Left tackle is the final frontier for Parker Smith in his fifth year at UC Davis. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior has started at every other position on the offensive line except for the one that is responsible for protecting quarterback Ben Scott’s blind side.
Smith welcomes the challenge of blocking the opposing team’s best pass rusher, and his first test will come in Thursday night’s opener at Nevada. After all, he volunteered to make the switch to fill the void at left tackle after the Aggies lost Ian Joseph to graduation. Joseph started at left tackle the past four seasons.
“I made it known that if they wanted me to make the switch, I was OK with it,” Smith said. “There was no hesitation. It was doing something for the team. It’s going to be a challenge. Tackle is my best position. It’s going to make me a better football player. If I wasn’t a fifth-year senior (Smith redshirted in 2011), I would be nervous and not very sure of myself. I have to know I can beat the guy (across the line of scrimmage).”
Starting will be nothing new for Smith, who began the 2014 season at right guard and then moved to right tackle when Christian Schneider was injured. When center Jay Luchetti broke his right wrist, Smith assumed the snapping duty in the final six games.
The Archbishop Mitty School (San Jose) graduate started nine games at left guard in 2013, so the change to left tackle will give Smith the distinction of having started at all five positions on the offensive line. That speaks to his versatility.
This season will be the first during which Smith will have a position to call his own. As much as he has been willing to play wherever he has been needed, he is tired of being the jack of all trades without having an entire season to master one position.
Luchetti graduated along with Joseph, so Smith probably could have remained at center if he had not offered to move to left tackle. The Aggies thought enough of Smith’s play at center last season that he remained at center when Luchetti returned to action. Luchetti moved to right guard.
The cast on Luchetti’s wrist would have made it difficult for him to snap the ball, but Smith would have relinquished the center job if Luchetti wanted it.
(Luchetti) was the guy at center. If he would have wanted to play center, he would have been the guy at center,” Smith recalled after a recent practice. “Jay said he didn’t care where he played as long as he was on the field. That says a lot about him.”
The Aggies also thought enough of Smith to send him to the Big Sky Football Kickoff last month in Ogden, Utah. Each of the 12 conference teams sent one player to the media event, and many of the 12 players in attendance were accustomed to being in the spotlight. Only two were offensive linemen, Smith and Weber State’s Joe Hawkins.
Smith admitted he felt a bit out of place in elite company. “It hit me once I got there,” he said. “There were like (potential) NFL guys there, guys with unbelievable talent. I had to tell myself that I deserved to there. (UC Davis) could have sent a number of guys, but I can represent my team as good as anybody.”
Smith tries to makes it sound as if moving from one position to another is no big deal. Anybody who knows anything about football will not buy that. Think of the offensive line as a puzzle. The five pieces are different, but they somehow have to fit together.
The center makes the blocking calls in addition to snapping the ball. The guards have to be strong enough to handle defensive tackles and agile enough to pull on perimeter running plays. The tackles have to protect the quarterback on passing plays.
“It’s all the same to me,” Smith quipped. “I don’t want to make it harder than it has to be. I could switch back and forth. At some point, I might move (again). I’ve got that in the back of my mind.”