By David Knox
TRUSSVILLE – Two former Hewitt-Trussville athletes who transferred back ended up being huge difference-makers for the Huskies in 2016.
One, Connor Adair, is the Tribune’s Offensive Player of the Year.
The other is Christian Smith, our selection as Defensive Player of the Year.
Smith returned from Leeds when Josh Floyd was hired, and Huskies fans are happy he did.
From his tackle position, the 6-foot-2, 298-pound senior racked up an impressive 43 solo tackles and 23 assists for a total of 66 stops, a huge number for a defensive lineman whose job is mainly to clog up blockers for the linebackers to clean up. He did that well, creating opportunities for Nicholas Jackson, who led the Huskies for the second straight year in tackles, Peyton Horn and Simon Miskelley. Also teams didn’t really relish the thought of running at the big youngster, who runs a 5.0 40, so those 66 tackles are more impressive.
He had 18 tackles for loss, the most among defensive linemen in our area, and added three sacks for 16 yards in losses. He also had 16 quarterback hurries and deflected two passes.
“He’s a great player,” Floyd said. “He just dominated the middle the entire season. It all starts up front, on either side of the ball. The league we play in, you better have some animals up front.
“He’s a guy who made plays himself. Christian plays really well with his hands, does a good job of coming off blocks, so he made a lot of plays. But he’s also the guy who’s keeping the offensive linemen off the linebackers to allow Nick Jackson to have a ton of tackles. We’re really proud of the way he played.”
Smith had plenty of stiff competition for the honor. Pinson Valley’s Desmond Scott, a junior, had 65 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and four sacks from his defensive line position. Clay-Chalkville’s Keilend Clayton, another defensive lineman, had 47 tackles, 10 TFL and an area-leading eight sacks. Zapheth Cunningham of Pinson had 100 total tackles and four sacks from his linebacker position.
But Smith’s teammate Jackson might have made the strongest case, with a whopping 159 tackles, 15 TFL and four sacks from his linebacker position. He had an astounding 30 stops against Gadsden City and 24 against Buckhorn. If there were a 1A and 1B, Jackson would be right there.
But we had to make a tough call, and we went with the big man in the middle. Christian Smith is our Defensive Player of the Year.