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Za'Darius Smith | Defensive End

Team: Kentucky Wildcats
Ht / Wt:  6'6' / 263

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Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith has accepted an invitation to play in the East West Shrine game.
More good news for the all star event. In other years Smith would have been in the Senior Bowl, and he still might earn an invitation. However, the edge rushing class in 2015 might be one of the best in some time. Smith, a JUCO transfer, uses his hands well to shed at the point of attack. Dec 9 - 12:15 PM

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Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith stood out with "terrific effort in pursuit" on Saturday against Mississippi State, wrote CBS Sports' Rob Rang.

"Smith doesn't possess [Bud Dupree's] explosive burst but he's a well-built 6-foot-5, 264 pounds with long arms and heavy hands to fight through blocks," Rang wrote. "His power and awareness helped him seal the edge and keep [MSU QB Dak] Prescott from running wild, as he'd often done in 2014." Smith entered this game with only three tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the year, but he's impressed analysts with his non-stop motor and heady play.
Source: CBS Sports
Oct 26 - 5:36 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith is an "aggressive edge rusher with some burst and the motor needed to compete at a high level," according to CBS Sports' Dane Brugler.

"Although his 2014 stats are mediocre (3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks), the tape shows an aggressive edge rusher with some burst and the motor needed to compete at a high level. Smith rarely loses sight of the ball with proper eye use to quickly locate and track, using feisty swat and swim moves to defeat blockers," Brugler wrote. The Wildcats prospect and former JUCO transfer, recorded 59 tackles, with 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, in his first try against SEC competition last year.
Source: CBS Sports
Oct 23 - 2:53 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith’s "performance against LSU will raise red flags in the scouting world," writes TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline.

Smith had Kentucky's only sack of the night, but it wasn't all good news. "Smith was exploited all night not just by the Tigers highly rated left tackle La’el Collins but also any tight end or fullback he faced," Pauline wrote. "Scouts have had concerns about Smith’s overall athleticism, a weakness exploited by LSU on Saturday." That outing will dampen Smith's ascending stock. ESPN Insider's Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl wrote earlier this month that they were thinking about raising their preseason late-fourth, early fifth-round grade due to Smith's improved play. The JUCO transfer collected 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, in his first try against SEC competition last year.
Oct 21 - 5:52 PM

ESPN Insider's Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl are rethinking their "late-fourth, early fifth-round" preseason grade on Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith.

"The Florida tape has us rethinking that grade already," the pair wrote. "He's shown improvement in two key areas starting with his instincts. He did a great job of locating the ball against the run and tracking the quarterback without losing contain as a pass-rusher against the Gators. The other aspect of his game is he appears to have made strides in his explosiveness. While he's never going to be an elite speed rusher coming off the edge, he looked quicker working inside and did a better job of transferring speed to power rushing the passer when he lined up inside. Add in his ability to get off blocks and the arrow is pointing up." The JUCO transfer collected 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, in his first try against SEC competition last year, and he's poised to easily surpass those numbers in 2014. TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline allocated the senior a preseason Round 4 grade.
Oct 1 - 12:03 AM

TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline writes that Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith "impressed a lot of scouts last season."

The JUCO transfer collected 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in his first try against SEC competition last year. "Smith impressed a lot of scouts last season, his first at UK, and seriously considered entering the draft before making the right decision by returning for his senior season," Pauline wrote. "He’s a long athlete who flashes pass rush skill though I worry about his speed and overall athleticism." Pauline gives the senior a Round 4 grade.
Sep 2 - 7:33 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith is "bigger and stronger this year after spending time in Kentucky's strength and conditioning program," reports CBS Sports' Rob Rang.

The JUCO transfer laughed off the jump in competition last year, collecting 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in his first try against SEC competition. If the spring game is any indication -- sack, tackle for loss and an interception -- he's ready for bigger things in 2014. "He lacks the top-notch burst most teams prefer at the RDE position but does a nice job of getting left tackles to lean to their outside and then countering back inside with power," Rang wrote. "Smith utilizes heavy hands and good core strength to generate consistent pressure but is more of a complementary rusher, rather than a featured threat, at this time. He doesn't change directions or accelerate fluidly enough to make the transition to linebacker and needs to protect his legs better from cut blocks."
Source: CBS Sports
Aug 17 - 12:24 AM

Kentucky junior DE Za'Darius Smith will return for his senior season.

Smith started the season on fire, opening with 4.5 sacks in the first three games of the season, but those numbers tailed off to six to end the year. He was beating offensive tackles with an outside rip, something future opponents picked up on. The JUCO transfer can attempt to improve his game with one more season.
Wed, Dec 18, 2013 10:54:00 AM