Safety Sam Smiley was only a freshman last season when he recorded 27 tackles for UNC. He had 23 of those tackles in the first three games before finger surgery sidelined him. Smiley was a bright spot for UNC’s secondary and next season, he has high expectations on his shoulders.
The fact that Sam Smiley is only a rising sophomore must make Larry Fedora extremely excited about the possibilities for 2013. Smiley seemed to play his biggest games at the most critical times for the Tar Heels too. Nine of his tackles came against Wake Forest, where UNC lost a nail biter. He had 11 against Louisville the very next week. The Tar Heels almost staged a miraculous comeback against the Cardinals.
Smiley is not a knock-you-off-the-ground kind of safety a la Ed Reed. He’s smart, though. He moves well and plays the quarterback well. Then, most of all, he’s a finisher at tackling. Sam has got textbook fundamentals. Too many times in a game, a defensive back will try to lay a knock-out shot on the receivers—only to have them bounce off and find pay dirt. Smiley finishes the play.
Fedora has to like the fact that this safety has so much raw talent and intelligence. It makes the molding and teaching process that much easier for the second year coach. Being that Smiley is one of the youngest guys on the team to see any real playing time, the coaching staff must love that Sam has only seen this defensive system. He wasn’t around when Butch Davis was here. He only knows Fedora’s wide world of defense. From that fact alone, will emerge a defensive star. Smiley was already a bright spot on a sketchy secondary. Give the old man sophomore some room next season—and grab your popcorn.