Earlier today Warner Robins defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker announced that he would not be playing his college football at the University of Georgia. We here at Dawg Sports wish him the best of luck 11 weekends of the fall, even though we bear a consistent, strong animosity toward the school at which he will matriculate.*
But now seems like a good time to focus on the defensive tackle who did not get away, Garrison Smith.
The Rundown: Smith is a 6'4, 250 pound defensive lineman from Douglass High School in Atlanta. Rivals rates him as the #6 defensive tackle in the country for the class of 2010, and the #7 player in the state of Georgia. Smith also checks in at #79 on Rivals' list of the 100 best high school prospects in the country. The other major recruiting service, Scout, considers Smith the 6th best defensive line prospect in the nation. He was selected to participate in the Army All-American game in San Antonio, and was the Atlanta Touchdown Club's Bobby Dodd National High School Lineman of the Year. He's also scored a one-on-one interview with David Hale before even graduating from high school. Given the roster of people whom Hale has never seen fit to interview (President Obama, Lady Gaga, Tom Waits, and Michael Cera among other luminaries) that's heady stuff. Smith chose Georgia over offers from a literal who's who of college football, including Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma and Southern Cal.
Also, Rivals has a huge gallery of photos accompanying Smith's profile on their site. What's below is drawn from the above video, the referenced photos, and some additional video from one of those evil pay sites.
Impressions: Smith has a quick first step that makes him dangerous as a pass rusher. And he pursues the ball as hard as any defensive lineman you'll see. Smith seems like a real "effort guy", which is not something you can say about a lot of national top 100 prospects.
But his biggest weakness is inconsistency. Sometimes his pad level is too high, and he tends to take some bad angles to the ball occasionally.
Physically, Smith has great upper body strength. He's got a broad chest and isn't one of those flabby defensive linemen who'll always be one biscuit away from the bench. He's narrow-waisted, and if anything will be challenged to get over the 280 pound mark. With his quickness off the edge and long arms, Smith has the makings of a great 3-4 defensive end who should be effective against both the run and the pass.
Kind Of Reminds Me Of: Geno Atkins. Atkins also came in as an underweight but strong defensive tackle who sometimes seemed to play below his potential. He leaves the Classic City as a probable first day NFL draft pick.
Bottomline: Garrison Smith is on a list of guys who should be helped by Georgia's move to a 3-4 defense. While Smith is a little light to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 at this point, he could get into the rotation at defensive end depending on which players (Justin Houston, Cornelius Washington, move from end to outside linebacker. My impression is that Smith is a better prospect than a football player right now. But his upside is obvious.
*And of course by "matriculate" I mean "get a degree in sociology with little or no discernible academic exertion." Hey, I said I wish him the best. I didn't say I wasn't going to make fun of him just like the rest of the crowd in greater Opelika.