When you think of all the schools in the state of Florida, you don't usually
expect the University of Central Florida to produce one of the top running backs
in the nation. Florida, Florida State, Miami, and South Florida dominate the
recruiting in the Sunshine State, but the Knights were lucky enough to get their
hands on the explosive Kevin Smith.
Ever since, opponents have found that getting their hands on him is a
difficult assignment on gameday.
On the Knights first offensive play of the season against NC State, Smith
made his presence known. On the UCF 20-yard line, quarterback Kyle Israel handed
the ball off to Smith on a simple counter play. Smith headed around the right
end, allowed his blockers to push defenders towards the far sideline,
creating a lane for Smith to run through. He quickly hit the hole and was home
free for an 80-yard touchdown run.
Now that's how you make an impression.
"Kevin has gotten stronger. He is bigger," head coach George
O'Leary said. "He is a very smart football player."
Smith, a junior, is relatively unknown around the country, but when he's on
the field, defensive coordinators scheme their entire defense around stopping
No. 24. Smith currently leads the nation in rushing -- recording 860 yards on
146 carries and 11 touchdowns -- with an average of 172 yards a game and 5.9
yards per carry.
Nicknamed "24K," Smith has drawn comparisons to Arkansas' elusive
running back Darren McFadden and he has proved that he can be a featured back.
Not only is he averaging 172 yards a game, but he's also carrying the ball 29
times a game.
In his first two seasons with UCF, Smith was tremendous. As a true freshman
he carried the ball 249 times for 1,178 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished
second among freshmen in rushing, trailing only Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton who
finished with 1,474 rushing yards. As a sophomore, Smith was hampered by
injuries, but he still managed to gain 934 yards on 206 carries and seven
touchdowns. In addition to his impressive rushing numbers, he showed his
versatility as he hauled in 23 receptions for 158 yards.
AP Photo/Reinhold Matay
"As a freshman, he did not know what was wrong when a play didn't
work," said O'Leary. "Last year was a little better. This year he
tells me that guard did not get his hat where it belongs. He knows what is going
on and is not afraid to speak up, which is why I like Kevin. Whether right or
wrong, he will speak up. Especially today with peer pressure, I do not see a lot
of kids stand up for what is right or wrong. He will speak up when kids are
wrong and even when he is wrong, which I appreciate."
At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, the Miami, Florida native is a strong candidate for
the Heisman Trophy award. With UCF off to a strong start this season, it will
only help Smith's chances of gaining recognition for college football's most
Smith is a strong, physical runner who can take over a game. He's got
tremendous quickness, vision, and strength. He's patient and allows his blockers
to set up in front of him, finds the open running lane, and quickly hits it. A
shifty runner, Smith is a back who not only makes defenders miss, but is truly
special in the open field. He's tough, can take a pounding and gets better as
the game progresses. He flashes soft hands and is a receiving threat out of the
As good as Smith is, he's a bit tentative at the point of attack. He
understands his strengths and knows that he can juke inside and bounce outside
and make a big play. But the more hesitant he becomes about running inside, the
more prepared defenses will be to contain him. Durability is a concern due to
the amount of touches Smith receives along with the fact that he had surgery on
his right shoulder last offseason.
Overall, Smith is an outstanding runner. He's got all the tools to become an
elite back at the next level. A tremendous competitor who's selfless and credits
his teammates for a lot of his success, Smith is a lock to be a first-round
selection if he continues his rapid development.
A member of the Pro
Football Writers of America and the Football
Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has
provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft
prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.