Welcome to part two of our ten part series called “Welcome to the Big Show” where we give you an in-depth look into each of the Vikings ten Draft selections of 2012. Brett did a fine job handling Part One, a look at Matt Kalil, and now we move onto our other first round pick, Harrison Smith.
Born on Groundhog’s Day in 1989, Harrison Smith grew up as an extremely gifted athlete.
From a young age, adults took notice of Smith’s leadership abilities and willingness to include everyone. His mother received calls from summer camp counselors telling stories of Smith comforting kids through the night as they cried from being homesick, and often including other kids in activities even when other children considered them outcasts.
Smith went to high school at Knoxville Catholic where he was a do-it-all player. Heck, he was even a solid basketball player. He ran wild as a running back, was a gifted receiver, and showed prowess on defense, and even averaged 14 yards per punt return as a senior. In 2006, he was selected as Tennessee’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.
Having grown up at a Catholic school with a strict dress code, Smith got to Notre Dame and let his hair grow out. While drawing comparisons by some to Justin Bieber, he preferred the Scooby Doo comparisons and embraced the “Shaggy” role when Halloween rolled around.
He was a four star athlete coming out high school, with some schools envisioning him on offense and some wanting him to play defense. With offers on the table from a number of schools that included Tennessee, Auburn, and Alabama, Smith ended up choosing Notre Dame. His decision not to play for Tennessee ended up seeing his family be semi-spurned in their hometown.
At Notre Dame, he graduated from Mendoza College of Business with a management-entrepreneurship degree and enrolled in a graduate studies program.
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 213 pounds
Arm Length: 32 5/8”
Hand Size: 10 1/8”
Forty Yard Dash: 4.57 seconds
Vertical Jump: 34”
Broad Jump: 10’ 2”
Bench Press: 19 reps
3-Cone Drill: 6.63 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.12 seconds
- Good athleticism
- Large frame
- Strong Play Recognition
- Excels in Zone Coverage
- Play intelligent football
- Plays well balanced, equally as effective against the run as the pass
- Rarely misses tackles
- Always around the football
- Plays the ball well once in the air
- Quick acceleration
- Has decent hands
- Uses good technique in taking on and shedding blockers
- A natural leader on the field
- Able to play both safety positions
- A vocal leader on defense
- Known to be coachable
- Does not have elite speed
- Does not often deliver knockout hits
- Interceptions dropped off senior year
- Struggles in man coverage
- Can appear stiff at times
- Can get caught out of position
- Often has to catch up to receiver from behind
- Can fall for double moves and jukes
- Not prone to the big play
At Notre Dame, Smith and his teammates had to endure a major regime change, and he was often switched from position to position. He has started games at free safety, weakside outside linebacker, strongside outside linebacker, as well as weakside inside linebacker. Not only did Smith manage to stay productive despite the position changes, but his leadership on the field and in the locker room has often been credited for Notre Dame’s defense having a good transition from Charlie Weis to Brian Kelly.
Unlike most safety prospects, Smith has been durable his entire career thus far, having played in all 51 games since his freshman year, having started in 47 of them. In that time he recorded 309 tackles, 187 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss, caused two fumbles, and recovered a fumble. He also had seven interceptions, but they all came in 2010. He also had 28 defended passes. He even rushed the ball twice at Notre Dame, collecting 58 yards.
The Vikings addressed one of the roster’s biggest offseason needs by combining their second round pick with their fourth round pick to trade up to the 29th overall spot and select Harrison Smith. Smith had often been connected to the Vikings prior to the Draft for a number of reasons including his obvious skill, their obvious need, the fact that the Vikings staff coached him at the Senior Bowl where he excelled, and also Rick Spielman’s apparent liking of Notre Dame players.
The pick was met with mixed reviews, especially the fact that the team traded up to do so, as not all fans are sold on Harrison’s ability to play at the NFL level. In practice, Smith regularly lined up against current Vikings tight ends John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph.
Smith did not attend the Draft in New York City. Instead, he watched the event live on television at his home in Tennessee with friends and family. He kept to himself at his own party, however, as he distracted himself from the suspense by shooting baskets in the driveway and taking his dog for a walk. When he received the call from Rick Spielman, the house predictably erupted with joy.
He did not know if the Vikings were interested in him, as the team did not show interest for the nearly three months since the Senior Bowl took place.
From Smith in a 2011 interview: “I think the reason most guys play, I know the reason that I play, at the start of the year, it’s not, in my mind, it’s not that we need to win every game. In my mind, it’s the next play, I’m going to beat the guy I’m going against and that’s why you play the game. Because your ability to beat the guy across from you is so satisfying, that just keeps you going, because you want more of that. And so to me, the next play that I play, that’s what I want to do. I don’t care who the team is, I don’t care what our record is, I don’t care how many games we have left. I don’t care if it’s practice. That’s the mind set that I have and I know a lot of other guys have. So it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. I want to beat the guy that I go against next play.”
Rick Spielman to Peter King: “When our coaches coached the Senior Bowl, they fell in love with Harrison Smith. At safety, the depth after him got really thin. So we felt that was a guy we really wanted to get where we got him.”
Smith on being coached by the Vikings at the Senior Bowl: “I thought I played well and did a good job and tried to do what they wanted me to do, but they never said anything about that they were going to draft me. There were a lot of good players down there. I think it was just trying to get to know each other well and at the end of the day, I think they think I’m a good fit for them and I 100-percent agree.”
Leslie Frazier on the selection of Smith: “The fact he can play in the box or play deep; it’s hard to find those guys. That’s why the safety position is not as deep, because it’s hard to find guys who are able to do both. He has the ability to be effective in both areas.”
Smith on wanting to be a starter: “Who doesn’t want to start? Why would you want to play the game if you don’t have that competitive fire to go out and compete every day? To me, I think it’s an honor for them to think highly of me to spend such a high pick on me. I want to back them up.”
Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly on the regime change at Notre Dame: “In that transition, he was all in. He bought in from Day One and never looked back. He really took over the team in my first year here and continued by the way he handles himself. He’s professional, hard-working, dedicated and he had the respect of his teammates.”
WHERE HE FITS
Smith is likely to immediately step into the Vikings starting lineup at free safety. As of right now, it looks like he will start across from strong safety Jamarca Sanford, but it sounds like they wouldn’t hesitate to put Smith himself at strong safety if they feel they can find a better combination.
Since middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley may not turn out to be a three down player, I wouldn’t be surprised if the football savvy Smith ends up calling plays and taking charge of adjustments from the middle of the field. He may even end up wearing the helmet with a mic in it.
With Antoine Winfield seeing a reduced roll, we may see the leadership baton passed off in this secondary sooner rather than later.
Adam’s Grade: A-
Brett’s Grade: B+