Name: LaChaston Smith
Hometown: Statesville, NC
School: South Iredell
24/7: 89, three stars; #28 OLB, NC #13
ESPN: 80, four stars; #40 OLB, NC #17, Southeast #196
Rivals: 5.7, three stars; #35 OLB, NC #17
Scout: three stars; #42 MLB
Other offers: Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Minnesota, East Carolina
I've been sitting here a while trying to find what distinguishes LaChaston Smith from the other prospects enough to make it worth an opening paragraph. Then I realized: if it's getting routine for us to pick up borderline four-star recruits with multiple SEC offers (and not just SEC in the most technical sense, like Mississippi State, but actual star-power offers like Florida and Tennessee), that's awesome.
Smith committed at the end of May in one of those really pleasant surprise type deals where you just kind of shuffle over to one of the recruiting sites and bam, there's the headline. No lead-in, no special occasion, no big weekend event, just a regular ol' Thursday, except with a commitment. The reason: Smith broke his foot last year and wanted to get in the door early somewhere in case he got hurt again.
Unfortunately, it was a prophetic decision. He moved the injury a little higher up this time, breaking a shin bone in his first game of the season. He was out of the cast and into a walking boot last week, but likely still has a few weeks to go before he's in playing shape. A real bummer, because South Iredell had big plans for him. Most two-way players are either linemen or track-star types who play DB on defense and quarterback or receiver on offense. Smith is a linebacker through and through, but his high school team had also been working him at receiver, RB, and even as a wildcat QB.
That's kind of exciting, because Smith is probably the most athletic LB verbal we have for 2013, and that's saying something because Zach Bradshaw is an outstanding two-way player himself (as a receiver on offense and a special teams ace) and Micah Kiser is no slouch himself. Rivals loved his coverage skills at the VTO camp ("During one-on-ones, he was smooth, turned easily, showed nice patience, closed
well and had solid ball skills") and ESPN spends half their evaluation praising his ability to defend the pass.
So there's no doubt we should have high expectations for Smith. You've got evaluations that basically agree with each other across the board, and an offer list to match. Beating out some of the better SEC powers means you did something right. I love Henry Coley's decisiveness, and Steve Greer is like a coach on the field, but Al Groh did not put a major emphasis on athleticism in his linebackers, except for the one that would play the role of the sackmaster. His major thing was right-place-right-time guys like Greer and Jon Copper. LaChaston Smith is a big part of a wave of athleticism, a complete remake of the position. The hope is that right-place-right-time can be taught, and while you're doing that you just figure at least they'll get where they're going fast. By the time Smith is a regular in the lineup, guys like Kwontie Moore and Demeitre Brim will be in place, and slow will be out and fast will be in. Smith fits in perfectly with that philosophy.
As long as injuries don't slow him up. Nobody likes to be saddled with the "injury-prone" label, but two in two years puts you at risk for it. Smith needs about 20 pounds - most of our guys are playing around 230 - and it's tough to put that on when your focus is injury rehab. Fortunately, broken bones are better healers than ligaments and joints and connecty-things. Smith is exactly the kind of player Mike London so far seems to like to put on the field on special teams coverage, but the injuries may dictate a redshirt. I lean toward putting him on the weak side where he can deal with slot receivers, if he turns out to be as good in pass coverage as the scouts say. If that's the case, you've got D.J. Hill right now as the heir apparent, who'll be a junior next fall. That'll probably be an open competition, though. Best-case for Smith is that he steps into that competition in 2013 and at least earns some playing time the way Maurice Canady has done at cornerback, but if he doesn't get there right away, it's hard to envision him not finding his way to the forefront sooner or later.