Did a better than anticipated job taking on linemen inside, keeps his base down, plays with natural leverage and possesses the athleticism to keep himself clean from blocks while working his way toward the football inside.However, he isn't a real impressive open-field tackler, has a tendency to stop moving his feet too early and will fail to get into the ball carrier's body.
Lacks elite straight-line speed and isn't a guy who can consistently make plays from the backside. But exhibits a good initial burst attacking the line downhill and does a nice job picking his spots and shooting gaps in pursuit of the ball carrier behind the line.
Exhibits natural range and body control when asked to drop off into coverage and looks very comfortable running with the tight end down the seam. Showcases the ability to cleanly change directions and get up to speed quickly when closing on the football laterally.
Impression: Exhibits above-average instincts inside vs. the run game and looks very comfortable in coverage. But, he lacks physicality as a tackler and doesn't exhibit great closing range in pursuit. Looks more like a free agent to me."
Positive: Small but explosive weak side prospect who covers a lot of area on the field. Moves well on his feet, fluid out to the sidelines and gets depth on pass drops. Breaks down well, fires through the gaps up the field, and slides off blocks to get to the ball carrier. Uses his hands well to protect himself, quickly changes direction, and shows skill in pursuit.
Negative: Struggles getting off blocks once engaged and easily disrupted at the point of attack. Shows minimal force on the blitz.
Analysis: Smith is an athletic prospect with the ability to make plays in space. He's a backup weak side linebacker who must earn a living on special teams."
2009: Smith started at weakside linebacker as a junior in 2009 and had an eye-opening performance. Overall in 2009 while appearing in 10 games (all but Washington State, California, Arizona State) and starting 9 times (all but Washington State, California, Arizona State, Stanford), he had 72 tackles (second on USC), including 6 for losses, plus 3 deflections, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception (for a 62-yard TD). He missed the Washington State and California games after spraining his right ankle at Washington and was sidelined at Arizona State after spraining his left shoulder at Oregon.
He had 5 tackles (1.5 for losses) and a deflection against San Jose State, 1 tackle at Ohio State, 6 tackles and a deflection at Washington and 5 tackles (1 for a loss) at Notre Dame. He had 10 tackles (1 for a loss) and a deflection against Oregon State, 3 tackles and forced a fumble that USC recovered (to set up a TD) at Oregon and 11 tackles against Stanford. He had a USC season-high and career-best 15 tackles (the most by a Trojan since Troy Polamalu had 20 against Utah in the 2001 Vegas Bowl), including 1.5 for losses, and returned a first quarter interception 62 yards for a touchdown against UCLA to earn Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors. He made a game-best 10 tackles against Arizona. He had 6 tackles (1 for a loss) against Boston College.
2008: Smith served as the backup weakside linebacker and was a key special teamer as a sophomore in 2008. Overall in 2008 while appearing in all 13 games, he made 18 tackles, including 0.5 for a loss of 1 yards. He had 6 tackles against Washington, 4 at Washington State and 3 at Virginia.
2007: Smith was a backup linebacker and key special teams player as a first-year freshman in 2007. Overall in 2007 while appearing in all 13 games, he had 6 tackles and 1 forced fumble. He also returned a fumbled kickoff return 31 yards (at Nebraska). He had 1 tackle against Idaho, 2 versus Washington State and 1 each at Notre Dame, Oregon (with a forced fumble) and Arizona State.
HIGH SCHOOL: His 2006 honors included Super Prep All-American, Prep Star All-American, Prep Star 100, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-West, Scout.com All-West, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team, Orange County Register Fab 15 second team, Tacoma News-Tribune Western 100, Cal-Hi Sports All-State third team, All-L.A. City first team and Los Angeles Daily News All-Area second team as a senior linebacker and running back at Taft High in Woodland Hills (Calif.). He had 31 tackles, 10 sacks and 4 fumble recoveries on defense and ran for 919 yards on 118 carries (7.8 avg.) with 15 TDs on offense in 2006 despite missing the first half of the season with a leg injury.
As a junior in 2005, he made Cal-Hi Sports All-State Underclass first team, All-L.A. City first team and Los Angeles Daily News All-Area first team while making 41 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 fumble recovery, plus running for 639 yards on 73 carries (8.8 avg.) with 10 TDs and catching 27 passes for 411 yards (15.2 avg.) with 7 TDs as Taft was the L.A. City runnerup.
He was named to the Student Sports Sophomore All-American and Cal-Hi Sports All-State Sophomore first team as a 2004 sophomore when he had 800-plus yards of total offense and 8 TDs, plus 2 interceptions, as Taft won the L.A. City title. Current Trojan D.J. Morgan also prepped at Taft.
PERSONAL: He's an economics major at USC. His brother, Steve, was a 2006 All-American wide receiver at USC who lettered 4 years with the Trojans (2003-06) and finished his career as Troy's No. 5 career pass catcher (190 receptions with 22 TDs), and now plays with the NFL's New York Giants.
Strengths: Athletic, fast linebacker who excels on the run in pursuit. Takes good angles to the ball and has great range because of his speed. Good closing speed to make the tackle and close on routes in coverage. Good lateral quickness, as he's able to scrape well parallel to the LOS and avoid blocks with his quickness to get to the ball carrier. Shows that he has big play potential with his 8.0 tackles for loss, and returned interception and fumble for touchdowns. Good bloodlines, as his brother, Steve, is a receiver for the Giants.
Weaknesses: Adequate instincts, but sometimes a half-step slow to read his keys. His size is a concern, as he can get swallowed up at the POA and doesn't have the strength to hold his ground or shed blocks consistently. Lacks great balance in space, coming in hot to make tackles too often. Doesn't drive his feet often enough as a tackler.
As a junior Smith stepped into a starting role at the weakside linebacker spot and did a superb job. Despite only playing in ten games and starting nine, he ranked second on the team with 72 tackles. He also returned an interception for a 62 yard touchdown. For his senior season Smith continued to make some big plays and this time returned an interception for a 74 yard score. Smith again ranked second on the Trojans with 78 tackles and added 8.0 tackles-for-loss and one sack. Smith also forced a couple fumbles and returned two as well.
Smith is always around the ball and has been a surprisingly effective linebacker for Southern Cal during his two years as a starter. He is not the quickest or strongest linebacker in this class, but he has a knack for making plays. He likely will not test out too well and that may keep him from even being drafted, but Smith could make an NFL team with his ability to play special teams."