Big-time programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Michigan were just a few of many to offer the 6-0, 208-pound running back. Even his dad's alma mater, Florida, put its hat in the mix in hopes E.J would follow in his father's footsteps.
But instead, he chose the Stanford Cardinal, a program that hasn't had a 10-win season since 2016. But as Smith heads into his junior season this fall, longtime Stanford coach David Shaw says the son of the NFL's all-time leading rusher will soon be one of the best running backs in the country.
“Over the next two years, he’ll be one of the best backs in America,” Shaw said during a recent PFF Twitter Space.
Smith didn't get off on a consistent footing his first two years with the Cardinal. He didn't carry the ball once his freshman year and caught just three passes for seven yards.
Last season, Smith saw slightly more production, but the Cardinal went an abysmal 3-9, which included a seven-game losing streak to end the season. It was the program's fewest wins since going 1-11 in 2006.
Smith appeared in seven games, totaling 26 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown. Now, Shaw is labeling him as "the guy" in the backfield headed into 2022-23.
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“E.J.’s ready,” Shaw said on the Pac-12 Network. “He’s ready to be the guy. He’s a complete running back. He’s got receiver skills that we saw last year. He’s got return skills. This guy’s an NFL back. He’s a pass protector. So anything he can do, he can do at a high level. So this is going to be a breakout year for him as well.”
Stanford's success could ride on Smith's potential to burst onto the college football scene. And if all goes according to Shaw's prediction, you can bet that the in-game broadcasts will start pulling out old highlights of E.J's dad leading the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins during the Dallas dynasty days of the 1990s.
You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7
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