College offers mount for Smyrna star RB Knight

SMYRNA — Mike Marks isn’t afraid to make the comparison.

As Smyrna High’s offensive coordinator, Marks coaches star running back Will Knight.

In one of his coaching stops before Smyrna, Marks was at Red Lion Christian School. There he was able to coach Wendell Smallwood, who is now a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Marks sees a lot of Smallwood when he looks at Knight, who is set to begin his senior year at Smyrna in the fall.

“Will is as good, if not better than Wendell was as a rising senior in high school,” Marks said.

College football programs are beginning to see the same things. Knight’s recruitment has really taken off in July. He has added four new offers this month, upping his total to five.

Smyrna’s Will Knight won the state’s Offensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore in 2015, was first team All-State last year and has 84 total touchdowns through his Eagles career. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

For a player with Knight’s resume, that figure still seems a little low. Knight won the state’s Offensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore in 2015, was first team All-State last year and has 84 total touchdowns through his career at Smyrna, which has won the Division I state title the last two seasons.

The one thing holding Knight back from a boatload of college offers is his size, according to what college coaches have told Marks. Knight is listed as 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, shorter than most Division I college running backs.

“Not many coaches want to put themselves out on a limb and say we’re just going to take the good football player instead of the kid that looks really good,” Marks said.

Knight can’t control his height, but he can go out and continue to dominate high school football like he has done for the last three years.

He’s performed well at his summer camps too. He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash in Pittsburgh earlier this month and a 4.5 at the University of Delaware last week. Delaware offered Knight a scholarship on Wednesday.

“People love him and the only knock they have is his size,” Marks said. “Typically undersized kids do get overlooked. I still think he’ll end up in a good situation, there’s no doubt in my mind. But I think he’s overlooked in a lot of ways. I know the people who really want him will get a tremendous player.”

“He’ll explode onto someone’s roster and do the exact same thing he did with our program,” Marks added. “He might not be tailor-made from a size standpoint for the next level. But he’s tailor-made as an athlete as I’ve ever seen.”

Knight currently holds Division I offers from Delaware, Albany, Coastal Carolina and Morgan State. He also has an offer from Division II Notre Dame College.

That Delaware offer creates a tantalizing possibility of reuniting with former Smyrna quarterback Nolan Henderson, an incoming freshman at UD this fall. Together, Knight and Henderson were at the forefront of Smyrna’s turnaround in football, leading the Eagles to back-to-back state titles in 2015 and 2016.

For now, Knight said he’s probably not going to decide on a college until later in his senior season. This gives time for even more offers to come in.

“I’ve gotten a lot of love from college coaches,” Knight said. “I want to wait the process out more for senior year to see how much I improve as an athlete and a student.”

Knight is coming off a junior season where he rushed for 1339 yards and 24 touchdowns in 12 games. He did that while splitting carries with West Virginia commit Leddie Brown, who was only at Smyrna for one season.

Brown has transferred to St. Frances in Baltimore for his senior year, but that shouldn’t have a negative effect on Knight. When Knight was a sophomore, Brown wasn’t at Smyrna and Knight rushed for 2015 yards in 13 games with 33 touchdowns, leading to his Player of the Year award.

This season, expect to see stats similar to what Knight did in 2015.

“Will will continue to be the best player and nothing will change in terms of the way that he plays,” Marks said. “He will get as many, if not more touches his senior year. The best part about Will is he is a team guy and we saw that last year. The bottom line is he’s going to do whatever it takes for his team to win and that’s what makes him so good.”

Having Brown on the team last year did help develop Knight’s game as a pass-catcher. He lined up in the slot sometimes and caught nine touchdowns while recording 737 receiving yards, both career highs.

That versatility has made him more appealing to college coaches.

“They like my speed and ability to go in the slot and catch the ball,” Knight said. “I can be an all-around athlete, in the backfield or in the slot if they need me.”

Knight’s senior season begins on Sept. 8 at Middletown High (7:30 p.m.) in a rematch of the 2016 state championship game. Knight rushed for three touchdowns that day as Smyrna won its second state title.

Chances are there will be a number of college scouts in attendance, looking to see what Knight can do this time.

“From the moment I laid eyes on him he’s done nothing but try to make himself into the best possible student and athlete he could possibly be,” Marks said. “I can’t say enough about the amount of work he’s put in. The future is so bright for him. He’s going to continue on that path, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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