Kevin Smith was a game changer for UCF’s football program. The running back was the second Knight to ever receive Heisman votes (after QB Daunte Culpepper) and was UCF’s first consensus All-American in 2007. His 4,679 rushing yards still rank third in Conference USA history and helped him to be drafted by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Now almost a decade removed from his professional playing career, Smith has quickly become one of the nation’s top running back coaches and is known as a ball carrying guru. Currently with the Miami Hurricanes, Smith originally got his start in coaching on familiar turf, as an intern and quality control administrator for his alma mater UCF.
After two years in the Black and Gold, Smith took jobs under Lane Kiffin at both Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss. This spring Smith returned to his South Florida roots, where he played high school football, to help the Hurricanes running back room reach their full potential. Smith’s already proven himself as an elite player developer, mentoring former FAU runner Devin Singletary on his way to the NFL. Under Smith’s tutelage, the Ole Miss’ rushing attack finished in the SEC’s top three for rushing yardage in both of his seasons in Oxford, Miss. (first in 2020 and third in 2021).
The former Knight will have at least one familiar face in his position group, ex-Rebel running back, and fellow Miami native, Henry Parrish Jr. Parrish transferred to Miami this spring after being the SEC’s 24th best rusher in 2021, despite sharing a majority of carries with teammate Snoop Conner and Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. Parrish had over 500 yards rushing to go along with three touchdowns last season, and he proved to be a reliable route runner, catching 21 passes on the year.
Smith will also be working with the Hurricanes’ 2021 touchdown leader, sophomore Jaylan Knighton, who returns after a surprisingly productive season that saw him total eleven touchdowns rushing and receiving. The Canes’ rushing production will be of huge importance this season, as they will need solid run threats to alleviate pressure from star quarterback Tyler Van Dyke.
Knighton and Parrish will likely be the two feature backs, but don’t rule out incoming freshman TreVonte’ Citizen, who comes to The U as a four-star prospect and will be the biggest ball carrier on the roster (6’0”, 217-pounds), or Don Chaney Jr., who was ahead of Knighton on last year’s depth chart but suffered a season ending ACL injury early on. Smith has shown that he can coach a committee of backs to be effective in the run game and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a mix for the Canes in 2022.
Smith, one of Central Florida’s favorite sons, has continued to make a name for himself and help validate UCF’s newfound football reputation. He’s gone from a Group of 5 intern to a Power Five position coach in five short years and his star looks as though it will continue to rise. Who knows, maybe one day down the road he’ll find himself wearing the Head Coach’s headset for UCF or another school.