Florida State junior linebacker Terrance Smith made a huge jump last season. He could make the same kind of jump this fall.
Smith (6-foot-4, 222 pounds) played sparingly as an outside linebacker, making nine tackles, most on special teams, as a redshirt freshman in 2012. He then became a vital component on a national title-winning defense last season, when he became the starting middle linebacker in the fifth game. He is FSU's only returning starting linebacker and also the Seminoles' leading returning tackler (59).
Smith, who was a sprinter in high school in the Atlanta area, doesn't necessarily have the body frame of a middle linebacker, but he did a nice job in the middle last season. He runs well laterally and is solid in coverage. He still is learning the nuances of playing middle linebacker, but his athleticism, speed and versatility are big selling points.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said coaches want Smith to be more physical this season, and told the Tallahassee Democrat that Smith has done what has been asked thus far during fall camp. "He's really maturing into being a complete linebacker," Fisher said.
Smith knows what he must do.
"I know I can cover, I can run with anybody, but I just want to be more physical on that line of scrimmage this year," Smith said.
Scouts certainly will watch to see if Smith develops a more physical presence. Linebackers with his size and fluidity are rare.
"I think Terrance has done a great job (in that regard)," FSU linebackers coach Bill Miller told the Democrat. "He has to be one of those guys because he did play so much."
Junior Reggie Northrup (6-1, 220) and sophomore Ukeme Eligwe (6-2, 239) seemed likely to flank Smith at the other starting linebacker spots, but Eligwe has a foot injury that could sideline him early in the season. Sophomore E.J. Levenberry (6-3, 246) and redshirt freshman Matthew Thomas (6-3, 218) also are certain to see time, and one will start, at least early on. This season's group might not have the experience of last season's linebacker corps, but it is talented and filled with guys who can run. Their task should be eased some by playing behind a deep, talented line and in front of what might be the best secondary in the nation.