Preseason All-American Brandon Jenkins and junior Bjoern Werner give Florida State one of the best defensive end tandems in the country. But when one of them comes off the field, former junior college standout Cornellius “Tank” Carradine makes sure the Seminoles do not miss a beat off the edge. With Jenkins and Carradine set to graduate, FSU is hoping to reel in another impact pass rusher from the juco ranks.
Heading into his senior year of high school in Greenville, Ala., Zadarius Smith (Scooba, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) was a lanky, 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and filled with hoop dreams.
“My heart was into basketball back in high school, but football changed my life my senior year,” Smith said. “I had 13 sacks, 24 tackles and 12 quarterback pressures, but I was not really focused in the classroom.”
Because of his potential, several Division II and junior college programs showed interest in Smith, and in the end, Smith chose to enroll at East Mississippi Community College. The defensive line for EMCC read like a who’s who in recruiting last season, with 2012 Florida signee Damien Jacobs, Texas signee Brandon Moore, and North Carolina 2013 commitment Jarran Reed manning the interior, and Mississippi State signee Denico Autry, 2013 BCS prospect Lauren Jackson and Smith rotating in at defensive end.
“I got to pass-rush the quarterback a lot last year,” Smith said. “I played behind Denico Autry, so I only got about half of the snaps compared to the starters. Toward the end of the year, I was getting a couple of tackles and a sack per game."
Even with limited snaps, Smith was able to make 19 tackles, five sacks, four tackles for loss and break up one pass. Now 6-6, 252 pounds, Smith has received offers from Auburn, FSU, Miami, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The Seminoles offered a week ago.
“FSU offered me last Tuesday night, so I have been looking at their depth chart and education,” Smith said. “I was talking to the defensive coordinator, and he said next year they will have a couple guys going into the NFL Draft, so they want me to come in and take over at end.”
Smith plans to make a trip to Tallahassee in July. When he arrives on campus he will have a familiar face awaiting him.
“My niece Kristi Mokube plays on the basketball team there and I talk to her a lot,” Smith said. “Last Thursday she told me how good of a school it is.”
Distance might not play a huge role in Smith’s decision, but there is at least one family member who has a preference in where he plays.
“We were having a talk about Miami and she said ‘Miami? Oh no you are not going to Miami because I want to be able to come and see you when I want to,' ” Smith said. “I told her I am grown now so I need to be able to make my own decision, but she really does not want me to go too far away for school.”
At the moment, Smith admits he is not putting too much emphasis on making a decision, as there are more important matters he needs to take care of first.
“I am not worrying about my offers right now because I am trying to finish up this math class and become eligible,” Smith said. “It is a blessing to have a chance to play football at a high level, but at the same time you have to put in work in the classroom too.”
Smith is expecting to get his grades in for summer classes next week and if everything works out, the plan is to visit the schools that have offered, make a decision by August, graduate in December and enroll at the school of his choice shortly after.