He was looking pretty fast in the practice videos MGoBlue has been putting out. I guess we'll have to wait until Saturday to see.
Mount St. Mary's hired a private equity CEO to be their president. You'll never guess what happened next.
He was looking pretty fast in the practice videos MGoBlue has been putting out. I guess we'll have to wait until Saturday to see.
Agree, He has great heart. I don't think anyone is ripping him on that. He takes on blocks from guys that have at least 50 pounds on him. I will never say anything bad about him after seeing him take on the Wisky DE late in the game. Fought like a true warrior.
I believe you're talking about when Vinny tried to cut block JJ Watt and his helmet went right into Watt's knee as he was running. I'm pretty sure he got knocked out from that because he staggered towards midfield before falling on the Block M. It was scary. I know we aren't supposed to use reactions to concussions as a measure of toughness anymore but wow. He even played the next week I think.
is a true Wolverine.
Let me get my flame-war lab goggles and an extra-large popcorn.
I got some light weight that need to be taken care of at There is......
I agree he's a tough kid. I got tired of hearing how "he's not a fumbler" and then watched him fumble.
The VSmith criticisms are only about his production last year. And you can't discount his size and say "See, Mike Hart" as if that means it's a good thing to have undersized RBs since we had a couple that were really good. I could also say "See, Anthony Thomas. Tim Biakabutuka, Tyrone Wheatley, Chris Perry, etc" to prove the other point. And VSmith is about 2 inches and 20 pounds smaller than Mike Hart, that's not insignificant.
Trust me, I hope you're right. I hope Vince bounces back strong from his injury, is much faster and smoother than every before, and even if he doesn't start, gives us another great option at tailback.
People look to Vince's meager freshman numbers and chalk it up to him being a frosh, then they look to his unimpressive soph numbers and chalk it up to his knee. These might both be legit excuses, but this year he needs to step it up since he's an upperclassman and presumably healthy, or all his detractors will be right. We'll know a lot more in 5 months.
Size doesn't matter if you are good you are good.
All I'm saying is evaluate him this year. This would be like watching Stepen Strasburg playing catch and saying he lost his velocity he's done when he was 6 months removed from Tommy John surgery when it is a 12 month recovery period. Everyone knows you can't get your speed back so fast. I have no idea if V. Smith is a medicore or a good back. I'm just saying that bagging on a guy that fought back early from his surgery is stupid. If you want to blame someone it would be Rich and Fred for putting him out there. Don't blame the kid for giving his all for the team when he was at less than 100%.
We did the same to Tate 2 years ago. The guy had a shoulder injury and people are syaing his accuarcy and velocity suffered at the end of the year. Well no shit, but we shouldn't build that into his projection moving forward. I don't think the pro scouts dinged C. Henne for throwing wounded ducks when he was playing with a seperated shoulder?
as a freshmen, i saw some flashes of brilliance from him, in limited duty. he made some great moves in traffic at the line of scrimmage which gave me great optimism. i predicted he would be the starter the next year.
then the knee injury. he clearly didn't have the same burst. i hope he gets it back, but it may never happen. that said, i am not going to write-off a junior RB.
at worst, he provides some depth at RB, and with his surprisingly good blocking skills for his size, he can be a solid 3rd down RB at a minimum.
I won't question his heart but the jury is still out and we'll really find out this year what he's made of. But in my small observation I just see no juke moves or burst or speed which you would expect from a 5 foot something 160 rb from FLA so I will definitely be intrigued to see what rb emerges.
V Smith never has been a guy with eye-popping speed, but he is a guy who gets the job done on the field. His stride is a lot like Warrick Dunn's: deceptively fast. His moves are extremely subtle. He won't 'fake a defender out of his shoes," but he is very good at making defenders just miss him or hit him at a bad angle. Also, Smith has the "football IQ" of a QB. He sees the field as well as any RB I've seen in awhile and is great at using his blockers. He took over his HS championship game in the second half to win as a senior because of those attributes.
Athletes "recover" from ACL surgery a lot faster now than they used to, but it still takes close to two years for them to get back the half-step they lose. If V Smith stays healthy this year, I expect him to be a very servicable back. When healthy, Smith is one of those guys who isn't flashy, but when you look at the stats at the end of the game, you realize he did a lot.
I hope someone plays well enough to beat him out, but I still think a healthy Smith is the best back on the team. If someone does dislodge him from the starting spot, it will say a lot more about them than it does about Smith. And that would be good for the team. But I don't see anyone as complete as Smith right now.
You hit it well my friend.
I think hes a good player and I agree with everything you said. The one thing I'll say about his size though is that some of the play calling last year was questionable. Using Smith up the middle on short yardage downs. That was frustrating, but I don't blame Smith.
All of the halfbacks are getting a chance to prove themselves, including VSmith. I think it would be naive to say other backs on our roster don't fit our new scheme better than Vincent though. Having said that, he is a player who will see the field next year, not only because of his game experience, but because he is a tough, physical player who is also a solid blocker, despite the fact that he is so undersized.
So, can anyone find any UM running backs that have a higher TD per touch rate than Vinny Smith. Or one that losses less yards on carries?
He has skills and plenty of value. He needs to keep getting his 10-12 touches a game. Having--and using--the other tailbacks on the roster will only help to open up his game
Also, Vincent had a much better year than most give him credit for. I think at least half this blog feels like he got trucked behind the LOS every other play, but a play by play breakdown of his season says otherwise......coming to an MGoDiary near you sometime during the loooooooong summer offseason
Oooh, a running back that doesn't lose yards? That's neat. Maybe the next step in the evolution of running backs is one who gains yards, too.
The other step in the evolution is a running back who can do the little things besides running that allow the coaches to trust him. That way he can do more than put up fun highlights against Bowling Green that have know-it-all bloggers clamoring for him.
The players the coaches trusted earned us a 15-22 record. I'm not laying all that blame at the feet of the players themselves, but my point (as I've said over and over again) is that the coaching the past few years was pretty damn bad. No coach is above all criticism, but there's a fair amount of it to be leveled at Rodriguez and Co.
Actually, it is an important quality. You dont want tailbacks that constantly get trucked for losses. And, the fact is Vincent Smith kept Michigan 'on schedule' with his carries way more often than not. The statistical and play by play record shows this. But, I feel most of the fans on this site think he got TFLed or stopped for no gain at alarming rates and that's just not the truth. His first down carries, for example, alsmot always set MICH up in a second and 6 or better. That is indeed a good, valuable quality. Historically, not many other MIchigan runningbacks avoid for loss carries as well as he has.
Smith has 184 career carries at MIchigan. He's lost a total of 19 yards on those carries and something in the ball park of 80 percent of his carries have taken place against Big 10 teams, ND or UConn
To compare, Michael Cox has lost a total of 8 yards on 19 career carries, all against BGSU, Eastern or Delaware State.
You're right that he kept the team on schedule. Again, I'm not saying Smith is the worst back ever. He does have good qualities. But sometimes the tradeoff for having a back who loses yards often (Barry Sanders, for example) is that it's also a guy who can break big runs with some regularity.
And even though Smith doesn't lose yards very often...
...he still put up some pretty meager numbers.
I will be looking forward to the play-by-play account of Smith's career. I've taken a look but never broken it down. I'm sure it will be a steady diet of carries that gain between 1 and 7 yards, with a few outliers of 11, 13, 19, and one 56-yarder.
Also, while this will surely come across as excuse-making (how much do I care? not at all), Michael Cox was running behind 2nd- and 3rd-string offensive lines in each of those games. That's not the case with Smith, who was almost always running with the #1 offense.
It's not so much that the running back gets trucked behind the line, as it is that they dance behind the line. You can't always hold it against them if there is no where to go.
I am really looking forward to reading all of your analysis, but is there a way of looking to see if a guy gets tackled for a loss because the line failed him vs. a guy who is indecisive behind the line who gets tackled for a loss? I think that would tell a lot about how good they are at making the correct choices, which is very important when your running behind a zone scheme that requires a cut and go. Looking at the small amount of ino you just gave that could be a glimpse into why Cox has not seen the field. I know that would be a lot of work, but I think it would go even deeper into your analysis.
Hopefully he can return to being the guy we saw against Wisco and OSU as a true freshman.
He was plenty dangerous then.
I'm not sold he's an everydown back, but if he can rehab back to THAT guy...he's definitely a piece in a good offense.
He ran 16 times for 60 yards in those two games. I don't know why anyone would be yearning for a return to form for a guy who averaged 3.8 yards a carry. I mean, I hope the kid gets healthy. But I'm not exactly hoping for a repeat performance.
I actually remember him having 3 really good catch + runs in those two games, 2 for TD's, things that wouldn't appear on your selective quotation of stats.
But that gets to my point: I think he has a role as a 3rd down guy. When he was healthy, he looked like he could do things in space. He's a good blocker. I think that giving him 15 carries from behind the line was a mis-use of his skills.
Have him play FB then if he's a good blocker. Maybe we can throw in the occasional Bo-style fullback handoff.
You are also ignoring context. In RR's offense, running backs had to do some blocking for Denard (will probably again this year). That probably had a lot to do with Vinny Smits's abundance of playing time last year.
My criticism has always been about his misuse more than his play. Part of the job of a coach is to put a player in a position to succeed. You don't take a guy that size and run him up the middle on a 3rd and 1, IMO. As a little 3rd down scatback catching balls out of the backfield or running outside or draws I have no problem with the kid. Comparing him to Mike Hart is a joke, btw. Smith has his positives and negatives, but other than both being describes as small, they have little in common. Hart was a lot more powerful runner, but not as shifty and although "small," still outweighed Smith by 20 lbs.
Is this directed at me? I didn't post half of what you're arguing about.
Was just as shifty as Smith, if not more so. He may have been a bit slower than Smith, but not by much.
And he was about 10x as likely to break a tackle or fall forward after contact than Smith has shown to be. Smith's a better receiver out of the backfield, though.
To conclude: just because they're both short doesn't mean they have much else in common as tailbacks.
I agree that he has a role as a third down back. But being a good runner should be the main concern when choosing a running back, which is my issue with his selection as the primary tailback. If he plays on 3rd down, 2nd-and-long, stuff like that, I probably won't have an issue with it.
Other than Ziff, who is mentally unstable, who is arguing for him to be an every-down back?
Nobody is, really. It's kind of just a vicious cycle. I've complained that he was our primary back, people accuse me of literally hating the kid, then I counter with "I don't hate him, I just want him touch the ball less", then people tell me that they agree he should have a lesser role.
Then the argument starts all over again a week later.
so we can discuss this again next Wednesday. Maybe by then it will have changed.
I like Smith a lot, and there are good arguments on both sides. What I hope for most this year is a healthier group. I trust the coaches to play the most effective ones in each situation.
I may be mentally unstable but how is your reading comprehension?
Where in my post is an argument he be an everydown back?
I actually specifically state I like Mike Shaw best. Maybe you should take some more reading classes Fidel. Multiple languages can be tough to master.
Got me there, I'll admit.
I ain't conceding the mentally disturbed point, though.
Coming from you I'll take that as a complement.
I think we agree V. Smith looks like a pretty good 3rd down back if he gets his speed back as I hope he will. The toughness he showed makes me root for him. I don't think he should have played last year. I never thought he was Barry Sanders, but he didn't look even close to the player he looked like in 09.
You're forgetting two receiving touchdowns.
Magnus - we get it, you would prefer someone other than Smith as the starting RB. At his 2010 level of production, I agree with you.
He's best as a 3rd down back, not a featured runner. We all agree with you.
We're arguing a useless level of nuance here. We're all forgetting so much about those two games, like how Michigan was steamrolled by Wiscy, how Tate threw 5 picks against OSU, how Vinny was the ONLY running back doing anything those weeks (Shaw was terrible, Brown and Minor were hurt I believe), and that Smith also had 2 receiving TDs.
We're also forgetting that Wiscy and Ohio State had two very tough defenses in 2009 (Ohio State gave up an average of 3.11 ypc, and Wisconsin 3.93 ypc), and that Smith was frankly lucky to get 3.8 ypc behind Michigan's offensive line.
So again, Smith is a fine change of pace back, but not a workhorse. Noone here is going to argue with you on that. Anything else and you're constructing a dead horse upon which to beat.
It goes both ways.
I agree with your criticism of Magnus' "behavior" on the subject, but you're also ignoring that people frame their arguments against him like he's personally insulting Smith (like the OP did). That ain't the case either.
I don't claim to necessarily know as much about this as others, but why would we want our smallest running back on 3rd down? Wouldn't we want a powerful bruiser who can force the ball through?
I agree Smith should not be an every down back and that healthy he can be helpful in our offense, but I don't see him as a standard 3rd down back.
Typically, a third down back is a type of back who can a) block for the QB and b) catch passes out of the backfield. "Third down backs" are generally used on long yardage. If it were 3rd-and-1, then Smith probably wouldn't be your guy to bull his way for a yard. But if it were 3rd-and-6, then he might be able to catch a swing pass, a screen, etc. and gain those necessary yards.
That's good to know. I see the distinction between that and say a short yardage or goal line back.
RR and Calvin didn't get this memo.
"If it were 3rd-and-1, then Smith probably wouldn't be your guy to bull his way for a yard."
I think the criticism is coming from the fact that the last few seasons have been hard on every Michigan fan, and everyone is on edge. I just want to see the best players on the field, and playing positions that they're comfortable with. When I saw Roh line up at a DT position last year it was one of the biggest "what the fuck?" moments I've ever had.
my wtf moments about roh were seeing him off the line of scrimmage meandering around in the D backfield, instead of attacking QBs off the edge.
The problem that I saw with Smith last year was that he was getting arm-tackled at the line even with a lead blocker. If he breaks through those tackles, this year, then I'm fine with him, but that is a necessity for anyone called a RB.
I like V Smith (love my #2 jersey), but it was how easy he went down sometimes that I was suprised about. He has a low center of gravity, so I expected him to be able to keep his legs moving to avoid some arm and shoelace tackles that should have been broke and gone for more. I might have been spoiled by Mike Hart in this instance where he had a knack for hitting the line and keeping his legs moving and bursting out for another 10-15 yards.
I think (unless a freshman comes in and is nasty) the best combo is Shaw and Hopkins. I've liked Shaw since his first game as a freshman with his speed and toughness (needs to work on his vision). And Hopkins runs with a downhill fury that gives me some of the feelings of Minor (though I htink he is still a step down from Minor).
Agree but I'd also add it was his ability to always get something out of nothing - even if that something was just a couple yards. Also, he almost always seemed to fall forward when being tackled which usually means an extra yard or two on the carry.
I'm beginning to learn that if there is a 'little guy' who is being bashed, rightly or wrongly, Ziff is the one who stands up for him. I wonder if he just likes to take a contrary position on any given topic.
In this case, however, I agree absolutely. Before his ACL tear, I remember being very excited about Smith. Last season, when Smith got the ball and got stuffed, it seemed that more often than not it was not his fault. The best back in the world can't go through a hole that isn't there. Yes, there were a few times last year when I wished that he was a step faster, but his toughness in running and especially in blocking have been impressive considering the kid is only 5'6" and recently had surgery on an ACL tear.
Leave my Napolean Complex out of this. I can say that I do get agitated with popular themes that I think are flat wrong. I have no problem with people saying they don't think V Smith is the guy or they think someone else is better, but for people on here to say he went down easily last year, I would say yeah he did. My only question is how many guys would not go down easily coming off surgery and missing 4-5 months of workouts?
I feel the same way as the OP about Ezeh, who got some of the same treatment Smith is getting. OE played through back problems his last couple years and got nothing but grief from the fans.
Nobody has ever questioned Smith's heart or toughness. I don't know why you're railing against that aspect. You're preaching to the choir. If you find a post where people question his effort, that will be the first I've seen.
People question his skill. And there is good reason for that.
You're comparing him to Jamie Morris and Mike Hart. Which is great. Maybe the comparison will be more apt when Smith averages 5.0 yards a carry like Hart or 5.4 like Morris. Or when Smith runs for 100 yards against someone other than Delaware State. Otherwise, I don't think it's out of line for Michigan fans to question the abilities of Smith.
The reason Morris and Hart are mentioned, as the OP stated, is that size is not an indicator of ability, not that Smith is as good as those backs. The most common criticism of Smith that I have seen is not that he is a bad player or unskilled, but that he's simply too small.
Size most definitely IS an indicator of ability. It may not be the only indicator, but there's a reason that the majority of successful backs in college and the NFL are bigger than Smith, Morris, and Hart. They are exceptions.
Peoples biases always cloud the point. Magnus I know you don't like V. Smith and you like Cox. People bag on you for that so as soon as you see V. Smith you get defensive.
Magnus you are one of the few people I can say has a valid argument because you have never liked V. Smith. As a freshmen you were not impressed. That is fine it's not personal you made an evaluation on some limited reps of a healthy player.
The point is that people think V. Smith can't break arm tackles or get tough yards because of what they saw last year and that is flat wrong. Evaluating a kid playing at 70% and then projecting that out is silly. All I'm saying is watch the kid this year and make your determination. He may not be able to break tackles, but to determine that based on a guy playing thru injury is stupid.
Seriously take this example. Pretend you are in a Calculus class. You get seriously ill and you can't attend class for 3 weeks. You get back to class and you have 3 days before the 1st exam. You work night and day trying to catch up on what you missed. The big day comes and you post a 73%. You keep working the rest of the smester and you work your way back to a B- grade. At the end of the semester the teacher tells you that you should probably give up on math you don't seem to excel, but he encourages the student who the same thing happened to last semester but he just dropped the class and showed up this semester. Do we know who the better student is in this scenario? No. Do we know who the tougher kid is? Yes.
Give the kid some time. We'll know soon enough.
I think people's evaluations of Smith are based on not only 2010, but also what they saw in 2009, though. So yes, he does still have time to improve - and I'm not saying he won't do some good things down the road - but as someone said above:
In 2009 the excuse was that he was a freshman, in 2010 the excuse was that he had a torn ACL. At some point, maybe the fact is that he's just not very good.
Magnus, I think you give "people" too much credit. Most peoples "evaluations" revolve around him getting 35 yds on 13 carries in a loss last year not his actual skill set which you actually look at.
I think if you go back to the enthusiasm meter for Smith back in November of 09, it was way higher than it currently sits. You were the lone wolf in the woods saying he wasn't all that great. I think the majority now agree with you. It's because of 2010 not 09 why people have given up on him.
Really good shutdown defenses tend to be really good at shutting everyone down. I don't hear anyone chastizing Mike Hart for being shut down by OSU in 04 and 07 or USC in the same year. As far as your other comments, you are either 12 years old, or stupid. We've recruited four players out of Pahoke since 2008.
1. Martavious Odoms was the leading offensive producer in his true freshman year and has significantly contributed when not injured the other two.
2. Vincent Smith started half of his games as a true freshman and more than half as a sophomore.
3. Richard Ash redshirted as a freshman.
4. I'll give you Hawthorne as a bust.
Your comments are pashitty.
getting sick and missing class is one thing. that shouldn't affect one's brain for the long-term should it?
now tearing up your knee can leave serious doubts about one's future.
i know. i've torn up both knees playing basketball. not even close to 100% back.
though never a great player, i was relegated to playing 16 inch softball here in chicago. since retired from that too. though people are trying to get me to unretire.
I'll grant that Smith looked quicker in 2009 - I bet that knee injury did slow him down a bit last year. But I also remember a back who got driven sideways or backwards with any significant contact in 2009.
Vincent Smith is never going to be powerful enough to run between the tackles effectively against good defenses. If he regains his burst and agility, he'll be a really useful back in certain situations. The funny thing is, I think that this is something close to a consensus on this board, yet every time this issue comes up it's a huge debate.
Backs who aren't 100% aren't less productive because their legs aren't strong enough, it's that they don't trust their knees not to give out again while making a cut. It's a psychological issue, not a physical one. If he wasn't physically 100%, they wouldn't have played him for fear of reinjury.
These Smith "Arguments" consistently devolve into two sides that are pretty much saying the same damn thing, but typing too loud to realize it.
I don't think EITHER side feels like he should ideally be the primary running back.
So what's the disagreement?
Blame. As in, who's to blame for Smith's overuse? Is it the players who can't unseat him or the coaches who refuse to use fully capable players (in the fan's eyes) the proper amount?
Well, I think it's pretty clear that we don't have a 1999/2000 Thomas, a 2004/2006 Hart, a 2003 Perry. So I think part of the issue is that people are used to Michigan having that - it didn't exist on last year's roster, and probably doesn't on this year's.
I think part of it was injury: Shaw and Toussaint probably missed on some carries due to being hurt.
I think we can all agree that this OL wasn't the 1997-2003 variety, either. I recall Smith plunging for several 2 yard runs where I'm not sure what else he could have really done.
Rodriguez's choice is the big question, I guess - but at that point it's just useless speculation. Did he have better options? Maybe?
Let's stipulate for the sake of argument that Cox is just better than Smith. I seem to recall him making a "good fucking riddance" tweet after RR was canned (not a direct quotation) - it seems pretty likely that Cox was something of a malcontent or complainer. My point is that there are factors other than onfield ability that could have hampered his depth chart placement.
i'm sure RR was purposely not playing that heisman RB he had on the bench; didn't want to detract from Denard.
I don't remember every word of Cox's message, but it did include "Dick Rod."
So he's obviously a wordsmith.
BTW, I haven't been on the board too much lately - when did you start showing up regularly again, ChiTown? Score one for reasonable, logical debate and the capacity for abstract thought. Good to have you back.
Everyone here is pretty much saying the exact same things, even those that are arguing. It will work itself out. Maybe he has regained his speed. My only opinion of VSmith right now is that he's a fucking warrior who would go through a bullet to make a play and I'm proud he plays for us. Very excited to see how he's progressed.
Can we put this argument to bed with the consensus opinion of :
"Vinny Smits: Rad Dude. Good blocker and receiver. Has some real limitations too. Hopefully by some combination of his improvement and better alternatives, we have better RB production next year."
And then never talk about it again?
I love the little guy's heart, but if he was truly playing at 70-80% of his physical capacity, I would rather see the young man take his redshirt and come back strong, particularly since he was just a sophomore anyway. I say that from two perspectives, one being the "he's a young man that has a long life ahead of him and needs to be healthy", and "I'm a crazy Michigan football fan who wants the most effective players on the field". I didn't always feel like last year's Vincent Smith was that choice, though evidently the coaching staff did not solicit my opinion.
I agree with Mangus. Smith is tough and has heart but just isn't a very good runningback. Go back and watch games of him. How many extra yards does he actually earn? Tackles he breaks? Actually coverts a 3rd and 1? Many of his quality runs are because of the O-line and respect for Robinson.
And for people that say "look at him in practice!" It is spring practice. Tacklng is bad in the spring and it is against the 110th ranked defense last year. Everyone did that, even UMass.
He may be for certain plays, but if a lot of plays are "3 yards and a cloud of dust" I think his size won't help when you're running into a pile of 300 pounders. He may be more effective in some of the spread plays they'll keep where he has room to scoot or as a slot receiver. The biggest job Borges has is finding plays to fit the talent he has which is why I think we'll have real hybrid offense this year with all sorts of different looks - which could be a real good thing since we all know, as with investing, diversity is key. The one thing I've always cringed at over the years of watching M football is the predictability. Keep the D guessing.
I really don't have a horse in this race - none of the RBs have impressed me since Minor, and even that was fleeting. Smith is probably going to be the de-facto starter over the summer unless Cox somehow proves he can actually stay on the field and produce, not just look great in a uniform. At this point, though, it is going to take time to get legit backs in this offense, something RR was trying to do as well but never could (he obviously had some chances at the end, but, you know...), and expecting anybody to emerge on the same level of a Hart, Perry, or Thomas is just crazy. Let the record show, though, that I was there when B.J. Askew was the featured back and UM puttered along fine. Smith is a hard worker and a good kid by all accounts, and I'm sure he'll put up decent numbers platooning with Cox, Rawls, Hopkins, etc. But unless he really takes a step forward like Perry did as an upperclassmen, or if he truly was suffering from an injury and the maturation and rehab transforms him into a better player than we saw the past couple of years, I expect him to have a solid season but nothing spectacular.
hell, i still think he's in the NFL, so i hope you're not bashing his ability with that comment. but as a HB, he did make a good FB.
Nothing seems to send this board into argumentitiveness like a player with less than 4-star talent who plays with more than 4-star heart. Vincent Smith, however, is hardly Kovacsican in talent. Rather, I think the loss of production last season was due more to where the tackles were coming from (in front of him).
Like Chitown, I formed a strong opinion of him watching his play against Wisconsin and Ohio State late his freshman year.
He didn't look then like a guy who would get stopped dead on contact with a medium Big Ten linebacker. In fact (after being sprung by one of the best sustained WR blocks I've ever seen) he absorbed an attempt to knock him out of bounds and picked up a few more:
And as for pure Rodriguez-Get-Me-Some-Of-That jackrabbittyness:
And I was a believer.
I don't know if he was playing not 100% last year, but I did seem to notice he was taking tackles head-on, which at his size is going to get him nowhere because physics.
His usefulness seems to be that quick twitch plus acceleration that makes him a tough target to tackle. This was the secret to Hart and Morris too: not electrifying, Denard-like hippity hops but a smooth and effortless small-cut followed by a fast burst of speed that turns a linebacker in his face into a linebacker trying to tackle his ankles. When you saw Hart burrowing for extra yards with two linebackers and a safety on his back, it was strength, yes, but it's also easier to move forward with weight on your back than when you're meeting an object larger than you head-on. The way to turn defenders is to be able to change direction and accelerate. None of these guys would be successful at RAGE.
Since he had it before and didn't have it last year, I'm willing to believe that was injury based. The acceleration that gave him those big plays before just wasn't there. But then again my bias was set in stone in late '09.
Anyway getting that kind of twitch/accelerate back after what he went through may not be possible, and without it Brian's right that he's just a guy. Big Ten linebackers are hardly unathletic themselves.
Another consideration is that we keep seeing practice footage of Vincent Smith in the I-form, but as you can see in the clips above, when he was 100%, he seemed to be the most effective when given space.
Yes, yes, and yes. These are all plays that set up well for Smith. He gets on the edge, can use his change of direction, and create angles that are favorable for someone with such a low center of gravity. This is how he should be used.
I am certainly in favor of using him out of the shotgun, to catch swing passes, to catch screens, etc.