Monday, December 21, 2009

Smith, Martin offer Shrine Bowl sparkle for N.C.

North Carolina, which wasn’t supposed to win this 73rd annual Shrine Bowl Game, did, hanging on to a 24-14 decision. In large part, that can be credited to coach Jim Oddo’s dogged faith in the Wing-T offense, a scheme he installed in one week and one that the Tarheels ran steadily, if not brilliantly.

But you also have to look at the performance of two vastly underrated members of the North’s defense.

They would be the still-uncommitted Kareem Martin (UNC, Duke, Virginia Tech) of Roanoke Rapids and Chris Smith (Arkansas) of West Rowan.

That the Razorbacks were able to steal Smith, the game’s NC defensive MVP, happened largely because West Rowan played him out of position at DE, despite his size. But he has been growing, most recently measured at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.

Arkansas stole him early, and area schools whiffed. With tremendous speed and instincts, he showed on Saturday why he could make any program in the nation better.

He finished with eight tackles from his DE slot, tying Martin for game high. Two of those were sacks, for a total of 28 yards in losses. And when Martin smashed into SC quarterback Cody Craig, forcing a fumble, Smith took it 67 yards for the game’s first score.

As for the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Martin, his eight tackles included a TFL for 11 yards and two forced fumbles, plus the recovery of another. That, and a lot of intimidation.

*The ball-handling was atrocious in this game (12 fumbles), but that may have been in large part due to the new Reebok footballs the teams were using. A number of players committed on how slick the balls were, and it showed.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting info? You know where I am, at

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