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Smith has firm grasp on tackling


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POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2009

Over and over, his father righted the tackling dummy.

Over and over, young Spencer Smith reveled in knocking it onto the grass.

While it might have been partly a parenting strategy to get the 9-year-old to burn off some energy before bedtime, those afternoons in the front yard ultimately set the foundation for Smith's future in football.

“;He'd hold it up and I'd have to go low and wrap around and tackle it,”; Smith said. “;I used to just do it for fun, not even thinking I was going to do anything with it.”;

Now Hawaii's starting strong safety, the fundamentals nurtured in his childhood have proven particularly valuable.

Smith posted a career-high 12 tackles, seven solo, and forced a fumble in UH's loss at Idaho last weekend. He enters Saturday's Western Athletic Conference game against No. 6 Boise State tied with linebacker Blaze Soares with 48 total tackles.

“;Spencer played outstanding last week,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said. “;Made all kinds of tackles and plays and he had his best ballgame.”;

Smith's penchant for contact was fostered while growing up in Georgia as the son of a rugby coach. The basics Mel Smith taught him translated over when Spencer gravitated to football at Kell High School, where he earned four varsity letters.

Even so, Smith — a special teams contributor the last two years for the Warriors — had to adjust to full-time hitting when he earned a starting job this season.

“;I hadn't been in a full game of tackling since high school,”; Smith said. “;We'd do it on special teams, but it's not like playing defense and every play you could be asked to make a tackle.

“;(Now) I don't have to think about it too much. I just have to make the tackle like my dad used to teach me when I was a little kid.”;

Although Smith earned praise for his overall performance against Idaho, the play that stuck in his mind after the game was one that got away. With Idaho facing third and 25, Smith anticipated an out. Receiver Max Komar instead ran a post and picked up 36 yards by the time Smith chased him down. Idaho eventually scored its final touchdown to put the game away.

“;I just had to learn from it. I know I can't let that happen again,”; Smith said. “;I just can't let that stay in my head. I just have to learn and know that as a DB you can't assume something, you just have to react to what's in front of you.”;

Keeping track of Boise State's myriad playmakers has proven challenging for many defenses over the years. Maintaining discipline will be a key to containing the WAC's highest-scoring offense (38.2 points per game) as the Warriors look to pull off the upset.

“;They do a lot of stuff before the snap and confuse people,”; Smith said. “;It's a double-edged sword. They can outsmart you and outplay you with their athleticism. They have a great program, so we just have to watch a lot of film, and understand what we have to do.”;