The rosters of Sun Belt Conference teams have become required reading for NFL scouts, especially since Osi Umenyiora (picked in the second round of the 2003 draft by the Giants out of Troy) and DeMarcus Ware (first round, 2005, Dallas, Troy) started to consistently harass pro quarterbacks. Smith might not have quite the athleticism of those two Pro Bowlers, but his potential as a hand-down or stand-up pass rusher is intriguing.
Quanterus (pronounced quan-TERR-us) played in every game during his career with the Hilltoppers, starting two as a redshirt freshman (12 tackles, one for loss) before lining up with the first team 10 times the following year (47 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks). Even though he only started six games of the 12 games in which he played in 2011, Sun Belt coaches still voted him second-team all-conference for his play, as his 11 tackles for loss (38 total) and 7.5 sacks gave opposing offenses headaches no matter when he stepped onto the gridiron. Smith’s senior year got off to an excellent start. Through ten games, he was leading the nation in sacks with 12.5 before an ACL tear prematurely ended his season. His performance over those ten games was so dominating that he still finished as the FBS leader in sacks per game (1.25) and was named the 2012 Sun Belt Player of the year. It’s unlikely that Smith will be able to contribute much in 2013, but if he checks out medically he could end up one of the steals of the draft.
Possesses the length pro coaches love to see on their defense. Flashes the explosion off the snap as an edge rusher to beat most college tackles to the back of the pocket. Agile enough to contain on the edge and move in space when asked to drop, as well as the motor to hustle down the line and fight to the quarterback until the ball is away. Plays the weak and strong sides of the formation, using extension and a bit more lower body strength than expected given his size to hold his own against right tackles. Hand use greatly improved between junior and senior seasons. Now possesses active, disruptive hands, constantly fighting for inside position and waxing blockers’ hands off his body. Has the flexibility to dip his shoulder and reduce his surface area coming around the edge. Creative pass rusher who understands the art of the slow rush. Gets the offensive tackle to over-commit, then beats him with a rip to the outside or swim to the inside. Makes plays on coverage units as an interior presence.
Pad level coming off the ball is poor. Needs to learn fire off low, roll his hips through contact, and convert speed to power. Must work on tightening his path to the quarterback around the corner, as he can be ridden out of the pocket too easily. Cheats back off the line of scrimmage obviously when twisting with the defensive tackle. Needs to continue adding bulk and filling out his frame. Good first step, but isn’t lightning quick. Coming off reconstructive knee surgery performed in November, and likely will not be able to contribute in 2012.
The part-time starter in 2011 managed to earn second-team All-Sun Belt honors (11 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks) in 2011 while also displaying great upside to NFL scouts due to his length and explosion off the edge as a pass rusher. He lined up as a starter full-time in 2012, showing a much improved all around game. Unfortunately, the 2012 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year tore his ACL in November, ending his senior season after just ten games. How Smith checks out medically will have a huge effect on his stock, but a team that feels good about his knee might feel the Hilltopper’s skill as a pass rusher is worth investing a Day 2 pick on him.