Wiederer: Vikings 'D' is making a lasting mark with 'Eraser'

  • Updated: October 7, 2012 - 9:27 AM

Rookie safety Harrison Smith has delivered the type of game-changing plays that live up to his latest nickname.

hide

Harrison Smith (22) broke up a pass intended for Calvin Johnson (81) in the third quarter last Sunday.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Throughout his life, Vikings safety Harrison Smith has had his share of nicknames.

"H" -- that's the easy one.

Or Harry, as teammate Chad Greenway now calls him.

Once Smith had long hair, which led to his temporary identity as "Tarzan." On his arrival at Notre Dame in 2008, Smith was referred to as "Hayseed," because, in his words, "I was from the sticks in Tennessee."

But Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams may have found the most appropriate nickname: "The Eraser."

Williams borrowed that from mentor Tony Dungy. But it's exactly what he wants his safeties to be and what he's getting right now from Smith, a 23-year-old rookie who's more instinctive and fearless than most.

"He can erase some mistakes other people make," Williams said. "And that's been the biggest thing he's done."

Which brings us to safety Jamarca Sanford, who gushed about Smith as if he'd found a new best friend. In many ways, he has.

"Harrison's a smart guy," Sanford said. "Catches on real fast. He's the kind of guy who can see something in the classroom and take it to the field. ... It's like being back there with a veteran."

You might not have noticed Sunday, but Sanford was beaten twice for game-changing TDs by Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

The first came late in the first half when Johnson ran a post route and used his 7-inch, 40-pound advantage to shield Sanford from the ball. A perfect Matthew Stafford pass hit Johnson right in the hands in the end zone.

The second Johnson touchdown came after halftime when he twisted Sanford like a circus balloon, gained 4 yards of separation and strolled under a 65-yard TD toss.

What's that, you say? The box score of the Vikings' 20-13 victory doesn't show Johnson scoring? Oh, that's because of "The Eraser."

On that first near-TD, Smith darted to the middle of the end zone and put a shoulder into Johnson's midsection right after the pass arrived. Johnson couldn't hold on. On the third-quarter bomb, Smith recovered from the back side to erase Sanford's miscue, producing a key if underrated pass break-up.

Noted Williams: "That wasn't necessarily his play."

The Lions could have tied the score on that bomb. Instead, 21 seconds after Smith's eraser moment, Marcus Sherels returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown and the Vikings led 20-6.

These are exactly the plays that made the Vikings fall in love with Smith. The attraction heightened during their January week together in Mobile, Ala., where the Vikings staff coached Smith's North squad at the Senior Bowl.

The Vikings already were sold on the safety's intelligence. But in working with him, they recognized his prodigious alertness. And they confirmed that even with Smith's large frame (6-2, 215 pounds) he wouldn't be out of his element in pass coverage.

"Most big players get to be a little leggy; they don't change directions well," Williams said.

"But Harrison could do that. And he was a smart, instinctive ballplayer."

No wonder General Manager Rick Spielman did everything to assure Smith would be a Viking. Spielman engineered a trade with Baltimore on the draft's first night, moving the Vikings up from No. 35 to No. 29.

There he nabbed Smith and didn't have to deal with a sleepless night of waiting and hoping.

Now Smith's rapid maturation has aided a 3-1 start. And his "Eraser" skills certainly changed the narrative for Sanford last week. Instead of being skewered for allowing two Johnson TDs, Sanford received endless praise for his hustle and unselfishness.

Naturally, Smith's crushing hit on Johnson stands as his trademark moment.

"He's actually a lot bigger than I realized," Smith said. "Still, for me, once a play starts, you just react and play ball."

Added Sanford: "He gets to talking smack every now and then. I saw him talking one time [to Johnson]. He's like, 'You're getting scared. Coming across the middle. He's scared! He's scared!' "

Erasing mistakes is one thing. Erasing Calvin Johnson is on a whole different level.

Dan Wiederer • dan.wiederer@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd
NY Rangers 0
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close