Smith started all 12 games in 2009 as a sophomore at both linebacker and safety, finishing with 69 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble.
He had his most productive season in 2010 as a junior (13 starts), finishing second on the team with 91 tackles and led the Irish with 7 interceptions (fourth in the FBS) and 7 pass break-ups.
Smith returned in 2011 as a senior captain with 13 starts, recording 90 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and a career-best 10 pass break-ups, but didn't record a pick-off.
Smith is a hybrid linebacker/safety prospect with the build, straight-line speed and natural power to turn heads ~ downhill defender whose shortcomings athletically are exposed in coverage.
He is a much better player facing the action, struggling with his back to the ball. Smith is a frustrating prospect because he shows flashes with his natural skill and playmaking ability, but is too inconsistent against both the run and pass.
Smith is rough around the edges and is far from starting in the NFL because of his limitations in coverage and mental mistakes, but he should excel on special teams coverage with his closing and hitting ability ~ an in-the-box safety prospect who will impress physically, but shouldn't be drafted in the top-75 picks on draft weekend.
Strengths: Looks the part with prototypical size and strength for a strong safety ~ long arms with a filled-out frame. Extremely strong with natural power to make punishing hits. Physical striker who enjoys contact. Fills the run lanes hard and is a downhill athlete with an aggressive nature at the point of attack.
Plays fast and closes in a flash with conviction and determination ~ fast in pursuit. Makes plays at all levels of the field and has strong hands to make shoe-string tackles. Read/reacts quickly and does a nice job interpreting the eyes of the quarterback. Big-time competitor and leader, never giving up on plays ~ goes hard at full speed.
Very active pre-snap and shows natural awareness. Played both linebacker and safety in college with 47 career starts, showing steady improvement over his time in South Bend.
Very productive at Notre Dame, leaving as the only player in school history to register more than 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass break-ups over his career ~ finished with 307 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 28 pass break-ups.
Weaknesses: An upright athlete who lacks ideal body flexibility and natural explosion to hold up in coverage or space. Has tight hips and struggles to turn and quickly change directions ~ plays stiff.
Needs to be a more technically-sound tackler, often going for the knockout hit or forced fumble instead of wrapping up ~ hits too high and loses leverage, allowing ballcarriers to pick up extra yards. Plays overaggressive and moves too fast for his eyes ~ missed tackles in space and over runs plays.
Has streaky instincts and doesn't see things as quick as he needs to. Still has a lot of developing to do. Needs to play under control and disciplined ~ too many unnecessary facemask penalties on his record.
Has poor footwork and feel in man coverage and is too hands-on when left on an island ~ will attract pass interference penalties. Still made too many mistakes as a senior and didn't register an interception in 2011 after seven pick-offs in 2010.
NFL Comparison: Craig Steltz, Chicago Bears."
-- Dane Brugler
Is routinely able to read the action quickly, close on the football and is a solid wrap-up tackler. Generates good power into contact working in pursuit, and once he gets his stride going exhibits solid range off his frame.
And despite being a bit tight, he breaks down well on contact, using his strong upper body to wrap and runs his legs through contact. He understands angles, runs the alley well and routinely is able to wrap, even in the open field.
Those same instincts show up well in the pass game, as he's a bit of a ball hawk who has the ability to routinely get early jumps on the football. Exhibits impressive instincts, which routinely allows him to get early jumps on the football and puts himself around the play.
Looks a bit tight in his drop, causing him to get upright and he will get elongated/overextend with his footwork when looking to click and close, losing a bit out of his breaks. However, he's consistently moving toward the action before any defender and, once he collects himself, has a better closing burst than given credit for.
Lacks great straight-line speed, but looks like a 4.55 guy who plays faster because of instincts. Exhibits good ball skills, taking proper angles toward the throw, and can adjust and make a play. Will play over the slot at times and does a nice job feeling routes develop around him.
When he can squat on a throw keeps his feet under him, his base down and is much cleaner out of his breaks. Nevertheless, he lacks a great initial first step and looks tighter when asked to turn and run. He gets upright, struggles to get back up to speed quickly and lacks the type of second gear to make up for a false step.
Impression: Isn't a guy you want to trust to run with receivers down the field. However, because of his solid natural range and instincts, I can see him getting over the top and making plays in the center field type role as an NFL strong safety."
Has good feet, transitions efficiently, breaks on throws and closes fast, displaying good leaping ability and ball skills to contend in the air and highpoint interceptions.
Leaves his feet and misses too many tackles and has man-coverage limitations.
However, can function in the box or off the hash, flashes striking ability and is an intelligent, vocal on-field leader.
Better athlete than safety at this stage because of coaching changes and position switches but appeared to be on the upswing as the 2010 season progressed and has starter potential if he can put it all together.
Should contribute readily on special teams."
Smart, instinctive player reads the field well, but has limited range; has good size and is a physical tackler, but seldom gets into the backfield;
Has excellent ball skills, but is not a particularly good athlete who is limited in man coverage; had 93 tackles in 2010; also intercepted 7 passes + broke up 7 others; best fit at next level may be as an in-the-box strong safety."