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January 7, 2011

Smith has first round hopes

In the hours after Missouri's 27-24 Insight Bowl loss, Aldon Smith wasn't sure where he would be playing football next year.

"If I would have had a decision after the bowl game," Smith said on Friday, "I would have come back."

But then the Missouri redshirt sophomore got his review back from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.

"They gave me a second round grade," he said. "But that board is usually conservative and I'm only going to go up from there."

With that, Smith became the second Tiger to declare for the 2011 draft this week. On Monday, quarterback Blaine Gabbert had done the same.

"That made my decision a little bit easier," Smith said. "But that wasn't the reason I decided to go."

Smith leaves Missouri as the single-season sack leader, racking up 11.5 as a redshirt freshman in 2009. Despite missing three full games with a broken fibula this season-and playing a few more at less than full strength-Smith had 5.5 more sacks and ten tackles for a loss this season. He could play either defensive end in a traditional 4-3 defense or outside linebacker ina 3-4 scheme.

"Both, I think," Smith said. "I've never played linebacker, but I'm willing to learn."

While Smith was productive in two seasons at Missouri, he still has a lot of room to grow. As he heads to Arizona to prepare for the NFL combine, Smith knows what he needs to do.

"Gain some weight and just show everybody what I can do," said the Raytown High School product. "Right now, only people around the Midwest or the state of Missouri know who I am. I want to be nationwide."

That ought to happen in about three months when some team calls his name on draft day. Smith has only one stipulation when asked which team he's hoping takes him.

"An NFL team," he said with a laugh. "I don't care."

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