Smith Named Preseason All-American
Juszczyk Makes Second Team; Brate, Holuba Honorable Mention
Everyone knew rising sophomore Seitu Smith was quick on the field. Coming out of Florida, Smith was immediately one of the Harvard football team’s fastest players, and he provided a needed spark to the return game. But what has come as a surprise is how speedily he has gained national recognition.
Smith was not one of the Crimson’s most highly touted recruits last year, but his blazing speed combined with surprising strength helped him emerge as one of the best returners in the Football Championship Subdivision. He averaged 30 yards per return and brought one kick back for a score for Harvard.
At the end of the year, Smith earned honorable mention honors from Beyond College Sports Network, effectively ranking him near the bottom of the top 10 at his position. Just months later, though, he was named a first-team All-American kick returner by the same organization.
“It definitely surprised me that I made first team,” Smith said.
Three seniors chosen ahead of him at the end of the season were no longer eligible, but Smith also moved above several returning players on the list. He was the only underclassmen or member of the Crimson to make the first-team list on offense, defense, or special teams. Rising senior tight end Kyle Juszczyk was named to the second team while rising junior tight end Cam Brate and rising senior offensive lineman Jack Holuba received honorable mentions.
Harvard coach Tim Murphy is not settling for just having a premier returner, though. He still hopes to turn Smith into something more.
“Seitu made a big impact at kick returner, but we are hoping he can pick up some of the slack from the receivers that left and become a consistent, every-down threat,” Murphy said. “We are going to try to get him X number of touches exclusive of the kicking game.”
“While we expect him to have success in the kicking game, to reach his full potential we expect him to take the next step and become an all-around football player,” Murphy added.
Smith said he is ready for the challenge. In high school, he played wideout and returned kicks in addition to playing defensive back. Also, he mentioned that practice is set up in such a way that he can work with both the special teams and offensive units.
Those practices are already paying dividends according to Smith, who sees even more success in his future.
“Definitely there will be improvement next year. I’ve gotten bigger, stronger and faster this year,” he said.
After a successful freshman campaign, Smith has set even higher goals for year two.
“I’m going to be an every-down receiver this year, so for me this year’s goal is to have 2,000 all-purpose yards between receiving,running and returning,” Smith said. “I think it’s definitely possible.”
Beyond the ascension of Smith, the recent preseason All-American list provides evidence of a shifting Ivy League landscape. Perennial Ivy League contenders Penn and Yale had only one player make the list between them, a defensive lineman who earned an honorable mention. On the other hand, Cornell, which hasn’t hoisted an Ivy League trophy in two decades, had four players earn honors.
Murphy said that was a sign of increased depth in the Ancient Eight.
“There is no question that teams like Cornell and Brown, teams that haven’t necessarily been upper-tier teams, are ready to make a mark,” Murphy said. “This is becoming a deeper, wide open conference. It’s kind of unpredictable.”
That said, Murphy cautioned against marking this as the end of Penn's or Yale’s contention in the league.
“Number one, don’t for a second count Penn out, and number two, don’t for a second count Yale out,” Murphy said. “The thing you have to remember about Yale is that if you take out last year’s 45-7 aberration, the previous two years they should have beaten us. Both teams still have good players, so I wouldn’t read too much into that about either team.”
—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.