As the Fresno State Bulldogs prepare for life after Derek Carr in 2014, they will likely be leaning on their defense to carry them through the early part of a brutal schedule while their new starters get up to speed. Luckily for them, they have some great pieces on their defense that will allow them to be strong this fall. None of those pieces, however, is as strong as safety Derron Smith, who spurned the NFL to return for his senior season where he should emerge as one of the best defensive players in college football.
Smith has been a consistent star for the Bulldogs over the last two seasons, getting named first team All-Mountain West Conference each season, and will only continue to improve in his final year on campus. Last season, he led the team and tied for second most in the country with seven interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, while adding 87 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, and six passes broken up. Over the last two years, he has 13 interceptions, more than anyone else in the country during that span.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Smith is a perfect fit for head coach Tim DeRuyter‘s aggressive defensive style. He has the athleticism to cover the entire field with the willingness to drop down into the box and make a physical play behind the line of scrimmage. He easily could have turned pro after his excellent junior season but will be rewarded for his return with a prominent leadership role, All-American consideration, and a early selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Smith is a defensive star in the secondary for Fresno State that has gone criminally overlooked during his collegiate career. With an offense in transition this fall, however, look for Smith to step into the spotlight and take his place among college football’s elite defensive playmakers.