AUBURN, Ala. — It’s been a couple of banner days for Auburn offensive tackle Braden Smith, a quiet lineman who isn’t accustomed to the spotlight.
On Thursday, Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated listed Smith at No. 12 in his 2017 “Freaks List.” The annual rankings count down Feldman’s top 40 “workout warriors in college football.”
“The 6-foot-6, 303-pound Kansan has started 27 consecutive games and made some All-America teams in 2016,” Feldman wrote Thursday. “Smith’s combination of strength and speed is startling.”
Smith, who will represent Auburn at SEC Media Days next Thursday in Hoover, Ala., has turned plenty of heads for his physique and athleticism since he arrived on the Plains in 2014.
Auburn strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell told Feldman that the senior lineman bench presses nearly 500 pounds, runs a 4.94-second 40-yard dash, and has a broad jump (9’9½”) that would be the best mark at the NFL combine the last four years.
“The most impressive thing to me is his mobility in his ankle and his hips,” Russell told Feldman. “Normally a guy his size who is that strong and powerful will be stiff and has trouble moving efficiently. Braden’s movement efficiency is incredibly smooth and is something you don’t see too often with a guy that size.”
Smith’s athleticism served him well at right guard, where he started the last two seasons for the Tigers. However, Auburn moved him to right tackle this spring, where he’ll be a physical bookend on Herb Hand’s veteran offensive line.
“I’ve never had one like him. He’s a most deserved FREAK,” Hand told Feldman. “His approach to his craft [is] very businesslike. Really developing as a leader, too. Holding the rest of the unit accountable to the standards he has set.”
Making Feldman’s list isn’t the first honor of its kind for Smith this summer. Late last month, Chase Goodbread of NFL.com put him at No. 15 in his countdown of “college football’s most freakish athletes.”