2009 Recruiting: Vincent Smith Comment Count

Brian June 4th, 2009 at 12:41 PM

Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, and RB Teric Jones.

Pahokee, Florida - 5'6" 159
vincentsmith3_thumb Scout 3*, #102 RB
Rivals 3*, #36 RB
ESPN 77, #60 RB
Others --
Other Suitors Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota
YMRMFSPA Darren Sproles
Previously On
Hello: Vincent Smith

From Pahokee (Odoms, Hawthorne); early enrollee.

Life is rough in Pahokee, Florida, a place more swamp than land where the kids chase rabbits for something to do. Ask Vincent Smith:

"Life is a struggle," said former Pahokee running back Vincent Smith, now playing at Michigan. "It's a learning experience because you have to be able to adapt quickly or you can easily get into trouble. Playing sports helped put me on the outside of some of the circumstances and struggles in the town."

But not all of them. Smith's teammate and friend Norman Griffith was shot in the head on September 27th. Pahokee went out and lost its annual rivalry game against Glades Central, then ran off a series of victories that ended in a third consecutive state championship. Smith was the star of the game with 22 carries for 137 yards. Somewhere along the way, he committed to a Michigan program that had seen fit to offer him in February.

When he committed, I wasn't that enthused about a 5'6" low-three star who hadn't been the star of his offense as a junior. By signing day, though, Smith's zippy, productive senior year (2,119 yards on 248 carries with 20 touchdowns) had produced a steady climb up the Rivals rankings. Though he never escaped the three-star ghetto, he went from around the #65 RB to around the #30 RB. Then a couple folk who are employed to observe these kids emailed me saying that if Smith was three inches taller he'd be king of the universe. One did this apropos of nothing. And in retrospect, Smith's other offers—Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—came from a weird melange of teams that, though different in philosophy, know ground-pounding when they see it.

(On the height, make no mistake: though he'll be listed at 5'9" or whatever on the roster, the height above is much closer to accurate. Varsity Blue attended the spring press conference and reported back thusly: 

Smith was at the press conference, and he is tiny.  I’ve talked with Odoms face to face, and I’m pretty sure Odoms has 2-3″ on Smith. He’s listed 5′6″; I’m pretty sure there are rides at Cedar Point he can’t get on, but he can apparently run the ball really well. 

He's leetle.)

Anyway, by signing day I had come around on Smith, repeatedly going back to little darting Blue Devil with dreads when pinged for a sleeper in the class. (Here's the CIL archive.)

Not to be That Guy, but, uh:

Smith enrolled early and was the non-Forcier buzz of spring practice. Despite having three or four viable options in front of him at running back, he's not going to redshirt:

Rodriguez said Thursday he does not foresee red-shirting Smith, a 5-foot-6, 158-pound back from Pahokee, Fla.

"He's really come along," Rodriguez said. "He's still confused sometimes as all the freshmen would be, but he showed some flashes in the last practice, and he's probably going to play some this year as a true freshman."

"He's a pretty quick learner on the field, and he's got some natural ability."

Though his slight frame, general youth, and Brandon Minor should keep him from serious time as a freshman, if you were to poll the vast universe of people with an opinion of Michigan's 2010 running back situation, he would probably be at least neck-and-neck with Michael Shaw.

So he's passed the first major hurdle by arriving on campus and seeming like a viable future option. Plenty of recruits higher-ranked than he don't manage that (think Cobrani Mixon). So the following scouting reports are possibly a little pessimistic. Anyway…

ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice. They also note his ability to pick through the traffic inside:

Very slippery to wrap up as an in-line runner and utilizes smaller body structure to his advantage. Picks and slides through the initial traffic with great shiftiness and vision. Shows good suddenness hitting the cutback lane and small run creases. Runs low to the ground with great balance and body control; rarely gives defenders a clean shot to hit.

So that's nice, but the evaluation comes back to his size and declares him a "good prospect" and one who will be a "nice change of pace back" in the spread.

Since he's a tiny spread back it's not surprising that he's lethal in 7-on-7:

I thought the second most impressive back was Pahokee's Vincent Smith [Ronnie Wingo was #1, FWIW]. Playing on the championship team, Smith was dynamite all day with his speed and explosiveness.

"That running back really hurt us in the final game," said South Florida Express coach Brett Goetz. "He's a great player and really hurt us coming out of the backfield. We didn't do a good enough job against him."

Goetz and his team wasn't the only one. Smith made plays all afternoon and showed why he's considered one of the most explosive players in the state this year.

That event also featured Ohio State commit Jamaal Berry, FWIW. Since the spread can be looked at as an attempt to turn 11-on-11 into 7-on-7, it's not surprising that it fits Smith like a glove

And then there's his build, which Thompson simply called "that spread-offense body.''

Small but powerful, Smith projects as the prototypical player for the offensive system that has grown from obscurity into a flat-out trend. … ''He can do a lot,'' Pahokee quarterback-to-be Nu'Keese Richardson said, ``as far as catching it out [of] the backfield, making guys miss and stuff like that.''

Added coach Blaze Thompson: "When he goes to camps, he'll go from wide receiver to running back, wide receiver to running back. "He runs great routes, and he's powerful. … If somebody puts him in the spread offense, he'll be successful.''

After his senior season he was named the small-schools offensive player of the year—which Justin Feagin reeled in last year. This generated a number of coach quotes:

"He hit the scene confident and motivated," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said. "His maturity outside the football field has been measurable. He's just a great kid. Everyone just looks at him and says, 'I hope he succeeds. I hope he's successful' and everything's coming together for him."

And, hell, since he's a tailback I bothered to watch his highlight video and saw a one-cut-and-go player who picked a hole and zipped through it, capable of making the tiny lateral adjustments that get players past linebackers on the second level. He's not going to break many tackles in college but has the vision and quickness to burst into creases Brandon Minor perceives as defenders to maim. You can make a similar assessment while listening to the dulcet tones of Pat Summerall:

That's junior film, man.

Why Darren Sproles? He's five foot six! Virtually all 5'6" guys in college football are basically the same. Sproles is probably optimistic, since Smith would have to have spectacular numbers and deadly return skills to indicate the sort of game-breaking talent Sproles was.

Etc.: Official site fluff. Sophomore stats: 85 carries for 925 yards. Audio slideshow. State championship photo gallery. Fluffy profile.

Guru Reliability: Low. Huge spread, and Scout and ESPN didn't move him an inch after his senior season. They also aren't accounting for Smith's fit in Michigan's offense, and obviously didn't take his spring into account.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Though he's sort of proven himself already, there's a big difference between Michigan's second string and Big Ten first stringers. There's still a chance his size will be a significant hindrance.
Projection: Sees maybe 30 carries as one of Minor and Brown's caddies, then finds himself in a serious war to replace them next year.



June 4th, 2009 at 2:08 PM ^

I'm assuming you're just trying to get a rise out of someone... but I'm going to respond seriously.

What I've noticed with Smith, not only in the practice videos but also the spring game, is that he prepares incredibly well for tackles. I have no idea how hard it would be to teach that to someone, but he seems to have a natural instinct for adjusting so that he doesn't take the full force of a defender.

Someone like McGuffie says, "Screw the defenders, I'm going to go straight through him," which only works when you're a monster tailback. Smith does a great job of slithering out of the way just enough to dampen the blow.

Can't wait to see him in a game.

Tha Stunna

June 4th, 2009 at 4:07 PM ^

McGuffie had the misfortune to be playing when our offensive line was still green, then got injured when our offensive line was gelling later in the year. Despite the tendency to say he sucks because he transferred, I maintain he would have been a good asset in the offense later on. I doubt he would have been a team-carrying back, but he still would have added a lot.

That being said, Vincent Smith has every chance to become better, and even if the whole RB thing doesn't play out, we've still got room for special teams players who don't grease their hands before each play...


June 4th, 2009 at 5:23 PM ^

Fair enough. He just never stood out to me as someone that was doing a great job of preparing for hits. I would agree that the huge hits where he was concussed weren't because he thought, "Hey, I can run this linebacker over."

With Smith I noticed right away that he contorts so that the impact doesn't affect him as much, whether that means he stays on his feet, or just avoids taking the whole force of the hit.


June 4th, 2009 at 1:12 PM ^

That was bad tackling. He had a great run, but the first guy arm tackled, the second guy did not even use his arms and to be fair to the third guy, he probably wasn't used to tackling someone so low. He's a good player though, and short guys are good in RR's offense. (Noel Devine... hint hint.)


June 4th, 2009 at 2:07 PM ^

But I do think there is something especially uplifting to a team when guys succeed even though their natural gifts aren't that great...Rodriguez himself has said that he needs more players who aren't just great athletes but who are also guys who love football...I'm guessing (and, yes, stereotyping) that kids who make it out of Pahokee fit that mold (unless, of course, a guy does have great natural gifts).


June 4th, 2009 at 1:51 PM ^

I always hate how the term, at least in basketball, is attached to white guys (usually guards at Duke). I agree that the talented players work hard too; I think the point was that he is not afraid to mix it up, and may be used to fighting for a spot as opposed to some recruits who show up expecting to play right away.


June 4th, 2009 at 2:46 PM ^

Smith looks pretty dang quick, but I'll agree that was pretty poor tackling. Isn't that Cissoko not only not trying to wrap him up, but also making the effort to roll all the way over to hit Smith with his back? Obviously it's just one clip from one drill, but it brought back bad memories. Hopefully we'll see a lot more of the Smith-esque effort on offense and a lot less of the "hit and bounce" defense this year!

marco dane

June 4th, 2009 at 8:03 PM ^

I keep watching the video above and I count three tackles VS either slither out of or outright broke out of the tackle.

Boo-Boo had the shot at either bringing the wood or simply wrapping him up. Nice moves nonetheless...


June 4th, 2009 at 2:46 PM ^

I was going to also add Troy Davis to the mix as a comparable. I don't see Sproles as a fit because he has *ridiculously elite* quickness and straight-line speed, matched by few players.


June 4th, 2009 at 3:05 PM ^

I'm really excited about this guy, sure he isnt going to get a ton of carries but when he touches the ball it's dangerous. I also agree with the Pahokee comment those are guys to root for, I remember Sportcenter had a story about players from Pahokee one time a while back.


June 4th, 2009 at 3:19 PM ^

Devine's a very small back, who is blazin' fast. He was a great compliment to Slanton when they were both at WVU. Slanton was fast but definitely bigger (maybe not as big as Minor), and then WVU would bring in Devine who was a lot smaller but even faster.


June 4th, 2009 at 8:14 PM ^

In my opinion. I was pretty young when Morris carried the ball on every play for M (and 45 times in a game for the Redskins - I remember watching that game on TV), and he wasn't exactly a darty-spread runner like Smith is. Short yes, but not as "small", per se.


June 5th, 2009 at 10:21 AM ^

I saw plenty of film on Smith (not just cherry-picked highlights) and I definitely think he's big-time. He's also perfect for the spread offense.

He's never ever going to be a between-the-tackles runner, but he will absolutely destroy you on the edge. He gets to his peak speed in a hurry, he's got great hips, and he absolutely makes you take the perfect angle to tackle him.

Very good player.


June 5th, 2009 at 12:45 PM ^

Check out this kid for a possible comparison. He was a true freshman at Colorado last fall, out of Columbus, OH, and ended up having some huge games for the Buffs. He's a tiny little 3-star back that got virtually no looks from anyone in the Big10, including OSU, despite growing up in the Bushole. He also ended up outplaying Darrell Scott, who was by most accounts, the number 1 RB recruit in the nation last year. No one knew who he was until he went wild on WVU in an early season game last year, but he definitely made a name for himself here in Colorado.