The Titans have confirmed the signing of 14 un-drafted free agents, and former South Carolina defensive tackle Kobe Smith is among them. Smith is a 6-foot-2, 300 pound wrecking ball. He totaled 84 career tackles while playing in 48 career games for the Gamecocks, and was seen by many as the leader of a very good defensive line.
Smith recently spoke with MCM about his time at South Carolina, how he formed a relationship with the Titans throughout the pre-draft process, and why the Titans style of play is a perfect match for him.
JM: You had a great career at South Carolina. How do you look back on your time spent there?
KS: It was a bit of a roller-coaster. I think back to my freshmen year when I wasn’t playing much. I developed a lot over that year. I learned a lot of things. I started to play a little bit more during my sophomore year. I really took off during my junior and senior seasons. I was a starting player and I played a lot of football. It was a fun ride. I look back at it with a smile on my face. I met a lot of great people. I created a lot of relationships that will last me a lifetime.
JM: That’s great. You actually worked as intern with South Carolina’s athletic marketing department over one summer. What was that experience like?
KS: It was a great experience. I really enjoyed that internship. I wanted to do something a little different that was still geared towards sports. It made me closer to sports. It gave me a chance to see how everything works off the field. When you’re an athlete, you don’t always see everything else that goes into making the sport work. I learned about the business side of things. I really enjoyed that experience.
JM: What was draft weekend like for you?
KS: Draft weekend was awesome. It was nerve-racking but also exciting. I had no idea what was going to happen. I didn’t know where if I was gonna go, or if I was gonna go at all. It was just very nerve-racking. I had fun with it though.
DI Kobe Smith, South Carolina— PFF TEN Titans (@PFF_Titans) April 26, 2020
Finished his career with a run-defense grade of 78.0, 88th among DIs min 500 snaps
Has missed just 9 tackles in 1,230 defensive snaps played #Titanup pic.twitter.com/KY84osIXjP
JM: I can imagine. How did the opportunity with the Titans come about?
KS: They were actually one of the first teams that made contact with me. I had a private workout set up with them before Covid-19 put everything on the back-burner. I was supposed to work out for them right after my Pro Day. Of course none of that happened. Everything was canceled. I would say that they recruited me pretty heavily throughout the process.
JM: Did you continue to have discussions with them leading up to the draft?
KS: Yeah, we did. I had a few FaceTime calls with them. We also spoke via telephone with quite regularity leading up to the draft.
JM: Who were some of the members of the organization that you had contact with?
KS: I spoke with [defensive line] coach [Terrell] Williams. I also spoke with [assistant head coach] John Streicher. We call him Stretch (laughs). I spoke with coach [Mike] Vrabel before the draft.
JM: That’s great. I imagine you had some other offers on the table. Why did you choose Tennessee?
KS: I felt very comfortable with them. I appreciated how heavily they recruited me. They showed a lot of interest. It felt like a team that I would love to play for. I love the coaching staff and I like how they play the game. It just felt like a place that I would really enjoy playing at.
JM: What’s your favorite part about playing on the D-line?
KS: I love the physicality aspect of it. You get to play in the trenches and be physical. I have to be able to manhandle the guy in front of me. I have to be able to get him off of me and throw him to the ground so that I can go make a tackle in the backfield. There’s a lot that goes into it, but the physicality is definitely my favorite part.
JM: You played alongside Javon Kinlaw. I’m curious as to what you two learned from one another, and what your on-field chemistry looked like?
KS: We’re both big on communication. We had a lot of chemistry because we always agreed that communication plays a key role in the success of the D-line. We always discussed everything that was going on in the backfield. We had some great chemistry. We both took on a lot of double teams. We always helped one another make plays. We aren’t the selfish type. We understood how to finish.
JM: Do you see yourself as more of a pass rusher or run stopper?
KS: The stats show that I’ve been more of a run stopper but I feel like I’m underrated in the pass rushing department. I have some untapped potential in that area of my game. I’m excited to continue to work at it. I can definitely rush the passer.
JM: What does your pass rush arsenal look like?
KS: I’m more of a physical pass rusher. I’m very powerful. I’m gonna try to run right through you (laughs). I have a little finesse as well. I can use the stab, I have a club move as well. I try to mix it up.
JM: Playing at South Carolina afforded you the opportunity to play against some of the best competition college football has to offer. Who were some of the best offensive linemen that you went up against?
KS: Trey Smith from Tennessee definitely comes to mind. He caught my eye. We played against so many great offensive linemen. I think back to our games against Georgia. They always have a tough offensive line. They usually have a group of talented players, it’s not just one or two guys. All five of their guys are usually very talented.
JM: Is there one teammate that you can’t wait to meet in person or practice against? A veteran you can perhaps lean on as you continue to get acclimated?
KS: I would say everybody. Everybody seems so cool. I’ve gotten to know a few guys through our virtual meetings and what not. It seems like a great group of guys. I’m looking forward to meeting everybody in person. I can’t wait to get up there to the facility.
JM: Everything has been happening virtually. What’s that experience been like for you?
KS: Its been a little weird (laughs). We’re doing everything via Zoom. I’ve basically been sitting in my living room while I attend these meetings. We’re talking about long stretches of time. Of course I wish I was in person. I’m excited to meet everybody. After the meetings, we can’t go outside and practice the techniques we just learned. I wanna work with the coaches and go through the process of a walk-through. We’re just talking about everything. It’s pretty weird but I’ve enjoyed the experience. I’m learning all of the plays. I’m continuing to put the work in. I’m doing a lot of studying.
JM: That makes sense. You’re coming off your senior season at South Carolina where you were one of the more respected, experienced players within the program. You’re now an un-drafted rookie trying to make an NFL roster. How do you handle that change in circumstance?
KS: I’m just going to keep my head down and learn the plays. I’m going to take things as they come. If I don’t know something, I’m going to ask questions. I’m eager to learn and I’m ready to work hard. I’m gonna make sure that I do the little things right. I’m very detail oriented.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today, Kobe. What are your goals and aspirations like over these next few months?
KS: I’m gonna make sure that I’m in the best shape of my life as I continue chasing my dream of making this roster. I’m gonna do everything in my power to make this team.