The Clemson Insider gives a scouting report on every player on Clemson’s summer depth chart. We will break down what the player does best, what he needs to work on, how he compares to other former players at his position and where he fits on the Clemson roster.
Player name: Van Smith (5-11, 195)
Player position: Free safety
Years left of eligibility: 2 years
Current rank on depth chart: First Team
Player productivity so far: Smith came along slowly as a freshman, but became a reliable starter and special teams contributor for the 2016 National Championship season. He has 130 tackles in 29 games, including 15 starts. Last year, he was a second-team All-ACC selection. He produced 114 tackles, third-most on the team. He also had two interceptions, caused two fumbles and had two pass breakups. One of his interceptions was an 86-yard return in the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State. It was the longest return of the season by a Clemson player.
What player does best: Smith does a great job finding the football. He is a good tackler. He does a good job defending against the run.
What player needs to work on: Smith sometimes takes unnecessary chances. He sometimes gets caught peaking in the backfield.
Productivity of former Clemson players at the position:
Jadar Johnson, 2016: He was a first-team All-ACC selection. He had 65 tackles and two tackles for loss. He was responsible for 7 passes broken up. He led the team with 5 interceptions, including one he returned 41 yards.
Jayron Kearse, 2013: He played in 12 games and started three as a true freshman. He tallied 55 tackles overall. He had 0.5 tackles for loss. He was tied for the team lead with four interceptions.
Jayron Kearse, 2014: He had 67 tackles, including 5 from behind the line of scrimmage. He also had 3 sacks. He broke up 7 passes and had 2 interceptions.
Jayron Kearse, 2015: He earned All-American honors thanks to his 87 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. He also had 5 quarterback pressures and broke up 8 passes and had one interception.
Jonathan Meeks, 2011: He had 61 tackles, including one tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He broke up 5 passes and led the Tigers with 3 interceptions, including one he returned 41 yards.
Jonathan Meeks, 2012: He had 67 tackles, including one tackle for loss. He also broke up 5 passes and had 2 interceptions.
What can you hope for? Smith played free safety when he was a freshman and was productive when he came off the bench as a backup for Kearse. With one year of starting experience behind, and a productive, year at that, you hope he continues to improve and becomes an All-American in his third season.
What is a realistic expectation? It is realistic to believe Smith can be a first-team All-ACC safety. If he does that, then it is realistic to believe he can be an All-American, too. Getting 100 tackles at free safety isn’t possible, but 75 is, as well as hawking down five interceptions.
What about the future? Smith’s future isn’t clear as a Tiger. A great year like Kearse and Johnson had the last two years, and it is easy to assume he would put his name in the NFL Draft. However, his height could be an issue and coming back for a fourth year and being productive can only help his cause that it will not be an issue at the next level.