As the Temple Owls prepare for 2015, Nate D Smith tries to adjust to his new position on the D-Line…and he has proven to be quite the quick learner.
Philadelphia, PA (C+P) It was hot, scorching. During a mid-August training camp practice, the temperature reached 90 degrees. During the practice, a familiar face broke from the defensive huddle. However, that same face was not lining up where he regularly played for most of his Temple career. After the ball had been snapped, a fumble occurred. Reaching down after the loose ball, the Temple player, wearing his white No. 35 jersey, scooped up the ball and proceeded to run with the ball in the other direction. It is not unusual to see Nate D Smith make a big play. It is a little different seeing him line up in a different position. Smith, who is playing his final season as a Temple Owl, has been playing at defensive end this summer. So far, the experiment has worked out.
Smith, the team’s middle linebacker, had a good season last year. He finished second on a team last season with 71 tackles and was a major contributor to a team that finished at the top of many statistical categories. This offseason, he was asked to switch positions. This time he was moving to defensive end. His unselfishness could benefit the team even more.
“This is for the team, and I am a team type of guy. Whatever the team needs me to do, I am out there. I did not say anything to the coaches except that I’ll do it.”
“It has been pretty easy,” Smith said about his transition to the defensive line. “The plays are different. Now I have my hand in the dirt. I have the option to stand up or play in coverage. It is not too bad.”
Smith, who stands at 6 feet, 230 pounds, is not afraid of the challenge or his size. He has been working with defensive line coach Elijah Robinson and has been learning to get better each day.
“He has been working with me specifically to get my technique a lot better, getting my hands more violent and getting the linemen off me. It has been nothing but success.”
“He is a relentless pass rusher,” said Temple head coach Matt Rhule. “We think he is a difference maker there for us. There have been some D-lineman out, so he’s been over there and played really well. Once in a while he also goes back and plays linebacker. He can be a real hybrid threat for us. He can play linebacker, he can play defensive end, and he can rush. We think he has had a really good camp, and I expect him to be good there.”
The senior has embraced his hybrid role. When asked about which players he has studied and want to try to emulate, he came up with two unique and good choices. “James Harrison and Lawrence Taylor. I see how much violence they bring off the edge, and I love it. I try to imitate them while I am out there.”
Even though his skills on the field can be beneficial, his senior leadership off the field can be even more valuable.
“Honestly it is fun. We are all coming together. I am still learning things about my new position, and they are still teaching me things that I do not know about defensive lineman, but it is fun. We are having fun out there. We are going to do a lot better than we did last year. Last year there were a lot of games where we beat ourselves. This year is a new year. We are all on the same page, and we are all going to do our jobs.”
If Smith can set the edge and provide a consistent pass rush opposite of Praise Martin-Oguike, the defense can be even better than 2014. It will be a fun thing to watch.