Few skills are more valuable to a running back at any level than decisiveness. Holes can close quickly on even the fastest of players and early penetration can cause hesitation that good defenders know how to exploit. In tight spaces…
Few skills are more valuable to a running back at any level than decisiveness. Holes can close quickly on even the fastest of players and early penetration can cause hesitation that good defenders know how to exploit. In tight spaces it pays to make decisions quickly and without hesitation. Isaiah Smith of Benilde-St. Margaret’s does this consistently well.
The 5’10” 190lb. rising senior ran a laser-timed 4.64 forty yard dash at a Nike The Opening event in Oakland and the time seems to fit his Hudl film. Smith runs away from cats with a burst that’s visually aided by his smaller stature. Isaiah Smith’s foot turnover and upright running style make him look a little like Nelly’s character Earl Meggett from The Longest Yard (2005). The elite burst and speed is there. The elite lateral agility may not be yet. But Smith makes up for it by having a nice running skill-set.
The great divider for running backs is the ability to beat pursuit angles after having ran through waves of arm tackles. Backs that consistently contort their uppers and lowers to avoid tackles and maintain balance can do lots of damage. Smith does well to move his feet through contact and notch some commanding runs despite his smaller stature. Few more so in the NFL remind me of that trait than Alvin Kamara:
It’s easy to think of Kamara as a finesse runner because he’s used so much as a receiver. But don’t get it twisted, Kamara is a physically strong player who earned his stripes running inside in the SEC. In the above clip he makes a quick decision, explodes through the gap and gets “skinny” all while maintaining balance through contact and active feet.
On the goal line view you can see Kamara dipping his right shoulder against the DL’s outstretched arms. Kamara creates a barrier between him and the ball and anticipates the defender spinning him around. This is reactive creativity on a level that is rarely seen in Minnesota preps so I won’t address it altogether. However, when you break it up into pieces you can see how Isaiah Smith stacks up as a running back.
One of Smith’s best traits is his quick and consistent foot movement. He keeps the pistons firing and only needs to add more speed to approach Evan Hull levels. On this run he explodes to attack the second level and makes two guys miss with a string of moves that’s both smooth and creative. His diagnosis of impending contact, upper/lower body mobility, and active feet make him a legit prospect.
Speed & Agility
This clip speaks for itself but I’ll still do my best. This run reminds me the most of Meggett because of the ball security right after he gets the ball. The big chest and long strides allow him to build speed on a relatively short runway and beat a pretty decent angle. What I’d like to see is a big increase in lower body strength so that he can accelerate faster. His other traits combined with true 4.5 speed will make him a big time sleeper for UND.
I could’ve used this clip to show Smith’s speed but I preferred to show off his decisiveness and commitment. He sees the alley open up, hits it going a million miles an hour, and doesn’t think twice about it. You like to see a cleaner cut upfield but once his hips swivel there’s no telling. He’s a point-and-shoot runner who carves out cracks in defenses because he commits to his path and protects himself while doing so.
I believe Isaiah Smith will get an NFL look once his career is over. He shows a lot of juice but could be a bit more physical as opposed to just efficient. With added strength he can be a solid runner that maximizes YAC, decisively capitalizes on running lanes down-to-down, and maintains a big play edge. I think Smith is going to surprise some people down in Grand Forks.