Going into last season, there were many questions about how the secondary would replace two big, strong safeties with plenty of experience. Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green were as big and hard-hitting as any safety in college football, and it is tough to replace their type combination of size, speed and athleticism.
Luckily, the Tigers found answers at both safety spots with Jadar Johnson and Van Smith. Now Smith looks to take the reins as the head safety seeing as Johnson graduated after last year.
The rising junior had a coming-out party his sophomore season, notching 114 tackles, two interceptions as well as earning second-team All-ACC honors.
Smith, at 5-foot-11 195 pounds, can play a variety of positions, and said he is moving back over to strong safety this year.
“I started last year, so I just moved over the strong (safety) instead of free (safety),” he said. “That’s what I came in playing so it’s just getting back to normal.”
Smith said while he had a very successful season last year, three is one main area of his game he looks to improve.
“Man coverage is the biggest thing,” said Smith. “I’ve got my tackling down and everything coming out here.”
While Smith has the most playing experience at the safety position, he said everybody in the secondary is stepping up and taking Jadar Johnson’s leadership role.
“I think it’s a little bit of everybody like Ryan Carter, Marcus Edmond, me, Tanner, we all just feed into each other and communicate with everybody,” he said.
In what looks to be a tough battle for the other safety spot, Smith said everyone is doing so well that he isn’t sure who will be starting at the free safety spot.
“I mean everybody is pretty much standing out, of course we all got mistakes,” he said. “I like the way that Tanner’s playing, Isaiah is coming along and Korrin Wiggins is a baller right now.”
Even with several losses from last year’s secondary, Smith believes they are reloaded and ready to go for next season.
“Of course there’s always gonna be somebody saying that there’s gonna be a drop off…I think here, everybody loves to compete and they bring in players to compete,” said Smith. “I mean, every day your job’s in jeopardy so we have to come in her to compete and ball out.”
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