Smith gets big test Saturday

by - Senior Writer -
Robert Smith celebrates with teammates after making an interception against Troy,

CLEMSON – Clemson safety Rashard HallRashard Hall
RS Jr. Safety
#31 6-2, 200
St. Augustine, FL

View Full Profile
is out for this week’s game against Wofford, and starting in his place will be a true freshman who has less than 50 snaps on his career resume as a defender.

Robert SmithRobert Smith
Fr. Defensive Back
#27 5-11, 195
St. George, SC

View Full Profile
is a native South Carolinian, and played his high school football at Woodland High School. However, he spent most of his time there on offense and racked up some impressive numbers – he had 11,318 total yards during his career, including 124 career touchdowns.

He had 527 carries for 3,092 yards and was 636-for-950 passing for 8,226 yards and 86 touchdowns, and he was listed as the No. 22 player in South Carolina by SuperPrep. Clemson, however, saw his potential on defense, and he said earlier this week that he still thought of himself as an offensive player when he first arrived simply because he played around 40 snaps on defense during his career at Woodland.

“I played very little defense in high school,” Smith said earlier this week. “I usually played in special situations- if we needed to get the ball back or the other team was more athletic. I played maybe 40 snaps total from freshman to senior year. The first time I went to skills and drills here, it was divided up offense and defense. They told the offense to go one way and the defense to go another. I walked ten steps toward offense and remembered that I was on defense.”

Smith played seven snaps this past week against Troy, and came up with an interception that showed why the Clemson coaches think so highly of his talents.
“We were really just playing quarter [defense]. It happened to be to the guy that I was looking at,” Smith said. “He stopped and I looked at the quarterback and I got a good jump on the ball. I just went towards the ball. Once I started going towards it, I thought, ‘I’ve got a chance to get my first college career interception.’ When I dove for it and knew I had it, it’s a feeling that I can’t even explain.”

Smith was second on the depth chart to safety Jonathan MeeksJonathan Meeks
Jr. Safety
#5 6-1, 205
Rock Hill, SC

View Full Profile
this past Saturday, and he said he wondered if he would ever get his chance to play and was constantly looking for Meeks to tap his helmet signaling that he wanted to come out.

I was like, 'He's not tired yet?,' Smith said. "The kind of player he is, he works real hard, but when he's tired, he won't do anything to hurt the team. When he's tired, it's time for me to go in and replace him.”

The Tigers are thin at safety, but Smith said he still wondered if he would redshirt this season until a recent talk with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

"I was in the film room one Sunday and Coach Steele walked in,” Smith said. “He said, ‘Hey, if you do good this week, we're thinking about playing you.' So I went home that night and I studied until like 1 a.m. And then the next day at practice, I went just as hard as I could, and I had an interception and a couple of tackles. That is when I really thought I might play this year.

“Most people said it would be hard for me to play this year with the transition from offense to defense. So I came here with the mindset like I’m going to come in here and try to do my best and have a great chance of playing this year knowing that we kind of had a lack in safeties. By the second week of camp when I started really progressing and learning the playbook, I said, ‘I can play college ball. I can compete. I can help the team this year.”

Steele said earlier this week that Smith will start alongside Meeks and that the two are interchangeable at the free safety and strong safety spots, and Smith admitted that he has had a steep learning curve.

"Coach Steele's system is complex,” he said. “At first, you're like, 'Wow, I don't even know if I can play at this level.' But it's a good system. It's an NFL defense. It prepares you for the future. You eventually get it drilled into you."

And now, he says, he actually is beginning to think like a defensive player.

“ I'm a defensive player now,” he said. “Once you are an athlete, you can get accustomed to it. I look at my role as being important. Everything I do affects me and my teammates."

Rate this Story:
11 votes

Send Feedback to David Hood: Email | Comment

Swinney loves the offense, says the defense "just didn't bring the juice"

WATCH: Watson scores first TD in Houston

Clemson golfer advances to U.S. Amateur finals

Big plays mark final stadium scrimmage

Scrimmage Insider: Venables not pleased after offense has strong day

WATCH: Richard 'really looking forward to gameday'

WATCH: Swinney after Saturday's scrimmage

Muse on Etienne: "He is a tough guy to tackle"

WATCH: Bryant says Etienne 'is making plays'
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Daily Digest