WHEN HE WAS coaching at FCS East Tennessee State, Marcus Satterfield saw Marcus Smith play at Hardaway High School in Columbus, Ga. Only he didn't watch the guy the Eagles just took with their No. 1 draft pick play defensive end or outside linebacker. At that time, the 6-3, 250-pounder was still a quarterback. And a pretty good one.
"It's ironic, because you could recruit him, but you knew he was going to be a BCS-type kid," recalled Satterfield, who's now in his second year as Temple's offensive coordinator. "I remember going into the coach's office and giving him a fist pump and going, 'Wow.' His hands were humongous. I didn't have the heart to tell him he probably wasn't going to play quarterback in college.
"He reminded you of JaMarcus Russell when it wasn't a bad thing to be JaMarcus Russell," he continued, referring to the LSU quarterback who went first overall in the 2007 draft to Oakland.
"That's who he looked like. He was just a lot bigger than anyone else playing the position. He could throw, and he could run. It wasn't a natural throwing motion. It was more long-range. But when you talked to his coach, everyone would tell you he was getting recruited by Florida, Miami and Louisville as a quarterback. In the back of your head, you knew that was never going to happen. He was going to get moved. But he was talented. He could've played I-AA, where I was. I would have taken him in a heartbeat."
Smith, of course, ended up at Louisville, where he was indeed moved to defense. Which turned out not to be such a bad thing, since quarterback Teddy Bridgewater arrived at UL at year later and started as a freshman. And Smith developed into the kind of pass-rusher that made him the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2013.
On Thursday night, he was taken by the Eagles with the 26th pick in the first round, higher than anyone had projected, and, ironically, six spots ahead of Bridgewater, who once was considered a top-five or top-10 kind of prospect.
The Eagles needed someone who could help them put more pressure on the QB. Owls head coach Matt Rhule, who was an assistant with the New York Giants in 2012, thinks they got the right man. His team lost to Louisville early last October at the Linc, 30-7. The Cardinals were unbeaten and ranked seventh at the time. Smith had five tackles, including three for losses, one a sack.
"I just like the way he played," Rhule said. "He had a lot of energy, a lot of versatility. They used him a lot of ways. I'm sure the Eagles will, too.
"I had a chance to coach against [Khalil] Mack [who went fifth to Oakland] at Buffalo. I think Marcus is in that category. He's real long and athletic. I don't know that much about the [projections], but when I saw the pick, I thought it was a great choice. At the end of the day, you have to have those kind of guys in the NFL, coming off the edge. I think he definitely fits the bill. If you don't, you can't win. The quarterbacks are too good.
"He's disruptive. He was one guy that you had to know where he was at all times and game-plan for him. And you can't use a back [alone] to block him."
Satterfield thinks Smith's experience at QB has only helped him become even better at what he does on the field these days.
"He plays a little faster," Satterfield noted. "He pretty much can anticipate what the quarterback's going to do. I think it gives him an advantage on what lanes he takes when he rushes, or the kind of ground he can cover when he drops into the flat or back to break up a slant pattern. And he kept you guessing, so you never knew. You had to be careful. He's so rangy. He got his hand on a lot of balls. But what made him exceptional was his explosiveness. Maybe a kid who's played there all his life wouldn't have quite the same instincts.
"It's like when you're an option quarterback and then they make you a safety. I don't know how many guys go from quarterback to outside linebacker or standup end.
"I've never coached in the NFL, but I think you can do so much with him. I don't know how qualified I am to make that statement, but I think it allows you to be very multiple. His role, if he lives up to his potential, is to just be athletic and make plays in space, if you build around him and protect him to allow him to do that. If he has the right different pieces in front of him and behind him, I think he can have an impact at that level. He's worth watching."