After starting all 14 games for Clemson last season leading up to the national championship game against LSU on Jan. 13, linebacker Chad Smith did not get the start that night against the SEC’s Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans in what was the final game of his college career.
In fact, Smith – who finished the 2019 season fourth on the team with 80 total tackles – did not see the field much at all against LSU as he played only three snaps after logging at least 28 snaps in all but one other game, the Tigers’ 59-14 win over Wofford in November.
Smith explained following his Pro Day workout in Clemson on Thursday the reason he stood on the sideline for most of the national title game was because of Brent Venables’ game plan against a high-octane LSU offense that ranked first in the country averaging 48.4 points per game.
“It was just a game-plan thing,” Smith said. “Wanted to have an extra DB out there. LSU had a great offense. As you saw, they were able to kind of attack what we were doing, and we weren’t able to stop them the way we wanted to.”
“But that’s all in the past right now,” he added. “I’m just looking forward to the future … Use it as a chip going forward.”
In the third quarter after starting linebacker James Skalski was ejected from the game for targeting, it was redshirt sophomore Jake Venables instead of Smith who entered the game to replace Skalski.
While barely playing in the biggest game of the season was a tough pill for Smith to swallow, he says it was OK with him because it was in the best interest of his team.
“Obviously a player like me, you want to be out there on the field, you want to be out there competing and helping your team,” he said. “But I’ve been a selfless player my entire career here at Clemson, and I’ve always wanted to do things for the best of the team. If that means me not playing as many snaps as I did, and then that will help us have the best chance to win, then I’ll do that.”
Smith had a chance to get back on the field in front of NFL coaches and scouts Thursday when he participated in the Tigers’ Pro Day at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility.
Following a Clemson career during which he racked up 154 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, an interception, a pass breakup, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 58 games (14 starts), Smith is trying to stay ready in case an NFL team comes calling and he gets an opportunity to continue his career at the next level.
“Really just right here, waiting for teams for private workouts, interviews, sit down one on one,” he said. “During this period, you kind of want to stay fresh, stay sharp – not just physically, but also mentally. So, that’s kind of where you’re at in this phase, where everyone else is at. So, it’s kind of how I will approach things going forward.”
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