MU player looks to break sack record

Size no problem to Smith
Wednesday, October 1, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:53 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Because of his slight frame, Brian Smith often has to work doubly hard to get around opposing offensive tackles. After all, some of them have more than 100 pounds on him.

If Smith topples Missouri’s season sack record, somebody will get to work half as hard.

Only the first name will need to be scratched off the plaques in the Tom Taylor Building if Smith breaks Justin Smith’s record of 11 sacks set in 2000.

Depending on whom you ask, Brian Smith is either slightly more than or slightly less than halfway to tying the record.

No matter whom you ask, Smith will do it. The question is how soon.

Size matters.

Entering the season, Smith’s size, 6 feet 3, 212 pounds, was a concern for the Tigers, especially on running downs. Smith has taken advantage of his smaller, faster body, though, using his quickness to blow past opposing tackles and reach the quarterback.

According to the statistics on Missouri’s Web site, Smith, a redshirt freshman defensive end, earned his sixth sack Saturday against Kansas.

The Jayhawks’ statisticians weren’t as kind. They did not award a sack when Smith took down Kansas quarterback Bill Whittemore slightly behind the line in the second quarter of Missouri’s 35-14 loss.

Smith’s speed and pass rushing ability have pleasantly surprised many Tigers fans, but Smith and the Missouri coaching staff knew the sacks would come because rushing the quarterback has always been Smith’s specialty.

“We had a pretty good idea,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “That’s why we recruited him.”

Building a legend.

Smith had 35 sacks his senior year and 20 his junior year at Ryan High in Denton, Texas. So when he saw that Missouri’s season record stood at 11, Smith made it a goal to break it.

“In high school I set the sack record,” Smith said. “So now, in college, it’s another challenge for me to accomplish.”

Smith said he expected to break the record, eventually. After getting five sacks in his first three collegiate games, he realized the record might be his sooner than later.

“I didn’t even expect to get close (this year) to tell you the truth,” he said. “I intended to break it, I just didn’t know I was gonna do it my first year.”

As the season goes on and Smith comes closer to the record, though, sacks get harder to come by. Smith has become the focus of offensive linemen, who will stop at nothing to keep him from their quarterback.

Often, after Smith uses his quick first step to get around a tackle, he feels a distinct drag. He’s being held. That’s nothing new, though. Smith said he expects to be held in every game, and he said the Missouri offensive linemen help him prepare for it in practice.

“It’s supposed to be gamelike situations,” he said. “So they’re gonna do whatever they can to make it like a game.”

Looking to improve.

Smith is somewhat concerned about his size and the way it affects his ability to stop the run. He said he eats four meals a day, plus snacks, in an effort to gain weight, but it’s not his run defense that Smith most wants to improve.

“If there was something I wanted to improve on and get better, it would definitely be pass rushing,” he said.

Smith’s pass rushing isn’t in need of much improvement, though. Using his quickness, Smith is able to reach the backfield before the opposing team knows what hit it.

“When I get through, I’m surprised that I get to the quarterback so fast,” Smith said. “But most of the time, when I’m really working for it, I’m not surprised.”

Smith’s situation, as a standout redshirt freshman, might look familiar to Missouri fans. Smith said that when he first came to Missouri he was worried that people would confuse him with another Br. Smith, sophomore quarterback Brad Smith. He isn’t concerned anymore.

“I thought people would get us mixed up, but it doesn’t seem like they will, now,” Brian Smith said. “I know both of us are pretty fast, but I don’t think so.”

SELLOUT: The Oct. 11 game against Nebraska has sold out. A crowd of 68,349 is expected for the game, which starts at 6 p.m. and will be nationally televised on TBS.

It is the first sellout at Memorial Stadium since Sept. 25, 1999, also against Nebraska.

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