When he started playing high school football, Charles Smith always was suspicious when coaches had players run sprints during practice.
"I saw running as punishment," said Smith, who is 6 feet 6 and 375 pounds. "Nowadays, when we run, I know it's to make me better, it's not trying to hurt me or anything. I've got to get faster to improve my game."
Getting in better shape and improving conditioning has become a top priority for Smith, now a senior in his third year starting at defensive tackle for C.H. Flowers. In a county that also features standout linemen Antonio Logan-El at Forestville and Phillip Taylor at Gwynn Park, Smith is the biggest of them all. He is a defensive run-stopper and said his size is an advantage because it is difficult for blockers to move him and his ability to see over them allows him to watch the play develop.
Colleges, however, want Smith to lose some weight. Although he has not played offensive line since his freshman year, when he was a backup on Parkdale's Maryland 4A championship team, most of the colleges recruiting Smith envision him as an offensive tackle. They tell Smith he would be better off losing about 50 pounds, which Smith thinks he can achieve through exercise and a better diet. Rutgers is the first school to offer Smith a scholarship.
"He's never been fat, just big," Flowers Coach Mike Mayo said. "A lot of recruiters are talking to him about trimming down, so I told him he might as well start now."
Smith said he has lost some weight since practice began and can tell that he is moving around the field better. On Saturday, he will lead the No. 19 Jaguars against ninth-ranked Douglass in a meeting of undefeated Prince George's 4A teams that rely heavily on the run. The teams are very similar, Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney said, but Flowers has a size advantage, led by Smith.
It remains to be seen how Douglass will try to deal with Smith. Mayo said that opponents usually try to run plays to the side of the field opposite Smith.
"They seem to be running away from him, but he covers a lot of ground," Mayo said.
Douglass had success running the ball two weeks ago in a 28-0 victory over No. 13 Suitland, although All-Met linebacker Navorro Bowman missed most of that game because of an injured shoulder.
"We plan on stopping that run," Smith said. "Apparently against other teams [Douglass had success], but they haven't played us yet."