UNION – Union County senior quarterback Keiston Smith has been the driving force behind the Yellow Jackets offense and on Dec. 15 he will showcase his talents in the 76th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas at Gibbs Stadium.
Smith, a three-year-starter with boundless athleticism, was one of two quarterbacks selected by Coach Ray Stackley (Stratford) and the South Carolina staff to play for the Sandlappers against North Carolina.
The other was Hilton Head’s Michael Julian.
“Keiston Smith has been a good quarterback for a couple of years,” said Stackley. “Of course, they (Union County) brought in a new coach – Steve Taneyhill, who was a great quarterback at the University of South Carolina – and under his tutelage we’ve definitely seen improvements on the film from last year to this year. He’s a guy that can throw it and can run the ball on quarterback plays.”
So far this season Union County’s signal caller has completed 145 passes for 2,321 yards and 22 touchdowns. His ability to tuck and run makes Smith all the more dangerous and he has rushed 73 times for 533 yards with nine touchdown carries.
“They say the Shrine Bowl game is really for the best of the best so it’s just an honor to be selected as one of the two quarterbacks,” said Smith.
While Taneyhill admits that he is “awfully hard” on Smith, his method has proven successful and his quarterback has developed into an offensive powerhouse.
At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Smith’s size and strength offer his team the distinct advantage of having a field general with a big arm who can run like a super-sized fullback.
“He’s carried us a lot,” said Taneyhill. “He’s played well in every game and he has a lot of talent. Our system is set up for reading defenses and he’s done a good job with it and gets better every week.”
Competing in the Shrine Bowl will give the undecided prospect a chance to shine on a larger stage in front of plenty of Division I recruiters.
Taneyhill feels that Smith is more than deserving of the opportunity.
“It’s definitely an honor that he’s earned from game one to game seven,” said Taneyhill. “Some kids might get an offer as a junior from a D1 (university) and they’re automatically gonna be in this game. I think Keiston’s earned it by what he’s done through seven football games. The fact that they only chose two quarterbacks makes it an even bigger honor.”
Under the guidance of Taneyhill, Smith has sharpened his talents and with some impressive skill players at his disposal, his success as a senior was almost inevitable.
Union County’s 2012 season has featured a disciplined dual threat quarterback who can extend plays and make things happen.
Taneyhill expects that Smith will contribute as much for the South Carolina Sandlappers on Dec. 15.
“He’s gonna get the opportunity to earn a starting spot and the way it sets up, he’ll play half the game, at least,” said Taneyhill. “They’re gonna run a spread with a little bit of zone read which he can do. With the things that we’re doing this year and the things he’s learned in the past, I think Keiston will do well in that game.”
Smith acknowledged that he has matured as a quarterback and attributes most of his progression to experience.
“I’m a lot different this year than I was last year,” said Smith. “I stay in the pocket and let the play develop more.”
He mentioned one other important factor: “Hard work,”said Smith. “It pays off.”