When you think of Conference USA all-time rushers, names such as DeAngelo Williams, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, and Mewelde Moore are a few names who starred within the conference and went on to achieve NFL success.
The name Ito Smith has made its way into that conversation as the conference’s best all-time running backs. The fourth leading rusher in CUSA history was called upon by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round of this year’s 2018 Draft and bring a unique dynamic to an already talented running back corps of the Falcons. Here is the scouting report of the elusive Smith.
Ito Smith Scouting Report
Weight: 201 lbs
Games watched: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (2016), vs. LSU (2016), vs. Kentucky (2016), vs. UL Monroe (2017), vs. Florida State (2017)
Smith was a workhorse for Southern Mississippi during his four seasons in Hattiesburg. The 2017 first team All-Conference USA member ran for 4,538 yards during his collegiate career, which included 820 career carries. Smith also recorded 140 career receptions, including three straight seasons of at least 40 receptions.
Despite his size, Smith has the ability to run between the tackles and with his exceptional vision, Smith can navigate his way through defenses with patience and sharp cutting ability. Smith is versatile as he has the capability to line up as a slot receiver and is great in called screen plays. Breaking tackles is a refined aspect of Smith’s skill set thanks to his low center of gravity as a runner. It is not often that backs with his size have a downhill running capability but Smith’s talent has shown that from time to time.
The obvious small frame will always be a knock against him. While naturally quick, Smith does not have blazing speed and may not win a lot of foot races. Pass protection will be average at best over the course of his career due to his small frame. Smith has a habit of not carrying the ball securely especially between the tackles. With 960 career touches in college, there is a concern as to when Smith may break down due to workload and lack of desired NFL size.
An all-around back with quickness, elusiveness, and excellent vision, Smith was an unexpected draft pick by the Falcons at 126th overall. Smith brings third down back ability to the Falcons and could actually be a useful weapon on the Falcons offense even with the number of weapons in front of him. His versatility will only help keep Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman fresher.
Smith has been compared to San Francisco running back Jerick McKinnon and Washington scat back Chris Thompson, and both offer exactly what Smith has within his overall ability. Going forward, look for Smith to occasionally see the field in third down situations and with his natural ability to make defenders miss and penchant for making plays out of very little to work with, Smith could be a sneaky good contributor for the Atlanta offense.