One of the steals of the 2012 NFL Draft, former Utah State running back Michael Smith adds a new dimension of speed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive attack and is the perfect No. 3 RB to fellow non-AQ rookie Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount.
Smith had a terrific senior season, but he didn’t receive as much press for it and became even more unheralded due to the back who played in front of him; WAC Player of the Year Robert Turbin.
The Aggies starter rushed for 1,517 yards on 249 carries, while Michael Smith received just 114 carries and less goal-line rushes. Still, Smith averaged more yards per carry (7.6 to 6.1) than Turbin and finished with 870 yard and nine touchdowns. He is a top pure rusher who was third in the NCAA in yards per attempt last year. Before his final season at Utah State, Smith received just 70 carries but was impressive in those limited snaps.
It wasn’t like Smith was completely overlooked in the draft, because a team offered the Buccaneers a 2013 sixth-rounder for the rights to the talented Aggies back. The Bucs rejected the deal for the seventh-round pick, because they loved his ability. Coach Greg Schiano raved about the WAC star’s tape, and he was a huge sleeper pick for pundits before the draft.
To give a general overview of Smith’s incredible speed, only one number needs to be stated: 4.33. His forty time. He has great lateral speed and isn’t a purely straight-line player either, and having the third-highest yards per carry average in all of college football isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish either, even in a weaker conference.
Greg Schiano had this to say about Michael Smith.
“I think every time Mark and I watched tape he would jump off the tape at you, just a different kind of speed than everybody else on the field,” said Schiano. “How we utilize that is going to be our job. We’ve got to make sure we find a way to utilize that speed and there are several different ways you can do it, but speed wins. This guy brings quite a bit of that as well as being a very athletic guy.”
The deal for the 23-year-old back will take him through four seasons with the organization, and the signing was announced yesterday. Expect him to be the team’s third back with his great pure rushing ability (a Greg Cosell favorite) and pass-catching upside that definitely offsets his poor pass protecting.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.