Looking at Smoot now, you'd never guess he competed in the hurdles at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics. Dawuane (pronounced dun-WON) was a 215-pound end coming to Champaign, playing in seven games (eight tackles, one sack) as a true freshman. He added 40 pounds to his frame before his sophomore year, and that extra heft made him a more powerful player as a reserve in all 13 games (33 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks). His game took another step forward in 2015, as he was named honorable mention All-Big Ten as a 12-game starter. He had 40 tackles, 15 for loss, eight sacks, and three forced fumbles on the year. Smoot was a team captain and a third-team all-conference pick in his senior season, being credited with 56 stops, 15 for loss, and five sacks.
Well-conditioned with willing motor to pursue across the field. Strong closing burst closes out quarterbacks in the pocket and running backs down the line of scrimmage. Acclaimed high school hurdler with plus agility, loose hips and nimble feet. Works to stay ahead of reach blocks and contain the edge. Able to knife through gaps and create disruption in backfield. Uses dip and rip when he senses he can turn the corner. Speed-to-power ability when given a runway. Good lateral quickness and would benefit from twisting scheme that allows him to operate in space. Able to redirect suddenly. Can play with hand in the ground or standing. Takes swipes at the ball; forced four fumbles over last two seasons at Illinois. Played for defensive guru Lovie Smith in 2016.
Needs to improve skill level and become more consistent with hands as a pass rusher. Average upfield burst to challenge the edge. Face-up rusher with issues cornering edge with snug turn. Rushes without much of a plan and relatively few counter attacks. Was swallowed up by North Carolina right tackle Jon Heck, an inferior athlete. Needs more sand in his pants. Struggles to set a hard edge and can be kicked out by quality tackles. Not enough wins against man-to-man matchups. Very small hands for the position.
Sources Tell Us
"He had a better year (in 2015). I think you have to take last year's tape into account when you study him. He was lighter this year, which took some of his power away, I thought. He was coached by Lovie (Smith) and that will give him a head-start." -- NFC regional scout
Duck-footed, face-up rusher able to generate some power in his rush, Smoot failed to put together the breakout season many predicted after a strong junior showing. He lacks a track record of pass rush production to excite NFL teams as an early round pick, but his athleticism could create an opportunity for him as a 3-4 rush end if given the chance.