The Hunt Report: One running back’s journey to FCS stardom, plus a pair of do-it-all wide receivers
I truly enjoy traveling around to different football games as both a color analyst and from a scouting perspective. It is the closest thing I get to playing again. Meeting and talking with both coaches and players, as well as the staff in the athletics department, just keeps you feeling youthful and excited for the upcoming season or game.
What I also enjoy about the whole experience is that you never know when or where the next diamond in the rough may come from.
Back in 2017, I was the color analyst for the ECAC Division III Bowl Game between Alfred University and Stevenson University, which took place at Delaware Stadium on the campus of the University of Delaware. On that chilly November day, I remember Alfred running up-and-down the field against Stevenson. But it was this freshman RB for the Saxons who caught my attention.
His name was Nasir Smith. He scored two rushing touchdowns that day as a reserve back, but showed enough traits that I came away thinking, ‘Wow, they are going to be a problem next season.’ Smith went on to rush for more than 1,300 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2018 en route to becoming a Division III All-American and leading the Saxons back to an ECAC Bowl Game.
Wanting to prove his abilities at the Division I level after the 2018 season, Smith transferred to Central Connecticut State. Because of NCAA transfer rules at the time, he had to sit out the 2019 season, and we know what happened in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. CCSU didn’t play the 2020 season, nor the 2021 Spring FCS season, causing him to miss two full seasons with the Blue Devils.
Finally hitting the field as a Division I running back in the fall of 2021, Smith ran for 607 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with two rushing scores. Not bad for a former Division III running back who was knocking off two full seasons of rust from inactivity.
However, this season we got to see what I saw from him back in 2017. Smith led the team and the Northeast Conference in rushing with 1,219 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 13 rushing scores. He was also able to chip in with 21 receptions, 209 yards and two scores.
His football story is definitely a unique one, but it isn’t quite over. Smith, who has the skills, has his sights set on continuing on this journey, this time as a professional.
(For last week’s Hunt Report, be sure to click here.)
College FootballRB Nasir SmithYear: SeniorCollege: Central Connecticut StateHeight: 5-10Weight: 223
A good combination of functional power and balance, Smith has a lot of David Montgomery within his game. He is someone who does a really good job of not only getting what’s blocked, but also just a little bit extra with his ability to run through arm tackles. For a runner, it is always key to have your eyes and feet be in unison and that is the case for Smith. What also stands out about his game is that he has shown the above-average burst to rip off long runs. That was one of the bigger questions you wanted to have answered as he made the jump from Division III to Division I-FCS football. Another plus is that this past season, he bulked up from the 200-pound tailback he was at Alfred to the current 223-pounder he is now, without losing speed or quickness is a great thing.
OT Mac HollensteinerYear: Graduate studentCollege: GeorgetownHeight: 6-5Weight: 310
Two of the more underrated coaches in college football are on the same staff at Georgetown, and that’s head coach Rob Sgarlata and offensive line coach Alex Kolt. Both guys not only are able to acquire talent, but also — and most importantly — develop the talent as well. They have a gem in right tackle Mac Hollensteiner. He’s played both tackle spots, but looks more comfortable on the right side. He does a fantastic job of rolling his hips into a defender in the run game, which is partly why he’s able to get consistent movement in that regard. The other side of it is his hand usage, which is also consistent and a key contributor to that movement. Hollensteiner has very good functional strength, which shows up in pass protection, allowing him to be able to reset his hands and redirect defenders without giving ground in the process.
WR John HallYear: SeniorCollege: Northwood (MI)Height: 6-3Weight: 190
Love the effort and enthusiasm Hall plays with. He’s out there essentially the whole game, giving the same type of effort. Whether it’s blocking in the run game, running clear out routes, playing gunner on punt team, rushing the punt — he even has a block on his resume — or covering kickoffs, he’s consistently playing with the same effort. As a receiver, he shows a knack for accelerating and closing on the ball when it’s in the air. It really helps him create even more separation than he does during his route. He’s a galloper who tracks the ball very well. He’s an excellent Bang-8 receiver who knows how to keep the route skinny while also getting skinny at the same time to make the reception.There is still room for him to grow both his game and body as a pro player.
WR Deshun KitchingsYear: Graduate studentCollege: NewberryHeight: 5-10Weight: 175
Kitchings is an explosive dynamo of a receiver who is capable of contributing offensively in a multitude of ways. This past season, he had his best year in terms of yards per catch (20.8) and kickoff return average (31.2). He’s the quintessential “space player,” meaning getting him out in the open field turns everything into a kickoff return for him, as he’s able to weave his way through would-be tacklers and find pay dirt. In the WR run game he has experience as well, with over 260 yards on the ground and three scores. He’s projected as a core special teamer and slot receiver who can definitely impact the game in year one as a rookie.