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2021 NFL draft film breakdown: UAB EDGE Jordan Smith vs. South Alabama

Jordan Smith
(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sam Crnic takes a glance at UAB EDGE Jordan Smith’s signs of promise as both a pass rusher and run defender against South Alabama.

A key factor behind the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)’s impressive defense (34th of 127 in scoring defense nation-wide), EDGE Jordan Smith traveled a long way to get where he is today. A 4-star defensive end prospect out of Lithonia, Georgia, Smith joined Florida’s 2016 signing class only to redshirt and eventually contribute to their 2017 team. However, Smith never played a game in a Florida jersey.

One of the nine players charged for a credit card fraud scam that shocked the entire program, Smith’s poor judgment led to his decision to opt-out of Florida’s 2018 season, joining Butler Community College (Kansas) instead. He ended up totaling 77 tackles and 11 sacks in 12 games. Despite his punishment of two years of probation and 521-dollars in court charges, Jordan was ready to return to the Division 1 FBS level.

Joining UAB’s football program in 2019, Smith had a new opportunity to make a run for the NFL. Already a 6-foot-7, 255-pound eclipse of a man, Jordan collected 53 tackles, 10 sacks, and four forced fumbles for the Blazers in his first year with the team.

Entering 2020, Smith got off to a hot start with two sacks in his first three games, looking to push his way into the 2021 NFL draft. While it still remains in doubt exactly where he will go in the draft, his efforts to work his way back into the NFL picture are paying off.

Asked whether or not his early mistakes would prevent him from reaching the NFL level, Smith responded:

“When the situation happened at Florida, I always had the mindset that it wasn’t going to set me back… It would’ve been easy to give up on football and fall into something else. I had a strong mindset. I knew, deep down in my heart, this was not the end. If I got another chance, I was going to take full advantage of it.”

Reviewing Smith’s 2020 film against South Alabama (Sept. 24), I had a chance to grasp his unique abilities in both the passing game and the running game. Using UAB’s All-22 film, we will explore why Smith can be a Day 3 steal for an edge-needy team like the New York Jets despite his earlier character concerns.

UAB vs. South Alabama Game Recap

On the offensive side, UAB running back Spencer Brown – the second-leading active career FBS rusher behind Clemson’s Travis Etienne – rushed for three touchdowns in a 42-10 rout over South Alabama.

Jordan Smith had four tackles – two for a loss – and a sack against Jaguars’ quarterback Chance Lovertich, who replaced the injured Desmond Trotter. Smith was also responsible for an interception, affecting the arm of Lovertich in the motion of a throw, leading to the ball wobbling in the air and resulting in an easy pick.

In addition to the impressive stat-line, Smith was an off-the-stat-sheet force to be reckoned with in both phases, creating plenty of penetration as he showcased his quickness and athleticism off the snap to attack the quarterback or the ball carrier.

Pass Rush

Swim Move

Right off the bat, Jordan Smith looks like a man among boys on the line of scrimmage based on his mighty frame. In the passing game, Smith is adept at exploding out of his stance and swimming free of the blocker’s grasp in the process.

From the strong side 6-tech, a quick release from the QB is the only reason Smith doesn’t get the sack following a great rush.

Before the snap, Smith is in a three-point stance from the 6-tech, aligned over an undersized tight end he visibly towers over. Off the snap, Smith explodes out of his stance, rushing the QB through the C-gap. To force his way by, he clears the hands of the TE with a swipe, giving way to move forward with his other arm. Doing this, he pushes the TE to the side, throwing the blocker off his balance in the process.

Smith then sweeps his arm over the TE’s head in a swim motion as he steps by the blocker with his opposite foot. Once Smith gets his hips across, he uses his momentum to push forward towards the QB. If not for a quick release of the ball, this would be an outstanding sack. Great play nonetheless.

Jordan has very impressive footwork that he consistently uses to effectively set up his swim move. Here, he displays some savvy footwork that forces the right tackle to become unbalanced.

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