Sometimes the inner quarterback in UC Davis senior offensive tackle Parker Smith pops out.
“He’s always asking me about pass concepts, and I’ll say, ‘That has nothing to do with you,’” Aggies quarterback Ben Scott said. “But that’s Parker. He’s really smart. He wants to know everything about the offense.
“We always joke that if all our quarterbacks go down, he’ll play quarterback because he knows our offense so well. He actually throws a pretty good ball. He has some good footwork.”
Smith, 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, hasn’t played quarterback for the Aggies, but he’s one of four UCD captains and has played all five interior offensive-line positions.
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He will be at left tackle Saturday night, protecting Scott’s blind side when the Aggies (0-1) play their home opener against South Dakota (0-1).
“It doesn’t matter where he is on the field,” UCD coach Ron Gould said. “He is like our second quarterback.”
It makes sense; Smith played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose.
“I tried it in high school and, luckily, we had a really good quarterback (Kyle Boehm) who wound up going to Cal,” Smith said. “So the dream was shattered for me pretty quickly.
“While I enjoyed being a quarterback, I clearly was better at offensive line (he was the West Catholic Athletic League Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior), and I enjoyed it a lot more.”
Smith’s love affair with blocking and flattening defenders grew at UC Davis, where he has played right tackle, both guard positions and center during his previous three seasons after redshirting in 2011. Last year, Smith made All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention as a center, though he also played right tackle.
“He’s really the heart and soul of what we do,” Gould said. “Whatever we’ve asked him to do, he welcomes it with open arms and does his best. I think he’s one of the best players in the conference.”
Gould moved Smith to left tackle this season after the graduation of All-Big Sky Conference first-team selection Ian Joseph, a former El Dorado High School standout who made 45 consecutive starts over four seasons.
“I put Parker there because I knew our quarterback would be in great hands having Parker on his back side to protect him,” Gould said. “He’s our best offensive lineman.”
Smith and fellow interior linemen Andrew Hunter, Kevin Gavigan, Julian Bertero and Christian Schneider had solid debuts in the Aggies’ 31-17 loss at Nevada on Sept. 3.
The offense had 327 total yards and 22 first downs and controlled the ball for 34 minutes to the Wolfpack’s 26 minutes. UCD committed no turnovers, and Scott, who had a career-high 32 completions, was sacked only once.
“That was kind of my fault,” Scott said. “I could have eluded that guy. They had a very physical front seven, so our guys did an excellent job of picking them up.”
Smith spent most of the game against speedy Nevada defensive end Ian Seau, the nephew of former NFL great Junior Seau, but didn’t give up a sack.
“I watched a lot of film to learn his moves,” Smith said.
He enlisted scout team players Hunter Wharton and Roland Ocansey to cheat on the snap count to replicate the speed and quickness Smith expected to encounter from Seau and the other Nevada defenders.
“They did a good job for me,” he said.
Gould said UCD will face another big, physical defensive line against South Dakota, which lost its season opener at Kansas State 34-0.
“Their front seven is pretty phenomenal, and they have an NFL-type guy in Drew Iddings (6-6, 285),” Gould said. “He takes up two gaps, so we’re going to have our hands full.”
That’s just the challenge Smith likes it. As a fifth-year senior, he’d like to help the Aggies make the breakthrough toward their first playoff appearance in the Division I era and first winning season since 2010.
“I’ve come to grips that this is it for my football life,” said Smith, who is about to get his real estate license and a degree in managerial economics. “I’m ready to move on to something else. But that makes this season even better. I come out here every day and give it everything I have. It’s refreshing.”