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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Smith itching to down quarterbacks once more

    Senior defensive lineman Marcus Smith stands cross-armed at practice yesterday at Jimenez Practice Facility. The San Diego native cant wait to unleash his newfound power on opposing quarterbacks, starting with Brigham Youngs John Beck on Saturday.
    Senior defensive lineman Marcus Smith stands cross-armed at practice yesterday at Jimenez Practice Facility. The San Diego native can’t wait to unleash his newfound power on opposing quarterbacks, starting with Brigham Young’s John Beck on Saturday.

    Say this about defensive end Marcus Smith: He’s not one to rest on his laurels.

    After a severe ankle injury cut short the redshirt senior’s 2005 Arizona football season only two games in, Smith went immediately to work in the Wildcats’ film room with the intention of coming back for his final year a smarter, stronger force.

    From the sideline during games, he honed in on the exploits of former defensive end Copeland Bryan, the team’s leader in sacks last season with 7.5.

    Smith said watching Bryan has helped him better read the moves of offensive linemen and led to a few on-field experiments during drills in fall camp earlier this month.

    “”I was trying to do a little bit of Copeland’s run-underneath-the-O-lineman thing,”” Smith said. “”He has really good lean and pad level, so I’ve been working on that in camp and being able to use my hands a little better. I’m really strong, so I’m just learning different things and different points of the body to attack with my hands.””
    If opponents feel a little more pressure on their jerseys this fall, it won’t be by coincidence.

    Smith gained 30 pounds of muscle by spring practice and toned down in the summer when he was cleared to run again, doing sprints with the team’s faster players whenever possible.

    “”I’ve gained a little weight, but it’s in the right places,”” Smith said. “”I feel good. I’m still feeling mobile, and my leg feels good and so I’m just ready to make an impact in my last year.””

    Smith shared the infirmary last season with redshirt junior tight end Brandyn McCall, who played only part of the team’s season opener against Utah because of a back injury.

    McCall said he was able to see Smith’s transformation first-hand, as the two became close during regular workouts with strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond.

    “”Coach Ed would take us every day during practice to go lift, work on a bunch of stuff,”” McCall said. “”Marcus has gotten very big, but he’s always been big. He’s more mentally ready.””

    Defensive ends coach Joe Robinson said Smith’s offseason work habits and positive attitude exemplified his strong leadership, which his peers verified in naming him a team captain for a second straight year.

    “”Sincerely, not just saying this about an older kid, but he’s really a coach in the meeting room,”” Robinson said. “”He can help out the young kids in so many ways, just the little intricacies of the game that he understands now.””

    Redshirt sophomore Johnathan Turner, who started 10 games at end and tackle last year thanks to Smith’s injury, said he looks forward to the fifth-year player’s return – which, if nothing else, will alleviate the pressure on the other defensive linemen.

    “”When he went down last year, you could kind of tell the difference on the defensive line, (even) with me stepping up and Jason (Parker) taking a lot of reps,”” Turner said. “”It was a lot on my shoulders. Having him back, it’s going to be a fun year.””

    Robinson said the team expects Smith to be a reasonable facsimile of Bryan this season, especially on the stat sheet.

    “”Marcus has always been one of those guys who’s been very solid,”” Robinson said. “”He’s always in the right place, he knows the defense, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and what we’d like to see this

    season is more explosive plays, (for him) to make more plays behind the line of scrimmage.””

    If his fervor during fall camp is any indication, Smith has been waiting for that opportunity for far too long now.

    “”I got yelled at a couple times for being too close to (quarterback) Willie (Tuitama),”” Smith said with a smile. “”I don’t think they’ll yell at me if I make the tackle (Saturday against Brigham Young).””

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