Syracuse’s Derrell Smith is hoping he gets selected this weekend in the NFL Draft, and hope is exactly what he brought to the Orange defense. The resurgence of SU football has been led by its “D”, and that unit was led by the fifth-year senior middle linebacker. Smith finished his senior campaign with 114 total tackles, 72 solo, and nine tackles for loss. The captain ended his SU career with eleven tackles in the Orange’s 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl victory, and spoke exclusively to The Fizz on the day of the Spring Game. He said the win in the Bronx was a storybook ending to his career.
“It was a special ending, to have worked so hard. For me personally, five years of hard work went in to that one win. I had joked with some of the coaches that it was like winning our Super Bowl, but it kind of was. It was a life-changing win.”
Smith spoke to The Fizz before the season started at Big East Media Days, and applauded Doug Marrone for publicly declaring a bowl bid the goal. “Yeah. It’s like a call to action. He’s setting the guidelines and now we gotta go out and do it.” Smith, along with fellow linebacker Doug Hogue, is now moving on to the next stage of his football career, and a slew of young talent will try to replace them at SU. The loss of Smith will leave a leadership void, as the captain was always doling out advice to both members of the team and incoming recruits. attended the combine in Indianapolis but only went through the interview process. Instead, he worked out for league scouts at SU’s Pro Day, where he thinks he may have improved his stock.
“I thought pro day went well. I think I showed that I was a little more athletic than they thought, that I can play inside and outside, so hopefully that helps.”
That versatility could help his stock this weekend, but it may also hurt. His NFLdraftscout.com profile describes him as a “bit of a ‘tweener with marginal outside linebacker size and inside linebacker speed.”
That same profile does praise Smith for being a “tough between-the-tackles defender who find the ball by sliding through traffic to find the ballcarrier. Unafraid to take on blockers in the hole, occasionally holding them up then making a tackle. Keeps tabs on backs and tight end in coverage over the middle, wraps up consistently after the catch. Knows where the first down marker is when making his drop. Intelligent player with degrees in information management and marketing.”
Smith is projected to be anywhere between a sixth-round pick and an undrafted free agent by various NFL Draft experts, but he says he’s just looking forward to getting an opportunity.
“Right now I’m being projected as a pretty low draft pick, but I really just want to get my foot in the door somewhere. As long as I get an opportunity somewhere I think I’ll be able to stick.”
Smith says a few coaches have contacted him since his Pro Day workout, but for now all he can really do is listen to coaches if they call, and wait for his opportunity. With the NFL Draft getting underway tomorrow night, he shouldn’t have to wait much longer.
Posted: Steve Neikam
(graphic: courtesy of Mark Urquhart Designs)