To quote the great Fred Sanford, “this is the big one!”
As everyone knows, Smalls is a five-star prospect from Kennedy Catholic in Burien. He is the top prospect in Washington, the top outside linebacker in the country, and the #11 player nationwide as rated by 247sports. His rating is the third-highest of any player to sign with UW since 247 started rating players about 20 years ago. Only Shaq Thompson and Reggie Williams came to the Dawgs with higher ratings.
Smalls had a very eventful recruitment. He transferred from Garfield to Kennedy for his senior season. In May, he dropped UW from consideration. During this period, there was no clear-cut favorite for Smalls, but he did take unofficial visits to Oregon, Tennessee, Florida, and Florida State. After his transfer to Kennedy, Smalls was active on social media with five-star QB and Husky commit Sam Huard, which made Dawg fans hopeful once again. In September, Smalls abruptly reversed course and committed to UW and has publicly remained solid ever since.
At 6’3, 245 lbs, Smalls has the frame to play as an outside linebacker/rush end hybrid. His strengths are his football instincts and pass rushing ability. He also has strong athleticism for the position and the frame to add size and strength as needed. One area where Smalls has room to develop is his pass coverage ability, though that becomes less important if he plays a more traditional defensive end role.
While this year’s Husky recruiting class is thinner along the defensive line, the Dawgs have loaded up on interior linemen and pass rushers alike over the last couple cycles. Laiatu Latu was a late commitment last year and broke into the lineup with some disruptive play as a true freshman. Joe Tryon just completed a breakout year as a redshirt-sophomore. Ryan Bowman will also be back for his senior year. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Bralen Trice, and Draco Bynum also have the potential to play the Buck LB or DE spots and put pressure on the QB. Even with significant high-end talent on the roster, Smalls will almost certainly see substantial game action right away. Time will tell if he immediately leapfrogs Bowman or Tryon atop the depth chart, but he will get plenty of snaps no matter what.
Incidentally, Smalls becomes Jimmy Lake’s first five-star commitment after Chris Petersen did not sign a single five-star in his six years in charge.