Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith is one of the most special defensive talents in the ACC, and perhaps the nation, even though many college football fans do not know his name yet.
Smith finished third on the team with 64 total tackles in 2012, including 9.5 for loss.
During the Seminoles' game against Miami, commentator Kirk Herbstreit noted that former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was very high on Smith, and had even referred to him as a "baller."
Herbstreit went on to explain that if Stoops had that to say about a player, you know "he can cover some ground and make it happen."
The attributes that Stoops must have loved in Smith are numerous.
The extremely athletic, lean linebacker possesses exceptional range, outstanding instincts and devastating hit power.
Those three skills combined to make him an absolute game-changer in 2012.
Instead of falling into the trap of over-pursuing plays due to his elite speed, Smith demonstrated the agility and discipline to break down and make tackles immediately after accelerating to full speed on the way to the ball.
His instincts allow him to sniff out screens and swing passes early into their development, often blowing them up with ease in the backfield.
Smith is capable of beating virtually any back or dual-threat quarterback to the corner, one of the biggest reasons for Florida State's No. 2 national ranking in total defense.
Perhaps the most impressive example of this came in the Orange Bowl against Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch, who led all quarterbacks in rushing last season, appeared to have an easy opportunity to move the chains on a third down against the Noles. Then, out of nowhere, a flash of garnet and gold that was Smith flew onto the screen to stop Lynch from picking up the first.
The senior linebacker will likely be making the move from the outside to the inside in 2013, which many people will question due to his relatively small 215-pound build.
However, Smith plays as if he weighs closer to 240 pounds, yet he maintains his speed. The playmaking linebacker always stays low and runs through his tackles, demonstrating plenty of strength and enough bulk to hold his own in the middle.
Florida State did just fine with three speedy linebackers in 2012, and this year should be no different. Smith's instincts will also be a key asset at a position that usually emerges as the leader of a defense.
Smith actually reminds me a bit of Alabama's C.J. Mosley. Mosley is usually reserved for nickel packages for the Tide, as he has outstanding acceleration, range and closing speed.
The Alabama linebacker is projected by many to go early in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft while Smith remains off the radar of many professional scouts.
Though Mosley has about 25 pounds on Smith, I still think the Florida State stud has all the tools, not to mention the upside, to become one of the elite linebackers in college football during the 2013 season.
Keep an eye on Smith throughout fall camp, as the underrated linebacker is truly a special player.