- - Thursday, September 5, 2019

COLLEGE PARK — Baltimore native Shaq Smith returned to his home state to play football at the University of Maryland.

But the graduate student linebacker will get a glimpse of his collegiate past this Saturday, when the Terrapins host a Syracuse team he is very familiar with.

Smith, listed at 6-foot-2, 251 pounds, transferred to Maryland after playing for defending national champion Clemson in the ACC.

He had 16 tackles over 140 total snaps last season for the Tigers. He played on special teams in the national championship game against Alabama.

While with Clemson, Smith also played a few games against Syracuse, which enters Saturday’s game in College Park ranked No. 21 in the nation. Last year Clemson escaped with a 27-23 win over Syracuse at home and went on to win the national title. The 80,122 fans in Death Valley did not intimidate the Orange.

“This team (Syracuse) could have beaten Clemson last year,” Smith said. “This is a tough team coming in here. It is going to take all hands on deck for this game. They have one of the most explosive offenses in the country. It is unmatched.”

He added that preparing for Syracuse in recent years was “a very stressful week in practice” because the Syracuse offense is very quick.

“You can’t create that in practice, but you try to do as much as you can,” Smith said. “Nothing much has changed. They have a lot of players on offense, very dynamic. They play at a high level.”

Smith, 22, said it doesn’t do the Syracuse offense justice to just watch them on television – or in the film room.

“They try to run a play every 15 seconds or something,” said Smith, noting that for most teams it takes about 25 seconds. “We working on going fast. Just things I have been stressing to the guys. They are going to give us a lot of different formations on offense.”

Smith was a standout under coach Kevin Wright at St. Frances in Baltimore. He finished his prep career at the notable IMG Academy in Florida, where he played for coach Chris Weinke, the former NFL quarterback.

Smith finished his high school career as a second-team USA Today All-American. He was the top prospect at his position in Maryland and one of the top six linebackers in the country, according to Rivals.com.

Terrapins coach Mike Locksley has long recruited in the DMV and was glad to bring Smith to College Park.

“We ask him to be really strong against the run, set the edge against tight ends,” Locksley said. “We thought he played very physical at the point of attack.”

Smith earned his degree in parks, recreation and tourism management from Clemson in May, which made him eligible to play this year as a graduate student for the Terrapins. He is working towards a master’s in professional studies in technology entrepreneurship.

Smith had several family and friends in the stands for his first game with Maryland last week, when the Terrapins blitzed Howard 79-0.

“Running out of that tunnel in front of my family and friends and the home crowd, it was kind of different,” Smith said. “It felt great. I was glad to be home.”

After playing inside linebacker at Clemson, Smith moved to outside linebacker for Locksley, which was not a problem against Howard.

“It felt natural. I played there my freshman year of high school,” Smith said.

He registered a sack and three total tackles against Howard. Now he’ll look to parlay his familiarity with the Orange into another successful Saturday.

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