Could the Titans' sixth-round draft pick Rusty Smith become a great NFL quarterback? The legendary Howard Schnellenberger, who knows quite a bit about the subject, said he could in a radio interview I heard last week.
Schnellenberger has been Smith's coach at Florida Atlantic the last four years. Earlier in his career, he was the college coach for future NFL greats Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde. In the interview, Schnellenberger predicted Smith would be just as good as the trio he coached at the University of Miami.
Some background info on Schnellenberger:
- Was an All-American TE at Kentucky for Bear Bryant
- Became offensive coordinator for Bryant at Alabama, where he was credited for recruiting Joe Namath
- Contributed to winning three national championships at Alabama
- Became George Allen's offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams
- Was Don Shula's OC for the Miami Dolphins, including the perfect 17-0 1972 season
- Hired as head coach of the Baltimore Colts
- Resurrected the football program at the U. of Miami and won the 1983 national championship
- Rebuilt the football program at Louisville
- Briefly served as head coach at Oklahoma
- Built the football program at FAU from the ground up
Given his impressive background, Schnellenberger's prediction of NFL success for Smith must be taken credibly.
Asked how Smith would fare if given the talent surrounding Kelly, Kosar and Testaverde, Schnellenberger replied Smith would have performed just as well, if not better than the Miami QBs. The favorable comparison to the Miami QB trio is saying quite a bit. Here's a quick recap of their NFL careers:
Jim Kelly - 11 years, 5 Pro Bowls, 1 first-team All-Pro, selected to Hall of Fame
Bernie Kosar - 12 years, 1 Pro Bowl
Vinny Testaverde - 21 years, 2 Pro Bowls
How much of Schnellenberger's praise for Smith is just hype? He's not only promoting Smith, but also by extension, promoting his program at FAU. Before the 2008 season, Schnellenberger predicted Smith would be a first-round draft pick.
That of course didn't happen and shoulder injuries in both 2008 and 2009 were no doubt contributing factors. Smith played through an injury to his throwing shoulder in 2008 and missed half the 2009 season with a sprained non-throwing shoulder.
I hope Schnellenberger's praise for Smith isn't more hype than substance. If it is, I must say at least I like the hype.
Also in the interview, Schnellenberger favorably compared FAU fullback Willie Rose to another of his former Miami Hurricanes, Alonzo Highsmith. Rose signed with the Titans as an UDFA, Highsmith played for seven years in the NFL with the Oilers, Cowboys and Bucs and is now a scout. Schnellenberger said Rose was as good as Highsmith in all areas of the game, except for receiving, where Rose was better. More hype or should Ahmard Hall be concerned?