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October 27, 2009

Smith leads SU defense

As irreplaceable as Delone Carter was to the Syracuse offense Saturday against Akron, senior linebacker Derrell Smith was equally impressive on the opposite side of the ball. Smith led SU with a career high nine solo tackles, two sacks, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.

Smith has been an instrumental leader of an Orange defense that leads the Big East in rushing defense. His 9.2 tackles per game places him third in the conference and 39th in the country. His .75 sacks per game ranks him seventh among Big East defenders. Yet it is not only how often Smith is tackling, but how hard he delivers some of his bone-crushing sacks.

"He hits as hard as anyone on that field," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "If you're on that field, you can hear it when he hits them."

The Orange defense held the Zips to an astonishing zero combined rushing yards. Thanks to Smith and partner-in-crime Doug Hogue, Syracuse continually stuffed Akron running back DeVoe Torrence at the line of scrimmage. On seemingly every critical third down for the Zips, the Orange pass rush would rattle Patrick Nicely, who was brought down for a sack five times Saturday.

"We practiced a lot of blitzes this week," Smith said. "Coach said that he was going to be aggressive in his play calling and obviously it worked."

Smith's first tackle of the game was his most significant, and may have saved a nightmarish start for the Orange. After Mike Jones fumbled a punt return to set the Zips up in Orange territory, Smith leveled Torrence and the sheer force of the tackle forced the ball loose. Anthony Perkins recovered the football and temporarily kept the Zips out of the endzone.

The Orange defense has surprised everybody by having one of the top linebacker corps in the Big East. Since the Orange continue to defy the odds by stopping the run week after week, it is obvious that this unit is not a fluke. Smith has asserted himself as not only the physical and emotional leader of the Orange defense, but as one of the top defenders in the entire conference. If Mike Williams is deemed irreplaceable to Syracuse's offense, Smith is equally critical to the defensive squad.

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