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Better Know a Freshman: Saivion Smith

"Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing..."

Bassanio, The Merchant of Venice, 1.1.121

It’s easier now, more than any time in human history, to make your stupidity known worldwide. Simply log onto your social media platform of choice, hammer out a few sentences on a controversial topic and you stand a chance of having your content plastered all across the worldwide web. Social media, of course, has it’s benefits. It connects people across the globe, allows for the rapid and widespread dispersal of information, and so forth.

Yet, I can’t help but think of how it hastens our already rush to judgment mentality. The 24-hour news cycle does no favors in this regard. Stories are now reported as developing, often with minuscule details that drive information consumers to leap to escalating conclusions, sometimes to the detriment of actual facts. Every media company spanning the globe has opted for speed over accuracy. The modern news isn’t so much a reporting of facts as a reaction to the possibility of fact. Cold, hard, authentic, classic journalism is rooted in fact-based discoveries. A journalist does not opine; a journalist only reports. Yet today, take a few minute and listen to your news network of preference and see how often they reference feeling: "What’s your reaction to this?"

When Bassanio says, "Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing..." it’s important to note he says this of a dear friend. Gratiano is young and foolish. He’s your typical privileged college freshman. When Bassanio agrees to bring him to Venice, it’s under the condition he will not speak too much. Gratiano, of course, cannot help himself. He says a lot, but it means very little.

As a rising Junior, recruiting experts considered Saivion Smith one of the 5-10 best players in America. By the conclusion of his senior season, he dropped as low as 80 on Rivals.com. While hardly an injustice, it’s worth wondering aloud why such a precipitous fall. Smith strikes me as a victim of the system speaking an infinite deal of nothing when it comes to his abilities. Is this a rush to judgment? Is Smith the star many once thought?

How Did We Get Here?

When LSU nabbed Patrick Peterson back in 2008, it was as significant of a recruiting coup as had happened in school history. Harvey Williams certainly ranks, but LSU shares a border with Texas and much more regularly pulls top talent from the Lone Star state. Since the tremendous run of the Miami Hurricanes teams in the late 80s through the early 2000s, Florida, particularly South Florida has become a hotbed for talent plucking. Coaches like Rich Rodriguez and Charlie Strong have built a profile out of pulling excess talent from the area and turning them into superstars.

While recruiting is more national than ever, it remains difficult to go into the state of Florida and pry a top player away from one of the three major instate stalwarts. Only elite recruiting powers have done so successfully and even then, without consistency. LSU stands out amongst those powers and it started with Patrick Peterson. Since hiring Corey Raymond, they’ve only further sunk their roots into the state. It’s now an annual occurrence for Raymond to pluck a top 50 DB with legit offers from UF, FSU and Miami and bring him to Baton Rouge. That’s an immensely valuable skill.

In the Spring of 2015, Raymond set his sights on talented DB Saivion Smith. LSU wasn’t an early offer for the DB, only extending a scholarship in January. A month later, he arrived on campus for Junior Day and three days after that he scheduled an announcement on ESPN to name his top 5 and a "surprise."

Surprise! He picked LSU. A bit shocking to see this all unfold so quickly. Saivion was quick to shoot down any notion he’d look elsewhere. When the reporter asked what it would take to overcome his commitment to LSU he said, "Nothing. I’m 100% committed to LSU." I think most took his comments with a grain of salt (as you always should in recruiting), but Smith stuck true. He didn’t so much as even take an official visit to another school. In October he took his official to LSU and by January he enrolled early. All the while he served as one of the primary student recruiters for the 2016 signing class. This was about as smooth of a recruiting process as could be imagined.

What Can He Do?

Height: 6’3"
Weight: 191
40: 4.7
Short Shuttle: 4.6
Vertical: 33"
Powerball Toss: 33’
SPARQ: 68.91

Insert Not Great Bob meme here. Smith’s numbers are pretty wretched. A 4.7 40 is somewhere in line with a LB with pretty good speed. A 4.6 short shuttle is OL type quickness. I don’t know if this is a bad day at the office or indicative of Saivion’s lack of upper tier athletic traits. I would expect to see a dip in quickness if he’s truly 6’3" (recruiting sites list him at 6’1"), but 4.6 is really rough. This article states he ran a 4.62 40 and 4.41 short shuttle, which would be respectable enough times for a taller corner..

Junior:

Strengths: Size, Playmaker, Instincts, Physical, Versatility

Weaknesses: Lack of Top End Speed, Fluidity

Size: Saivion isn’t just tall, he’s got long arms, which is an exceptionally valuable tool for a corner. That length should help make up for his lack of top end speed, similar to Kevin Toliver.

Playmaker: If I listed all the ball-hawking type plays with time stamps, I’d be citing the whole damn video. This kid is constantly around the football. It feels Mathieu-esque at times, where you wonder how the ball "just so happens to bounce into his waiting arms at all times. But even when it’s not a fortuitous bounce, he makes a strip to cause a fumble (:26), blocks a punt (1:08),

Instincts: This ties above, but 1:55 is a good illustration. Yes, it’s a horrendous throw, but I like that he peels off his coverage responsibility to pick up the deep route and get the interception. The first clip starting at :04 you can see he reads the QB and leaps into the passing lane.

Physical: If you can’t tackle, you can’t play corner for Corey Raymond. Think about it, when’s the last time LSU featured a corner that wasn’t willing to stick his nose into the run game? Smith isn’t that guy. Check 4:54. He’s not afraid to mix it up. Smith is a willing tackler, though his technique could use some work.

Versatility: He scored 6 non-offensive TDs in his junior year. At 3:24 and 3:58 you can see his return skills. He could become a contributor there. He could play corner in some schemes. He could be a fit at FS as well. That role diversity makes him a unique talent.

Lack of Top End Speed: The testing times are certainly not overwhelming. He’s got to learn to maximize his length to overcome that limitation. Richard Sherman doesn’t have great recovery speed. He ran a 4.56 at the combine, but he’s an expert at using his length to win battles.

Fluidity: Similar to the speed issue, I’m not sure Smith is a guy I want to ask to turn and run with WRs downfield. He seems an ideal fit as a Cover 2 or Cover 3 type corner. His best skills are his smarts and his length. It will be interesting to see how Aranda and Raymond choose to deploy him within the scheme.

What’s Next?

In many ways, Smith reminds me of a similarly big-bodied corner that made a significant impact as a true freshman last year. Toliver is still a better all around athlete, but their skillsets are remarkably similar. When he first committed, I thought Smith might be destined to play FS, but I’m turning the corner on him playing corner. According to the roster, that seems to be where he’ll be getting run, at least initially.

Overall, Saivion checks out pretty well. He had a small academic blip but got it righted pretty quickly last season. His senior season wasn’t a tremendous success and his testing numbers weren’t great. For that reason, I can’t fault recruiting services for punishing his ranking to an extent. More interesting to me is that Smith largely fell of most folks radars. At the time of his commitment, this was considered a major coup, but by signing day, he was nearly an afterthought. The slide in rankings didn’t help that matter. I don’t know if Saivion Smith will be a superstar, but I feel pretty confident he’ll be pretty good.

High End: All conference Corner
Low End: Solid DB Depth
Realistic: Multi-year Starter, Draft Pick