The FBO crew continued their stellar luck a couple of weeks ago when traveling to East Kentwood to scout Logan Brown and Mazi Smith, two 2019 prospects with Michigan offers. The first thing I saw when I got to the press box was Brown on the sidelines, in street clothes, with two bulky braces on his knees. Smith did play, however, and was excellent, even after he rolled an ankle and hobbled his way through the rest of the game.
This is the last FBO of 2017, which is good for the health and safety of high school student-athletes and Michigan targets around the Midwest. To review: David tried to scout Ekiyor in August but he was injured; I scouted Aidan Hutchinson in a game where he took a nasty shot extending for a catch and was slowed the rest of the game; we did scout Ekiyor in Indianapolis in September, then he decommitted last week; Ace and David went to scout McGrone a couple weeks ago but he was injured; I thought I was scouting two Michigan targets on East Kentwood but one was out with injury and the other was injured in the game.
Mazi Smith Every-Snap Film (Defense)
Smith is lined up at 3-tech.
[After THE JUMP: scouting and film of Smith at guard]
It took all of one play to see why Smith’s the seventh-ranked defensive tackle in 2019 and just inside the top 150 on the composite. He’s really quick off the line and diagnoses runs well; Caledonia’s triple option didn’t give Smith many opportunities to show what he could do as a pass rusher, but his gap soundness should be considered a strength considering what he did in this game. He gets an opportunity to rush the QB at 5:14, where he blows up a back and goes over him to pull the quarterback down with one arm (a little late, too).
One area for improvement that stood out in the latter stages of the game was an inconsistency in firing off the line low. Like most high school juniors, he needs to improve his pad level. When he got high, he was easily moved; the ankle injury seemed to play a factor as well. Smith does use his hands well, often batting linemen’s hands down and freeing himself to shoot the gap.
A nice encapsulation of what Smith does well comes at 5:05. Caledonia tries to down-block him, but he’s impossible to keep out of a gap once he has fired off the line. He pushes through and shows what you’d expect from a DI prospect: he’s stronger than the kids he’s playing against, which allows him to pull the back down one-armed despite aiming high.
Caledonia tried to cut-block Smith for a series or two about a quarter of the way through the every-snap film, and it worked for the most part. This is something that almost all young linemen have trouble with (see Aubrey Solomon earlier this season) but it’s something he’ll need to work on none the less.
The tell here is in East Kentwood’s substitution pattern or, defensively, lack thereof. East Kentwood used Smith as an offensive guard until he rolled his ankle, at which point they inserted him on occasional drives toward the end of the game.
Smith is an adequate guard but has far more upside on the defensive side of the ball. This meshes well with his preferences; according to a recent MLive piece, Smith doesn’t really like playing offense but does it because his coaches are asking him to. He pulls very well, is strong enough to run block, and punches well off the snap, but he needs to work on straining for an extra split second to stay on a block in pass protection.
Smith has the current skillset and upside to play 3-technique, and though I won’t go so far as to Dwumfour him up and call him the next Hurst, there’s certainly some resemblance there. On the most basic level, Smith checks all the boxes you want in an underclassman HS lineman: size, speed, and strength. His hand usage is advanced and he diagnoses the run well for a player his age. His biggest strength at this point is his speed off the ball at 6’3” and 290 pounds. Smith doesn’t look like he weighs 290—there’s no evidence of bad weight here—and he certainly doesn’t move like he weighs that much, but he blows through blocks and tackles backs like it.
Considering his height and weight, Smith is almost certainly slated for the interior of the defensive line. He looks like a prototypical 3-tech, but put on a few good pounds and he could possibly play some nose tackle as well. If he ends up at nose, though, he’ll need more seasoning: there’s a huge difference between beating one blocker and holding up against a double team, and Smith is far better suited to win one-on-one battles than to plug away.