If you have heard Chad Smith speak, it is easy to see why his biggest strengths as a person are his ability to speak and his intelligence. It’s no surprise those are his biggest attributes as well as a football player. However, the Clemson linebacker says carrying that over to the field has not always been that simple at the college level.
This spring, as he competes for a linebacking corps that is as deep and as talented as it ever has been, Smith says applying his strengths to the game he loves is the one area where he has made the biggest improvement in his game.
“I’m getting that information in the film room, and then I’m bringing it on the field and applying it and letting it go,” the redshirt sophomore said after Friday’s practice. “I’m trying not to think too much. I know what to do out there so I’m trying not to overthink things and just going out there playing and letting it go.
“Communication and knowledge is my best part and my biggest improvement is just bringing it to the field.”
So far it has resulted in what Smith says is his best spring thus far as a Clemson Tiger.
“I have been out there competing,” he said. “This is my third spring actually. It has been good to get around the guys and compete out there and feed off the older veterans such as Kendall (Joseph) and Dorian (O’Daniel). Overall, I think this has been a really good spring for me.”
Smith has spent the majority of his time this spring at middle linebacker, where he says he feels the most comfortable playing. Last year, he played a little bit at the weakside position and in certain packages he played the strong side as well.
But the middle is where he fills at home and where he believes he will be able to help the Tigers the most. Last year he played a lot on special teams, too, where he tied for a team-high 10 tackles while covering punts and kickoffs.
“It helped a lot,” Smith said. “Being able to come off a redshirt year and get my feet wet out there on the field in small roles on special teams such as kick return and punt return, it has definitely helped a lot in our development as linebackers.
“To be able to go out there and fly around and be aggressive, especially on kickoffs, because that is where you have to be able to let it go … You have to be aggressive. You have to have that mentality to go down there and make big plays and make big hits. That is part of being a linebacker as well so that has definitely helped us develop into good linebackers.”
Smith says linebacker is a position where the player has to have the mentality he wants to make that play all the time.
“Kickoff is the same way,” he said. “You want to be that first guy down there. You want to be the first guy down there to make that tackle, big hit or whatever. It has definitely helped me to develop that mentality and I’m looking forward to being on that team again this year.”
–Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
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