David Fales is not the only superstar player on the San Jose State Spartans, linebacker Keith Smith has been tearing it up this season and is on pace to lead the nation in tackles. The Covina native has been a star from the moment he donned Spartan blue in 2010. Smith faced a trial by fire his Freshman year by lining up against Alabama and Wisconsin in his first two collegiate games. Even though the Spartans finished 1-11 that year, Smith was named to the FWAA Freshman All-American team and was awarded the WAC Freshman of the year.
Keith Smith was one of the prized jewels of Coach Mike Macintyre’s first recruiting class. Not only did MacIntyre recruit Smith he also found shut down cornerback and future NFL player, Bene Benwikere. Although Smith had offers from Utah, Utep, Air Force, and Nevada, he chose to attend San Jose State because of the recruiting class.
“It was because of the recruiting class, the guys that I came in with, that I chose to come to San Jose State. I kind of got a feel of who the guys were and their mentality coming in. I got to look them up and meet them face to face. Guys like Bene (Benwikere) and Forest (Hightower), most of us came from winning programs in high school and we all hated to lose. You know I felt like it was an opportunity to get on the field and be a part of a something big. I wanted to help turn this program around,” Smith explained about his decision to come to San Jose State.
The winning attitude of the 2010 recruiting class helped turn San Jose State from a putrid 1-11 team their first year to a respectable 5-7 during their second year. It wasn’t until a man named David Fales enrolled that the Spartans really took off. Last season, Fales led the Spartans to an 11-2 record and a Military Bowl victory.
“In my personal opinion, David Fales is the best quarterback in the nation. Just because we don’t face quote on quote as good of competition as everyone else, I feel like we face some very good teams. You can always learn from playing with someone like David Fales everyday on the field,” boasted Smith.
Vultures of doubt started to circle the San Jose State football program after head coach Mike MacIntyre decided to bolt to the University of Colorado. Compounding MacIntyre’s departure was the fact that the Spartans would be playing in the much tougher Mountain West Conference. It would be a tough challenge for new head coach Ron Caragher to lead San Jose State to another stellar season.
“Coach Caragher has more of an offensive feel than Coach MacIntyre so we see more of our defensive coordinator (Kenwick Thompson). It’s just a whole different mindset this year,” explained Smith.
It looked as though the rapid changes to San Jose State would be too much to handle for Keith Smith and the Spartans as they got off to a 1-3 start. However, the Spartans have rattled off three straight wins, including a thriller last week against Wyoming.
“We need to get less points scored on us. For the most part it’s because we have gotten off to a slow start. We need to stay disciplined to our keys and our assignments,” Smith acknowledged.
Keith Smith has put himself into position to be a bona fide superstar this year. Wyoming’s head coach Dave Christensen was so impressed with Smith that he told the media that after watching film of every snap Smith played, he only saw Smith miss one tackle all season long. So far this year, Smith leads the nation with 14.4 tackles a game which is 1.5 tackles more than the nearest defender.
“I just got to stay disciplined to my technique and keep making plays for my team. As long as I get my defense lined up and keep running to the ball everything else will fall into place,” replied Smith when asked about what he needs to do to improve his draft stock.
The 6’1 230 pound Keith Smith would be a small middle linebacker in the NFL but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid professional. Do not be surprised to see Smith transition to being a 3-4 inside linebacker or 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. Although Smith lacks ideal size, he has the killer instinct that you want from your linebacker.