2023 Munford High School (Ala.) standout defensive back Sylvester Smith is one of the nation's premier prospects. Smith plans to commit at the end of this month, with schools like Georgia, LSU, and Tennessee, among others remaining in the mix. Ahead of the looming announcement, Smith went in-depth with Sports Illustrated All-American to offer a look at his game, which makes him.
Smith flashes elite lateral quickness and change of direction when you turn on the tape. His 5'11, 195lbs frame is well-equipped to deliver brutal blows to opposing players, and his natural ball skills allow him to routinely win one-on-one situations with receivers. If you turn on the film, all of that is pretty easy to see. However, the Yellow Hammer state standout believes his IQ for the game is what sets him apart from others.
"I mean, of course, you see the things on film, but what you really don't see is my IQ," Smith said of what makes his game different. "I have the best IQ in the country, and the way I understand the game, and the way I watch the film and break down film, and am able to tell if they're on the left hash, what's the percentage of them doing this, or what's the percentage of them doing that. Who are they going to go to? What's their alignment? How fast do they want to go here? What's the time on the clock? So really just paying attention to the little things like that helps me be in the right position to make a play or put my teammates in a position to make a play."
Smith is a "grinder" when it comes to his work ethic off the field. He never stops, from training sessions to the weight room to the film room. His IQ for the game grows daily with his skill set as he has aligned with former NFL DB T.J. Heath to grow mentally and physically inside of the game.
"I have a trainer named T.J Heath," Smith said of the time he puts in off the field. "He played eight years in the NFL and CFL. I train at least Monday, Wednesday and Friday with him. Sometimes I go four times a week, too. It is really just grinding with him, being able to take away from him what he has learned and applying it to my game. He has been there and done that with guarding the best guys in the country. Just him implementing his knowledge and helping me pair it with my game has been a non-stop thing. I am a Junior in high school, but the preparations I am making now are for the next level."
The growth in Smith's game is inevitable, but before he can focus on what is next, he has to return to his old form before applying his fierce work ethic towards making further strides. Smith is coming off an ankle injury that should have sidelined him for the duration of his junior season, only it didn't because he would not let it. The Sylvester Smith that you see on film from last year, albeit as productive as he was, is not the Sylvester Smith that he knows he can be.
"I come off my sophomore season leading offense and defense," Smith said of where he wants to see his game grow. "I had ten interceptions, had 1,500 rushing yards; I broke records that year. I actually picked up a couple of offers to play running back, but I just like seeing the ball in the air, going to get it, and hitting people with the ball. The second game, first play of the game, I basically had a season-ending injury with a medial sprain to my left ankle and tore some ligaments. We had tight games, like region games, back-to-back-to-back, and really there was no one to come up and fill my spot, so I had to play and lead the team the best I could. I just had to set all of that personal stuff aside, and I was playing with my ankle as swollen as a softball. Really now, it is about getting back to the level I was, then getting past it. I want to separate from everyone else. I am getting ready to commit, and separating from everyone else is going to be my focus after. I have always been taught you have to find something good in the bad, and I was able to learn to lead my team more mentally than physically during that time."
When Smith announces his college decision on April 25th, the hats on the table at Munford High School will evidence how highly regarded he is. Kirby Smart calls him routinely. LSU staffs, new and old, have both extended offers and pursued heavily, while Tennessee has reiterated time and again the opportunity they have for him in their depleted secondary. Other schools like Auburn and Florida, both of which have some type of longstanding relationship with him, are sure to kick the tires one more time to see if they can slow his process. But, for now, Smith has offered insight into his game and what he brings to one of these schools; in a couple of more weeks, he will offer up what is next and why it is.