. The coaches are trying him at safety this season. He might do that, he might eventually move to linebacker, he might never play. My "2020 Outlook" for Derrick Smith is "we're going to learn a lot this season".