2012 NFL DRAFT: SAFETIES

A position-by-position look at prospects in this year’s NFL Draft. This entry: Safeties.

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INDIANAPOLIS –Battling different schemes and position changes, the constant for the Notre Dame defense over the past four seasons has been Harrison Smith.

The safety from Knoxville, Tennessee just wrapped up his career by starting 47-of-51 games for the Fighting Irish.

After redshirting during his first season in South Bend, Smith played linebacker during 2008 and 2009 before moving into the secondary.

He recorded 15 tackles for losses from his outside linebacker position but following a coaching change in 2010, Smith made the switch back to his more natural position of safety.

Smith is projected as a safety at the next level, and his ability to play both positions is an asset to potential suitors.   

"I think I'm a versatile player," Smith said.  "On top of that, I'm a guy who's going to be able to get the defense lined up, recognize formations, make checks and just communicate the defense."

Playing in the front seven and the secondary of the defense has allowed Smith to defend a variety of positions in college.

At 6-2 and 214 pounds, Smith feels that one of his strengths at the next level will be his background in covering both tight ends and wide receivers.

"That's something that I think I'm good at, and that I can bring to teams, is the ability to cover tight ends man-to-man," Smith said.  "It's something I did throughout my career.  In practice I got to go against Kyle Rudolph, who was a high draft pick last year.  This past year I went against Tyler Eifert, and he'll be picked next year.  So just being around good competition and going up against it every day in practice (has helped me progress)."

One of the beneficiaries of going through the coaching changes in college was the chance to learn different defenses.

Being exposed to several schemes at Notre Dame should help Smith's progress in the NFL.

"I feel like in certain schemes you're going to be asked to do certain things, and you're going to have help in certain areas, over the top or wherever," Smith said.  "So you just have to know what you're doing and at the end of the day, I feel like that's something I excel at.  I'll be able to put my body in the right position to make an impact on that play."

In Smith's final season he was named the lone captain for Notre Dame.  It is an honor at such a distinguished university, a path traveled by only a few select players in the program.

It marked just the fourth time in 40 years that Notre Dame had only one captain on a team, and Smith was the first such honoree since 1999.  Accomplishments aside, Smith knows he will need to work his way up in the NFL if he wants to gain that status again.

"I'm not a guy who tries to bark out orders and stuff like that," Smith said.  "That's not how I'd play, especially as a rookie. ... But I'm confident in my ability to learn a playbook, to understand offenses, and then as a safety your job is to get the defense aligned, so that's just part of the role."

Smith left South Bend as only the fourth player in school history with 200 tackles, 15 for losses and 15 passes defensed in a career.  He amassed 309 career tackles, 18.5 for losses, seven interceptions, 28 passes defensed, two fumbles forced and one fumble recovered.  He had 222 tackles as a safety, fifth-most by a Notre Dame defensive back.  He started the last 38 games of his career, with 32 starts as a safety and 15 as a linebacker.  Smith had a career high of 14 tackles against Southern Cal in 2011 and three interceptions against Miami in 2010.  His 93 tackles in 2010 marked his seasonal-best.

LOOKING AT THE 2012 NFL DRAFT'S SAFETIES

THE LAST FIVE

The last five safeties drafted by the Colts:

2007:  Brannon Condren, fourth round, Troy

2006:  Antoine Bethea, sixth round, Howard

2005:  Matt Giordano, fourth round, California

2004:  Bob Sanders, second round, Iowa

2003:  Mike Doss, second round, Ohio State

THIS YEAR'S DRAFT

An alphabetical list of safeties expected to be selected in the 2012 NFL Draft (*-denotes underclassman):

Antonio Allen, South Carolina

Mark Barron, Alabama

Aaron Henry, Wisconsin

Delano Howell, Stanford

George Iloka, Boise State

Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

Eddie Pleasant, Oregon

Trenton Robinson, Michigan State

Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

Brandon Taylor, LSU

Note:  The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.

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