Here is a shocking statistic: in 2009, 6 BCS players got at least 60 tackles and 11 sacks: Ndamukong Suh, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Wisconsin end O'Brien Schoefield, Purdue end Ryan Kerrigan, Oklahoma end Jeremy Beal, and ... Missouri Redshirt Freshman end Aldon Smith? Yep, it's true. Aldon Smith was the most productive Freshman in the NCAA last season, and I think the most underrated player in the FBS (though not the most underrated draft prospect).
Immediately after seeing his stats, I decided that I needed to scout Smith. I know that this year he is just a Redshirt Sophomore, but if he improves his play this year at all, I am talking 67 tackles and 13 sacks, he quite simply has nothing left to prove at the FBS level and should leave for the draft.
Physically, Smith isn't going to wow anyone. He possesses excellent height, but he could afford to add 10lbs of bulk, but he has solid athleticism (in football pads, but he runs a mediocre 40). Because he is so young, he still needs to mature out physically, but by the end of the year or so I expect he will bring good athleticism to the table. I am yet to see Smith really use the bull rush (the only Missouri game I've gotten to see this offseason was last year's Border Showdown against Kansas,) so I doubt he has much strength.
What makes Smith so special and so productive is his swim move. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Smith uses his swim move more effectively than every defender in the FBS. He does it with outstanding quickness and suddenness, he has long arms that help him separate from lineman, and he always uses the move with excellent form. Also, in general, he uses his hands brilliantly to separate from lineman. It's his use of his hands that makes him so special.
Smith attempts to use that swim move on just about every other play. The issue with using the swim move too often is that it will become predictable; lineman will eventually the start hitting the defender in the rib cage and start driving him off the ball. Smith can get away with it simply because he has been utilized brilliantly by the Missouri coaching staff. Missouri has a tendency to line Smith up at all areas of the line and use countless defensive line stunts with Smith. That doesn't work with ends that use the speed rush; for it is impossible to use the speed rush on the interior of the line. But it is exactly how a coach should use an end that relies on pass rush moves. If Smith lines up against every lineman on the opposing team, it will take more time for each individual lineman to catch on and see how heavily he relies on that swim move. Plus, coaches will be able to see what lineman defend his swim move the best and what lineman struggle against it the most. Missouri's use of Smith allows him to stay effective throughout the game, instead of just one quarter per game.
As I said before, I have only seen Smith play in one game. Kansas only ran the ball 11 times in the game. I honestly couldn't get a read on how good his instincts are, but he did seem like an effective tackler who plays with excellent intensity. He doesn't have much quickness off the ball, but I suspect that he has solid instincts though because of his excellent tackle numbers.
Here are some highlights of Smith:
Aldon Smith vs. Colorado (By the way: you see that swim move I was talking about on that last sack, and it's pretty easy to notice that he lines up all over the line throughout the game.)
Overall, I am amazed with Smith's use of the swim move and how well Missouri's coaching staff rotates him throughout the line. Smith has been so productive at the college level that he might leave for the draft; especially considering how staying in school if you are a polished defensive end doesn't tend to pan out very well (see: George Selvie). Smith is a great player, and I think he will be very successful at the NFL level.
NFL Comparison: Kyle Vanden Bosch, with less bulk.