Blue White Illustrated

September 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 75

W W W . B L U E W B randon Smith has no interest in shouldering insincere account- ability. In Penn State's football culture, players are often quick to take the blame for shortcomings — real or perceived. But the Nittany Lions' ju- nior linebacker instead makes honest assessments, without any pretense. So, in evaluating his performance during the team's doomed 2020 season, the competitive but laidback Smith of- fers a blunt rejection of guilt for factors that were beyond his control. The Nit- tany Lions didn't conduct any spring practices last year, nor were they able to put in anything resembling a nor- mal offseason of work, and that, Smith explains, is the reason why his season didn't go the way he had hoped. "If I would have had a spring, then it would have been a completely different outcome," he said. "Even though I already had a decent amount of experience at it, it's still just having that different type of practice rep experience. It definitely would have been better for my in-depth knowledge of the playbook, just knowing little, small things and the details." The numbers reflect Smith's misgiv- ings. Starting at the Sam linebacker spot in Penn State's 36-35 overtime loss at Indiana to open the season, the soph- omore finished without a tackle. Ac- cording to Pro Football Focus, Smith missed his one opportunity to make a stop against the Hoosiers. He also al- lowed the only pass in his direction to be completed and generated just one quar- terback pressure on the afternoon. The result was a season-low overall defen- sive grade of 49.6, with a tackling grade of 21.8, also his worst of the season. As a freshman, Smith had earned few reps at the Will linebacker spot, then moved to the Sam position to help fill an acute personnel need. Although his reps increased following the move, he was being asked to not only learn an en- tirely new position but also to make the necessary adjustments as Penn State's defensive schemes shifted throughout the course of the year. Smith returned to that role as a soph- omore, this time as a starter who was expected to see significant game reps. His initial discomfort, exacerbated by the pandemic and its fallout, never re- ally subsided. "Being in space was kind of new to me," he said. "The last time I was in any type of space was my ninth-grade year when I played safety at Fork Union Mili- tary Academy. That was the only time other than playing Sam last year that I was really out in space like that. WHERE THERE'S A WILL … Brandon Smith relishes his return to the position where he feels he can have the biggest impact on Penn State's football fortunes Smith is confident about his return to the Will line- backer spot as a junior after being stretched to fill the gap at Sam last season. With fewer pass- coverage responsibilities in 2021, he will be able to use his instincts and speed to find the ball and make plays sideline to sideline. PHOTO BY MARK SELDERS/ PENN STATE ATHLETICS NAT E BAU E R | N B A U E R @ B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M 2 4 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue White Illustrated - September 2021