The Vikings coaching and college scouting staffs spent the week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, observing practices and conducting interviews to continue building scouting reports on some of the country's best college football players. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer keeps a universal perspective in mind as he watches practices and thinks about improving his team, but he surely can't help but to pay special attention to the defensive players.
It was the Senior Bowl, after all, where the Vikings found perhaps the perfect fit at safety in Zimmer's defense. Harrison Smith was a Senior Bowl standout in 2012, so much so that the Vikings, who coached the North squad that season, felt strongly enough about his potential that they traded back into the end of the first round to secure Smith's services. Zimmer was not with the Vikings at the time, but fast-forward two seasons later and it looks as if Smith was hand-picked to play in Zimmer's defense.
In over 20 years coaching in the NFL, Zimmer has found success with defenses that feature odd-man fronts and even-man fronts, by bringing pressure and by playing coverage, and with zone principles and man principles. Aside from an uncanny ability to devise scheme and adapt to what offenses are doing, Zimmer has been able to remain versatile and successful for such a long time because he always seems to find players who are a perfect fit for his defenses – like Smith is in Minnesota.
George Edwards, the Vikings Defensive Coordinator, knows as well as anyone what exactly Zimmer wants from his defense and his defensive players in Minnesota.
"He does a little bit of everything pretty well for us – he is a good blitzer, he is good playing in the middle of the field, he is good down in the box," Edwards said. "From that aspect of it, his attention to detail and what he brings to the table should pan out well for us."
Smith is responsible for making every sort of play that a defender can make. Aside from leading the team in tackles with 120, Smith also collected nine pass breakups and five interceptions, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and one forced fumble.
"I really get to do it all – blitz, play deep, come down and contain the run. I really get to do everything that a defensive player could be assigned to," Smith said. "It kind of lets you get involved in every aspect of the game."
Smith's production was copious and varied, but his head coach keeps it simple when describing what he likes about his hard-hitting safety.
"The thing I like most about Harrison is he's a football player, he's intelligent," Zimmer said. "He comes and asks questions if he doesn't know and he'll try to do it to the very best he possibly can."
The bottom line? Smith's a perfect fit.