Abram Smith’s learnings from playing LB may have a positive impact on his role as a RB for the New Orleans Saints – New Orleans Saints blog

METAIRIE, La. – Abram Smith When he switched from running back in Baylor to linebacker as an undergrad at Baylor in 2020, he was just trying to get to the field.

It worked. Smith ended up leading the Bears' final four games in tackles.

Smith's unconventional path made him a better runner, which was evident when he returned in 2021 to his former position.

Baylor's vision improved and he was able to read defenses better. Baylor used the 5-11, 221-pounder as a physical tone-setter, helping transform from a 2-7 team, into Big 12 champions.

“I was definitely a more punishing runner,” said Smith, who finished fifth in the nation with 1,601 rushing yards and is now trying to earn a role in the New Orleans SaintsAs an undrafted rookie, he was in the backfield. “You know, my mom always told me to be the hammer and not the nail. So I love to impose my will on others or drop my shoulders. [defensive back] Linebacker. I can make people miss, but I still feel more comfortable when I’m running somebody over.”

Smith claimed that he weighed in at 208 pounds during his college years, and then he gained weight to play linebacker. He decided to keep some of the extra weight when he went back to offensive.

“I like the muscle mass that I put on. And I guess for me, I kind of looked better in pads if I’m being honest,” Smith said with a smile. “It looks a little intimidating … and gives me a better confidence in my running ability.”

Baylor originally hired Smith by Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule, but his career couldn’t have started worse. He tore his ACL in the right knee during spring practice. He missed 2017 season. He had already tore the ACL in the same leg as a high-school sophomore.

Smith returned in 2018 to a crowded backfield and didn’t see much playing time. But he made a big impact in special teams coverage, and he was so effective that Rhule’s staff suggested the move to linebacker before Rhule left for the NFL in January 2020.

However, Smith's success at linebacker was not enough to overcome the Bears' overall struggles. Dave Aranda, their new coach was candid about what the Bears were lacking.

“Offensively in 2020, especially running the ball, we would go backwards,” Aranda said. It would be first-and-10 and we would finish third-and-17. All of that is my fault. But I just think coming off of that, there was just not a lot of confidence, not a lot of, ‘We’re gonna impose our will on ya.’

“I think Abram had a lot to do with [changing] it.”

The idea of switching Smith back to offense was collaborative. Jeff Grimes was the new offensive coordinator. He had previously been at BYU and had managed a similar transformation. Atlanta Falcons For the rookie Tyler Allgeier. He was also looking for a runner who would fit into his wide-zone system. Baylor staff member David Wetzel suggested Smith.

“From the very first carry he got, it was like, ‘This is how it’s supposed to look,’” Aranda said.

Smith ran for more than 100 yards in each of the Bears’ first three games. The Bears' fourth win over No. 14 Iowa State.

Aranda had used the Cyclones’ defense as an example to emulate in the spring, showing tape of their physical style and toughness. Smith was able to finish two long runs, where he plowed into Greg Eisworth II (three-time All-Big 12 safety).

“I want to say every game there came a point where Abram got the ball on our sideline, and he drops his shoulder down and drives into a defender and runs him over and falls forward,” Aranda said. “And that is like the best illustration of who we are or who we’re trying to be.”

Rhule and Aranda also praised Smith's team-first attitude and willingness to learn. Aranda said he couldn’t recall anyone who spent so much extra time working one-on-one with coaches in the walk-through room in the middle of the team’s practice facility.

“He's always been willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field and help the team win,” said Rhule, who added that could help Smith in New Orleans because “that's what every NFL team is looking for.”

“A guy that can play running back and obviously lead the Big 12 in rushing and all the things he did this year, but also can play special teams, will be a physical player, is resilient,” Rhule said. “I mean, he's demonstrated all the qualities of a winner during his time in college.”

Sure enough, Saints coach Dennis Allen highlighted Smith’s special teams ability as something that could get him on the field early – and impressed the Saints enough to offer him one of the largest guarantees of any undrafted rookie in the league ($222,000).

Smith chose the Saints instead of other suitors, because he recognizes the potential in their backfield. Starter Alvin Kamara You could be facing suspension after being arrested on a battery charge February Running back is also possible Mark Ingram II Is 32 and is about to enter the final year on his contract.

The Saints still have back-up Tony Jones Jr., among others, but they didn’t draft another running back and haven’t signed a veteran yet.

“I was a little bit surprised, a little bit upset [to go undrafted],” said Smith, who said Saints running backs coach Joel Thomas was one of the first to call and start courting him during the late rounds of the draft. “But you can kind of take that as a chip on your shoulder and just come into camp and kind of prove your worth. So I think not being drafted kind of gave me that little edge even more than I already had.”

Leave a Comment