UW Roster Review, No. 2-99: Smith Uses McDuffie as His Football Tour Guide

The California cornerback has relied on his teammate to help make him a better player.
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James Smith is a redshirt freshman cornerback for the University of Washington, waiting his turn and learning his trade. It's certainly no reason to get impatient and head for the portal.

Smith knew exactly what he was getting into with the Huskies. 

Trent McDuffie, for one, has been there all along to remind him.

Smith comes from the powerhouse St. John Bosco High School football program in Bellflower, California, an all-boys Catholic institution that has more of its former football players on the current UW roster than any other school — four.

He shares in this distinction with running back Sean McGrew, wide receiver Terrell Bynum and fellow corner McDuffie, in particular McDuffie. 

A year younger, Smith backed up McDuffie at St. John Bosco until the 4-star recruit left for Seattle, and then the apprentice had his chance to play at the prep powerhouse and became a 3-star guy.

Smith chose to play for the Huskies, encouraged all along by McDuffie to come join him, with the latter tweeting out the following on Smith's commitment: 

“By the time I’m in college, I’m already pretty much ready cause what we go through here is a college environment,” Smith told the Los Angeles Times of St. John Bosco football. “I’m being prepared more than a lot of kids, but I’ve got to just keep working because, in reality, tomorrow it can all go away. So just staying patient, stay humble, keep working.”

Going down the roster in numerical order, this is another of our post-spring assessments of all of the Husky talent at hand, gleaned from a month of observations, as a way to keep everyone engaged during the offseason.

Smith wears No. 27, same as redshirt freshman tight end Javon Forward, and he was one of four defensive backs recruited to the UW in the class of 2020. He came in with Jacobe Covington from Chandler, Arizona, Elijah Jackson from Carson, California, and Makell Esteen from Hawthorne, California.

Each arrived with hefty credentials. Each has had to go through a college learning curve. Smith is no different. All redshirted their first seasons, though Covington and Esteen made a token game appearance.

Smith is still navigating his way through the extensive defensive-back curriculum that the UW provides, getting ready for another audition for advancement at some point.

"Yeah James, he's made a few plays," Husky coach Jimmy Lake said. "He's got to be more consistent. He's still got a ways to go to clean up his technique and learn our scheme."

Defensive-backs coach Will Harris explained how most prospective defensive backs come to the UW and have to wait their turn, but things can go their way fairly quickly once that happens. 

Harris cited cornerback Byron Murphy as a prime example in the process at this recognized DB-U, noting how the former Husky coverage guy from Arizona went through a redshirt season and then a year and a half later he was headed for the NFL as a second-round pick.

Smith, who had a pass break-up in the spring game, holds a distinct advantage that most Husky cornerbacks don't possess.

He has McDuffie looking after him, offering directions and encouragement, and showing him the way from high school to college — and maybe even the NFL.

Smith's 2021 Outlook: Projected backup cornerback

UW Service Time: None

Stats: None

Individual Honors: None yet

Pro prospects: 2026 NFL third-day draftee

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