2017 California Golden Bears football commit Branden Smith may be a mystery to many Cal fans as he was offered the Thursday before national signing day. So for those of you who are unfamiliar with Smith, what can we expect from him?
A 5’11” 175 pound speed demon, Smith was a standout for Paraclete High School, playing on both returns and special teams, defense, and offense. According to a video interview by Ryan Gorcey of Scout, we can expect much of the same at Cal.
While Smith was primarily recruited to Cal as a DB, he will see some action sprinkled in on special teams and offense as well. And it’s easy to see why from his highlight reel, as Smith utilizes his tremendous speed to make plays. And while it is true that speed does not automatically translate into success on the gridiron, that is not the case with Smith as he is blessed with other abilities as I will talk about below.
His highlights start on special teams so that’s where we’ll start. What stands out from the start is Smith’s top-end speed, but something to also take note of is his ability to keep his balance and quickly accelerate after taking contact. Other instances that stood out to me are a great over the shoulder catch and a blocked kick. His hands and burst off the line are skills that we can definitely look forward to.
On defense, we see Smith line up at cornerback, where he demonstrates a nose for the ball and playmaking ability. The highlight reel is packed with Smith breaking up passes and coming up with interceptions. He is able to get in and out of his breaks quickly, utilizing his natural athleticism to keep up with opposing WRs. Moreover, Smith has great closing speed and is a strong tackler who is unafraid to lay down a big hit. To cap it all off, we see that Smith has a natural feel for the game as he reacts quickly to plays as they develop.
Based off of his highlights on offense, it is easy to see how we can utilize Smith. Much like his coaches at Paraclete High School did, Cal will surely look to utilize Smith’s tremendous speed by getting him into space. But it’s not just the breakaway speed that we see. Smith also has the quickness and the agility to separate from defenders and avoid them in the open field. We also see a play in which Smith demonstrates good body control to make a tough catch, and another play in which we see Smith lay down a fierce block.
When all's said and done, Smith definitely has the speed and talent to be a game-changer for Cal. While it remains to be seen where the Cal coaching staff will decide where he bests fit on the field, I have no doubt that Smith will make big plays for Cal no matter where he lines up.