Brandon Smith is an enigma.
The Penn State linebacker has all the tools; 6-foot-4, 254 pounds and capable of playing multiple linebacker positions.
Smith also has pedigree. A five-star recruit from Louisa County High School in Mineral, Virginia, population 556.
A player from an off-the-grid environment like Louisa playing at Penn State is a big success story by itself, and said small-town player starting at Penn State for two years is even more impressive.
To many Nittany Lions fans, however, Smith didn’t live up to his five-star billing.
Smith made his mark on Happy Valley right away with a massive hit in his first varsity appearance against Idaho in 2019.
Overall, however, Smith never seemed to fully become an impact player for the Nittany Lions defense the way teammates Jaquan Brisker and Arnold Ebiketie were in 2021.
Nonetheless, Smith surely will have his name called at some point during this year’s NFL draft, and might even hear it within the first three rounds.
And there’s a lot for NFL teams to like about Smith.
“I would say I’m really physical, fast, Smith told reporters at his 2022 NFL combine press conference Friday in Indianapolis. “I have a lot of range when it comes to any types of sweeps or just covering ground in general.”
The combine will give Smith a chance to show off for football fans who didn’t watch him at Penn State. Perhaps he can follow in the footsteps of one of his college teammates, Odafe Oweh.
After not picking up a sack in the shortened nine-game 2020 season, Oweh broke through at the combine by running a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash. He wound up going in the first round and had an excellent rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens.
Kind of a mixed bag of a season for Smith at times but he's just the nicest dude and has incredible athleticism so wouldn't be surprised if he has an Oweh year once he gets his feet wet in the league.
— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) December 17, 2021
Smith is hoping to be in 2022 what Oweh was in ‘21.
“(I’ll give it) everything I got day in and day out,” Smith said. “Whether it’s extra film whenever I get home or extra time within the facility, extra time just, whatever it is. If there’s something I need to work on, I’m going to work on it.”
Smith also sees himself as compatable with Trumanine Edmunds of the Buffalo Bills.
Smith spent time in Brent Pry’s defense as a SAM linebacker, where he had a stand-up stance like a defensive end. In 2021, he switched to WILL, which require him to defend passes more.
Smith expects to do both in NFL.
“I had a lot of coverage opportunities and did well in coverage,” Smith said. “So being able to adjust to any type of defense and use my strengths within their program is a big”There’s certain things that I had to do this year as far as being in coverage mostly. But for the most part, I’m able to do a lot of things that I didn’t do because of certain play calls that we had. So there’s a lot to my game.”
Smith legacy at Penn State is complete, but the Linebacker U tradition, Smith said, will live on through Curtis Jacobs.
“He’s basically like another DB, but just a bigger body,” he said. “He’s good in coverage, he’s fast, he’s able to blitz. He’s just versatile.”