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CB Prospect Cam Smith is 'Rattled' by the Patriots Combine Interview He Called 'Intense' and 'Uncomfortable'

Jacob Kupferman. Getty Images.

Cam Smith of South Carolina is considered one of the better cornerback prospects in the draft this year. Not as athletic perhaps as some of the consensus Top 20 CBs like Devon Witherspoon of Illinois, Oregon's Christian Gonzalez, or Joey Porter Jr from Penn State. But someone who has impressed scouts while going single coverage against some of the top tier wideouts in the country. 

Not uncoincidentally, the Patriots met with Smith at the Combine. In fact, their focus with respect to interviews has primarily been defense, cornerback in particular. They've already spoken to Smith, Gonzalez, Porter, Mississippi's Emmanuel Forbes and Alabama's Eli Ricks. And Smith has spoken in the past about how he feels he'd be a great fit in New England's preferred man coverage scheme, like JC Jackson and the guy he says he patterns his game after, Stephon Gilmore:

All of which is made all the more interesting by the way the Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino approached the interview with Smith in Indy:

NFL.com - South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith stepped to the podium and immediately exuded confidence with his first couple of responses Thursday, telling reporters he aims to be the best among a strong group of defensive backs at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

"I just consider myself a competitor in all aspects," the Gamecocks product said. "There's a lot of dogs in this group. I'm just trying to make sure I come out on top." …

When it comes to scheme fit, the cocksure Smith unsurprisingly expressed a preference for press-man coverage, which requires quick reactions and strength to win an immediate physical battle as soon as the ball is snapped. Smith also made it clear he's willing to do whatever it takes to make a difference, much like he did by playing both inside and out at South Carolina.

"If I gotta play zone, I gotta play zone," Smith said. "It don't make no difference to me. I'm gonna still ball out.

"A lot of corners are not going to get off the island, don't want to go into that slot, guard the little, quick dudes, so I feel like I have an advantage right there."

Despite remaining self-assured throughout most of his media session, Smith admitted an interview with the New England Patriots rattled him a bit.

"It was very, kind of intense. Kind of felt uncomfortable," Smith said. "But I had to answer a lot of hard questions dealing with some of the stuff I did in college. So I had to make sure I answered those tough questions."

Oddly enough, the element of the interview that made Smith uncomfortable revolved around him explaining what he's all about to the Pats staff.

"Some of the questions I was asked, just trying to open up about myself," Smith said. "I really never have opened up about myself. Just trying to talk to everybody, just trying to open up and make sure everybody knows exactly who I am."

Holy cats. By all accounts, this guy has all the confidence you want in a corner. Last season, Tennessee came to South Carolina, and Smith wanted to be assigned to Jalin Hyatt, who'd put up 130-plus yards in four of the Vols previous five games, including 207 yards and 5 TDs against Alabama, and held him to 65 yards. Pro Football Focus describes Smith as, "Like a wide receiver playing cornerback with the way he finds and attacks the football. High football IQ. Sees the game like a coach." But his conversation with the Patriots left him shook.

It should be noted too that this comes after the NFL has banned crazy, aggressive questions like when someone asked Dez Bryant if his mother is a prostitute in 2010. Pellegrino and his crew kept it polite and still left a confident, "cocksure," competitor who's faced the biggest challenges college football can throw at a defender rattled.

Let the world be put on notice. The 2023 Patriots are not dicking around. They're interviewing like champions today. They're sitting down propsects and grilling them like Hydra putting the trigger words into the Winter Soldier. Longing, Rusted, Seventeen, Daybreak … A simple meet and greet turns into a test of wills. And a table behind some curtains in Lucas Oil is more intimidating than any packed, hostile stadium full of drunks with bad intent. 

I love it so. Belichick's assistants are out there giving their interviewees the treatment Blake gave all the salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross. "You can't take the abuse you're getting here, how are you going to take the abuse you get from Stefon Diggs?!?" And I'm glad for Cam Smith that he not only survived, he sounds like he respects the approach. Right now he appears to be about a late Day 2 projection, and I wouldn't at all mind seeing the Pats draft him. Any man who can stand up to the kind of grilling he got can line up in my defense any time.