Fish Smithson Embraces Leadership Role
LAWRENCE, Kan. – “Seniors. All you seniors stand up,” head football coach David Beaty said in the huddle following Thursday’s spring practice inside Memorial Stadium. “This time next year will be here like that (snapping his fingers). That is how fast your senior year will go.”
One of the cornerstones of the defense and team leader in 2015, safety Fish Smithson knows all too well how important a role he will play in his final season as a Jayhawk.
“These guys look up to me and it is important for me to set a good example and help them along the way,” Smithson said. “The way I see things – you can always get better.”
Smithson bolstered a resume in 2015 in which he led the Jayhawks in tackles and the nation in solo tackles, averaging 10.1 stops per contest. Even earning all-conference honors, Smithson stresses this is a new season.
“I don’t necessarily want to be the same player or the same person I was last year,” Smithson said. “There is always room to grow. I want to improve my game and help my teammates as far as leading them on the field – making sure they know assignments and are running to the ball – and doing things the way coach Beaty and (assistant head coach/defensive coordinator) Clint Bowen want them to be done.”
Evident in practice Thursday evening, Smithson was running around the field calling the defense and aligning the secondary. When not taking snaps with the ones, he was on the sideline coaching up the younger players, helping them understand the defensive schemes and philosophy.
“It is about perfecting our craft,” Beaty said. “If you wait until your senior year, it is too late. It starts now.”
Smithson has been perfecting his game since stepping foot on campus as a sophomore in 2014. His work ethic and leadership must have rubbed off because the defense showed up the offense in seven-on-seven and in the team session of spring practice No. 3.
That was a big improvement from where they began just two sessions ago.
“From practice one to three, I have seen an improvement,” Smithson said. “The first practice had a lot of new guys and you get those jitters. After day one, coaches put the film up and showed the good things – that’s what I like about this coaching staff – and they showed the bad things we need to improve on. The players see that and after practice today, I feel like we had a great day.”
“Hey offense,” Beaty said. “The defense took advantage of us in seven-on-seven today. We had a lot of energy and great effort, but they had a great pass rush all day.”
Kansas will take the week of spring break off before resuming Tuesday, March 22. Even with a break upon them, the Jayhawks are itching to be on the gridiron.
“Once we come back we are going to be full go,” Smithson said. “I think this week off will help and after the first few days we are going to start missing it. I think we will all be eager to get back and roll straight through to the spring game.”