Miami Hurricanes may have found a new fullback in Mike Smith

Mike Smith (right) carries the ball after intercepting a pass last season against Appalachian State. (Getty Images)

Mike Smith (right) carries the ball after intercepting a pass last season against Appalachian State. (Getty Images)

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After “making a jump” in his play at linebacker, one Hurricane is jumping to the other side of the ball.

Redshirt junior Mike Smith, a reserve linebacker, will get a shot to play fullback this fall, a UM spokesperson confirmed Monday.

The school’s online roster was updated last weekend to list Smith a “FB/LB” rather than a “LB.” His jersey number was changed from 57 to 35.

Miami needs a hard-hitting, physical player to take over the spot vacated by Marquez Williams, a former Division 2 transfer whose lone season in Coral Gables was impressive enough to get him drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Smith seems ready for the challenge. “God wouldn’t give me something I can’t handle,” he posted on his Instagram account, with a picture of his new UM profile page.

Smith, listed at 6-foot-1 and 236 pounds, was a three-star recruit out of Miami Northwestern High in 2014. He has played in 19 games as a reserve linebacker, 13 of them last year. In his career he has made 18 tackles, assisted on one tackle for loss, forced one fumble and intercepted one pass.

The interception came late in last season’s blowout win at Appalachian State. Smith secured a tipped pass and returned it three yards.

In the spring, coaches praised Smith’s improvement. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz named Smith as one of UM’s most improved returning players on defense, adding he had “really made a jump” in his play at middle linebacker.

Last year Smith, who goes by “Rasta Mike” on social media, was the backup to true freshman Shaq Quarterman, one of three sophomores expected to start at the linebacker spots (Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney). If Smith becomes a full-time fullback, his linebacker reps could go to freshman Bradley Jennings, who enrolled early. Coaches are hopeful for greater contributions from redshirt junior Darrion Owens and redshirt sophomore Jamie Gordinier, both of whom are coming off knee injuries (two years removed, in Owens’ case). Either could play middle linebacker if needed.

Williams’ departure left UM without a scholarship fullback. Fullbacks on UM’s roster include walk-ons Cesar Castillo (Jupiter High), Danny Dominguez and Jack Pope, none of whom have appeared in a game. Castillo and Dominguez are juniors. Pope is a freshman.

Converting linebackers to fullbacks is common, given the physical requirements of the position. In recent seasons, the Hurricanes used converted linebackers Gage Batten and Walter Tucker with mild success. Conversely, one of the best Miami linebackers ever — Jon Beason, a three-time NFL Pro Bowler — began his career as a fullback.

Beason’s college offensive stats: one carry for three yards. Smith, after last year’s interception return, has produced exactly the same.

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