Michigan's Vincent Smith takes hit in stride
January, 15, 2013
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Other than Katherine Webb, Johnny Manziel and, of course, Jadeveon Clowney, no person logged more airtime during college bowl season than Michigan running back Vincent Smith.
Unfortunately for Smith, his 15 minutes consisted of one play being showed on a loop with the same ending -- Smith's winged helmet flying off of his head. Midway through the fourth quarter of Michigan's highly entertaining Outback Bowl matchup with South Carolina, Clowney, the Gamecocks' star defensive end, burst through the line and dislodged Smith's helmet from his head and the football from Smith's hands. Clowney, by the way, checks in at 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds, a foot taller and 81 pounds heavier than Smith.
It was undoubtedly the top play of the bowl season, one that illustrated Clowney's superlative skills and put the South Carolina star on the radar for the 2013 Heisman Trophy. Get ready to see the play a ton in the buildup to the 2013 season and in the buildup to the 2014 NFL draft, where Clowney is already being pegged as the No. 1 overall pick.
Smith, to his credit, is taking his brush with fame very much in stride. Colleague Michael Rothstein of Wolverine Nation caught up with the Michigan running back to discuss the play.
Smith joked on the sidelines with his teammates the hit would likely be on ESPN later that day -- it was -- and after the game he received text messages asking how he was doing.
The answer? It might not have looked pretty, but Vincent Smith is doing just fine.
"You've got to get it out of your head because I'm going to bounce back and turn it into a positive," Smith said. "I was joking about it after on the sidelines. I was like, 'Yeah, he got me.'
"I saw it later on ESPN and yeah, he got me."
Smith also breaks down the play: how a change in blocking scheme gave Clowney a clear path to the backfield, how Smith recognized South Carolina's blitz before the play, and how Michigan's fullback chose to block a cornerback in the path of the run play rather than Clowney.
Smith figured he was going to be hit in the backfield and would have to break a tackle, either from the corner or someone up the middle. He didn't anticipate everything falling apart as it did just as quarterback Devin Gardner tried to give him the ball.
"I saw it coming and I couldn't do anything about it," Smith said.
The good news is that Smith didn't suffer any serious injuries and can talk and joke about the play now. No one can question the toughness of the 5-6, 175-pound Wolverine after a hit like that.