Telvin Smith plays like he's the angriest guy on the football field. His 6-3 215-pound frame flies around with reckless abandon and delivers some of the hardest blows Florida State has to give. Whether it's on special teams or on defense, Smith is enjoying an impressive junior season.
Last week against Miami, Smith was so good that he was named ACC linebacker of the week after making eight tackles, two TFL's, breaking up two passes and causing a crucial fumble. Jimbo Fisher called him 'Walking Chaos' after the game.
As both Fisher as indicated in his weekly press conferences, and the film has shown, Smith has become a bigger and bigger part of Florida State's defense. The team has even designed a package– the six-pack– essentially a dime with Smith in the middle, that helps shut down the spread and lets Smith run loose a little bit amongst other things.
[Tomorrow's Early Read: A look at the Six-Pack defensive package]
Telvin Smith can be as good as he wants to be if he can learn to harness things and play within the scheme just long enough.
“It’s very hard because I was watching film on the [Miami] game and if you kind of watch the first few plays I kind of was running a little bit because I thought I could make a play and maybe go under and stuff like that and at the same time I did get to the ball but I didn’t do my job or assignment like I was supposed to do," said Smith.
"So that comes with a good and a bad [side], at times I end up making a big play and other times I kind of get eaten up or stuff like that but I take it because maybe there’s that one chance or one play that could make the game, but everybody just knows I like to fly around and play ball.”
Smith is an extremely instinctual player. Jimbo Fisher mentions at least once a month that a linebacker must have good instincts. Some guys do and some guys just don't.
"I like Telvin a lot, I like him a lot," said junior safety Terrence Brooks. "The kid plays with all his heart he’s got a different feel for the game he just knows what to do out there and that’s why I love playing with him so much.
“We watch film sometimes and he just flies like a bullet out of no where and we don’t know where he’s going but then we see he’s going to make a play or a stop and that’s what we like. We like kids flying around and just being excited and wanting to play and he’s hungry, I think that’s what makes him so good.”
The problem with Telvin Smith is getting him to harness those instincts. He has had a tendency to free-lance at times, as he alluded to earlier, and it can really cost a defense. Just like Telvin Smith could make a big play to impact a game, he could also be out of position at a key time.
For every time he free-lances and gets a tackle for loss or breaks up a screen, there's also an instance like the Wake Forest game when he missed a first quarter assignment and gave up a 34-yard play to Josh Harris. The Demon Deacons mustered just nine more rushing yards all day.
While that play didn't even cost FSU points, it illustrates how one blown assignment can give up a big play– even when the two units are so brutally mismatched.
Unfortunately for Smith, harnessing his instincts and playing within the system can be tough.
“It is, you know just trying to stay assignment perfect," said Smith. "And that’s what I work on, trying to keep my eyes on my man and off of the quarterback.”
“At Lowndes we didn’t really look at the man, we were taught to play the quarterback. So I have a feel for the stuff around me but most of the time I try to look at the quarterback and go off him. “
Terrence Brooks joked they must put something in the water at Lowndes (in Georgia, where Smith hails from). I think Telvin was closer when he just brought up how they're coached. But all three Lowndes kids, Smith, Tyler Hunter and Greg Reid play that brand of instinctual football.
Greg Reid was no stranger to getting caught looking into a backfield himself.
For Smith especially, as a linebacker, he has to make sure he maintains his responsiblities and avoids free-lancing as much as he can. But that doesn't mean the Florida State coaches are trying to get it completely out of him either.
“I feel like they try to coach me to a point where I’m assignment perfect but at the same time I still can go out there and make that instinctive play at times," said Smith.
"[Coach Stoops] will call a coverage so I can make that instinctive play so I don’t feel like they’re trying to take it away from me. I just feel like they’re trying to build on and make me a better athlete on the end of the day.”