DJ Smoot-

 D-End Illinois

6-3, 265,  

The Best Performance I've Seen. 

By TOM

He took the step up he needed to take to be a top rusher in the NFL. He gave the best defensive performance I've seen so far this season, against Nebraska. I am reluctant to put him up in the top five, until I see him destroy another OT. The ORT from Nebraska might just suck. But, he destroyed that kid from start to finish, and Nebraska usually has great O-Linemen.

He got very lucky this off season when ex-Bears HC Lovie Smith took over Illinois football team. "He’s a great guy," Smoot said. "We talk about two to three times a week about anything honestly. He’s a great guy to talk to and just be around. He doesn’t come in like, ‘I’m a celebrity. I’m higher than everyone.’ He’s real level-headed. He’s a players’ coach. He talks to us. He actually understands what we’re going through. He helps us out a lot." You could see has a better understanding of what he is seeing on the field already.

You could instantly see the step up he took once Lovie became the HC of Illinois.  "I have to step up," Smoot said. "It has to be huge. My goal for next year is: All-American, double-digit sacks. and just playing as hard as I can and winning some games as a team." If he continues to play like he did against Nebraska will will get double digit sacks, easy, this season.

Lovie already has him hooked on his favorite player's tape. "Julius Peppers," Smoot said. "He’s been my favorite player since high school. Just his style of play. I really try to copy his moves and stuff. He’s just a freak. I try to do his moves and stuff. I just try to copy his play." Studying an NFL All-Pro is never a bad thing.

It just makes me feel old, when Peppers is Old School. "We’ve been watching some old-school film from Chicago [Bears] and stuff," Smoot said. "I’m just excited about it. We’ve been learning a lot. Coach Phair, he’s always been watching the old-school [stuff]. We barely even watch our own film. We watch the pro tapes and stuff. I feel like it helps us a lot." Watching the film of NFL veterans has showed up in his game already.

He ran the hurdles and tossed the discus in high school. "Most of the other hurdlers were like 190-to-200 pounds, if that," he said. "Some of them underestimated me, thinking I was slow. But then I'd show them." He also did the shot put, which "Old School" coaches used to love, and we do have an "Old School" coach here in New England.

Now he is trying to take that step from pure explosive athlete to pure football player. "I want to try to be 1st rounder, and to be an All-American," Smoot said. "[Get] double-digit sacks, and then go to the League. Those are my expectations." I think he has succeeded in those goals.

He is going to be a 1st Round pick in this years Draft. "I don’t know what’s in store for me next season, but I know I have to step it up," Smoot said. "Each season you have to step it up. Then seeing the mock drafts and stuff. It just motivates me to do my best and meet those expectations. I got to give my all. I got to give them more than my all." He seems to be a loyal teammate with top character as well.

2016: So Far.

Just a freak. "It's a great honor," Smoot said of being projected as a 1st round pick. "It's low-key kind of surreal too, just like seeing all of the media attention I've been able to get. But I'm just focusing on everything I can on the field and keep showing people that I can be that pick in the next draft." He will soon be a top five projected pick, by me anyway.

I just need to see him dominate another O-tackle, like against Michigan in a few weeks. "Dawuane Smoot is a great player," Illinois HC Lovie Smith said. "And we, I expect him to dominate each week. He played a good game this past week. That's not the best game he'll play. There's a high standard for him. We should talk about Dawuane each time we're talking about our team." He might have the most sudden blast off in this Draft. 

I think he might be the best rusher in this Draft, and that is saying something with Miles Garrett sitting on top of my board. "We're not going to try to keep him under control," Smith said. "The more, the better. Any of our players that have that kind of energy that they bring, whether it's between plays or in pregame, but there's a certain type of play we expect during the whistle, during the play. Of course, that's not being offsides and things like that. Knowing how aggressive to be at the right time. But we like as a coaching staff to be in position where we have to pull back a little bit. I haven't been in that position very often." Elite initial burst where he can blast off past the ORT, inside, and tackle the RB in the backfield, running to the opposite side. 

He can burst inside the ORT and up field almost untouched so fast that the FB can't block him, and then arrive at the RB at the same times as the blitzing CB, who lined up just outside of him and went untouched to the RB. "I’m ready for the expectations," Smoot said. "I’m ready to meet up for the goals that I’ve set for myself. I’m doing everything I can this offseason to get up to that point when the season comes around." I cannot seem to quantify the speed, quickness and explosion up field this guy has shown so far in 2016.

*Smoot Vs Nebraska 2016:

Nebraska Update: So smooth turning the corner at speeds the ORT can't handle. I mean, he can dip under the ORT and go untouched to the QB, but get so low that he trips himself and dives at the QBs feet to scare him out of the pocket. He can blast off straight up field and get to the QB before the ORT can really do anything about it, and scare the QB out of the pocket. He can rush outside the ORT, and when the RB comes over to double, shove him 5-yards backwards onto the ground, while the ORT was grabbing him. Great job absorbing the hit of the tight end, and using the momentum to stunt inside and hit the QB.  

Nebraska started doubling him with a TE outside, and the OG inside. "He's very coachable and has unbelievable talent," Lovie Smith said. I am shocked at how many tackles he gets in on when they run to the opposite side of the line. Elite speed and instincts to diagnose the run, and move laterally to the other side of the OC, and hit the RB. Nice arm over move while running past the ORT. He gets up field at full speed running as low as any DE in this Draft. He played mostly on the blindside in 2015. And seems to be playing mostly on the strongside in 2016, at least against Nebraska. So it might be a match up thing. 

Nice speed to power. He can make RBs who try and block him look foolish. Naturally sets the edge on runs. He can then curve inside and hit RB from behind. Nice instincts in run game. Absorbs the big hit from the TE on the chip, and continues to hand fight ORT. He can diagnose plays quickly and adjust on the run. Nice job in pursuit down the line. He can drag the ORT down across the line and get in on the tackle on a Dive or Smash to the opposite side. Nice job clubbing the OT off with an inside club as he moves laterally across the field.

He is most explosive rusher I've seen so far this season. Being coached by Lovie Smith doesn't hurt either. I don't know if the Nebraska ORT just sucks, but he embarrassed him in the rush. He had a great rush against him where he: pushed the tight end up, pulled himself past him inside, then exploded up field and swam over the ORT almost untouched (between the TE and ORT who were recovering from his speed to power and explosive COD), with an elite burst outside when the QB took off to his side. He hit Armstrong to the ground after he threw to help cause the incompletion. No other rusher in this years Draft could do that. Elite short area quickness.

He can dig under the ORT on the goal line, and knock him right off his feet. He knows how to dig on the goal line. He will power inside too much sometimes, and allow a Zone blocking RB to cut back behind him. But he powers inside to hit the RB on Dives more often than not. Great quick swim move over the ORT to hit the RB in the backfield. I'm shocked how good a run defender he is. I was expecting a pure passrusher. He actually plays run first on play actions sometimes as well. He can bounce outside the TE, and shove him off. Then slash inside and knock the RB down from the side. Sets the edge with a nice burst upfield. 

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Additional Notes:

UNC: He has some power on the edge. Great job hopping outside and setting the edge with his hands and feet. Great speed to power. Elite blast off that can make the TE and ORG miss (when the ORT is pulling outside to led the RB), and then go tackle the RB for a TFL. He can bull the ORT into the QB. Great inside move against UNC for a Safety. I blinked, and he had blasted off past all the O-linemen while eyeing the QB, and he went in a straight line into the RB for 2-points. Elite ability to key and diagnose plays. I love the way he moves on the field. He looks like a 1st Round pick to me. He is so much better than he was last season, and that is scary.

DJ Smoot Vs Iowa:

Great blast off to get the OTs outside shoulder. Terrific Dip and Rip to the QB once he has the outside shoulder (:12). He needs to get a little stronger, and Dip a little lower. He showed so much potential in 2015. If he can just take that next step he could be a great one. 

I like how he bounces off blockers, and how he seems to instinctually keep their hands off of him (:33). He can get his shoulder and inside arm into the OT, and power to the QB. Pure D-end in college, but he has the athletic ability to play standing up. But he has such an elite burst with his hand down over the first three yards that he might have to keep his hand down. I haven't seen his initial burst standing up. 

He switches sides to rush a lot in 2015, but in 2016 he has been rushing on the strongside almost exclusively (1:08). He can rush with power. He can bull the OT back with one or two hands. When he sees it, he can burst inside the OLT and take the RB down deep in the backfield (2:32). The scary part is that he is doing that more consistent in 2016. Watch the speed to power that he uses to push the OLT into the QB (2:54). When can combine that explosive suddenness with that power you have an All-Pro passrusher.

He can be a little cautious stunting inside. He needs to be move aggressive bursting inside, which he has been in 2016 (4:30). Plays the run better than I thought he could. Much stronger and playing with much better leverage. Takes on the RB much better as well. 

He has always had the speed to the corner (6:01). But has already showed a better Dip, Rip, and Dip & Rip in 2016. His hand fighting has improved as well. He is so much more explosive and stronger in 2016. It is like watching Tape of a different guy. His spin move now is elite, and not just a sign of some agility.

I love how he can Bull rush with one or two hands (7:00). He can put speed to power on the stunt inside. Consistently fights inside on Dives. He was good last season. He has been terrifying in 2016. He is thinking less and just attacking and reacting with his great instincts now.

He is so explosive getting into the backfield to stop the run (8:32). He always had that knack for hitting the quarterback. Great quick hands to slap and chop the ORT's arms (9:04). He is playing with such better balance this year. He is stronger, less fat, in better shape, and smarter this year. 

He has an elite dip around the corner that he uses more consistently to hit the quarterback (10:07). He started to show the Rip in 2015. He can set the edge, and then go and get the RB inside (11:48). He consistent showed that "can't touch this" burst that makes blockers miss. 

Smoot Vs Iowa 2015:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXooqLJ8oME

DJ Smoot Vs Wisconsin:

I want the guys on my team who celebrate when their teammate do something great (:07). He can get all the way across the field when they run outside to the other side. All out all the time guy. He was getting to the QB before he always knew that he was doing (1:36). He knows what he is doing now.

Works his way inside to hit the RB wonderfully (1:53). He can combo moves in the rush, like a bull into a Rip (2:21). He can change speeds in the rush (2:42). He is always hustling on the backside (3:21). He was developing his Rip and elite spin move in 2015 (3:39). Great make you miss quickness, and when he sees it he gets there fast (3:21). He is playing like that more consistently.

And like this (4:27). Watch the suddenness in the blast off  (5:02). Okay, so all the good things you can see on this Tape, he is doing more consistently and with better: speed, explosion, strength, and balance. That is why he will be a top five pick if he keeps it up.

Smoot Vs Wisconsin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQOJW1-VB84

Smoot Bio:

2016 Senior: Starting defensive end. 16 straight starts entering the Purdue game. Safety on a TFL in the end zone against North Carolina. Career-high eight tackles against Western Michigan and Nebraska. Bednarik Award watch list (defensive player of the year). Hendricks Award watch list (best defensive end). Lombardi Award watch list (player of the year). ESPN.com preseason All-Big Ten. Phil Steele preseason All-Big Ten second team. Athlon Sports preseason All-Big Ten second team. Lindy's preseason All-Big Ten second team. Pro Football Focus preseason All-America third team edge defender. Ranked as the 20th best player in college football by Pro Football Focus during the preseason. Ranked as the 49th best player in college football by 247Sports during the preseason. Senior Bowl preseason watch list.

2015 Junior: All-Big Ten honorable mention by the coaches and media. Started all 12 games on the defensive line. 40 tackles, 15.0 TFLs, 8.0 sacks, two PBUs, three QB hurries, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on season. Led the team in TFLs (15.0) and sacks (8.0). Most TFLs in a single season by an Illinois since All-American Whitney Mercilus had 22.5 in 2011. Tied career high with six tackles vs. Northwestern. Forced fumbles vs. Middle Tennessee, Ohio State and Northwestern. Career-high 3.0 TFLs vs. Middle Tennessee and at Iowa. Career-high and Illinois season-best 2.0 sacks vs. Middle Tennessee.

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