Quanterus Smith has always been sort of a diamond in the rough.

There’s no hiding now.

Smith, a 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound defensive end, made a statement last week when he recorded three sacks for a net loss of 27 yards at No. 1 Alabama.

The senior now appears destined for the NFL. He’s ranked No. 20 of 194 defensive ends, according to

The NFL once seemed like an unlikely destination for Smith, a high school senior who was virtually unrecruited.

“I had JUCOs, but I didn’t want to do JUCO,” he said. “I didn’t want to do two years and then go somewhere else. The one, if I had to, it was going to be Georgia Military.”

Instead, Smith left Grayson High School in Georgia in 2008 and headed to Bowling Green, knowing full well he’d be redshirted his freshman season as he worked to get bigger and stronger.

Between that time and now, Smith has put on 50 pounds and become one of the Sun Belt Conference’s top pass rushers.

“We’ve done a good job here in the strength program and developing him, and obviously he’s got some stuff you can’t coach,” WKU defensive line coach Eric Mathies said. “He’s got some God-given talent. He’s motivated and he’s extremely athletic. Anytime you’re athletic and you’re motivated and you’re a pass rusher, you’re going to have success. He had a look in his eye last week that was just – almost like a prize fighter. It was like he was stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson and he knew he could knock him out and that’s how he played.”

Smith said he’s also become more of a student of the game – studying film, working on technique and anticipating what move his opponent will make.

He led WKU with 71⁄2 sacks last season and entered the season with 111⁄2 for his career to go along with 54 career tackles.

“He’s improved a lot from a maturity standpoint,” WKU senior defensive tackle Jamarcus Allen said. “He’s always been a great football player, he’s becoming more of a student of the game. He’s got speed and the ability to bend around the corner. He’s also strong, too. He’s just got it all.”

Smith also played basketball at Grayson, which was just laying the foundation as a football powerhouse in Georgia.

He had his sights on playing college basketball until a GHS assistant coach told Smith learning how to handle the ball and shooting may be imperative to make that work – something Smith wasn’t all too good at.

“I would just post up and rebound,” Smith laughed.

The final decision has worked out.

Smith was named one of the Sporting News’ five defensive linemen to watch this summer. He was also named second team all-Sun Belt in 2011.

“He’s always been a hard worker,” said senior defensive tackle Rammell Lewis, who attended Grayson with Smith. “He’s just finally got to this point where it’s finally paying dividends. It finally got to that point where he’s understanding the game and putting all the pieces together. It’s definitely showed on the field and off the field tremendously.”

Smith said the difference between the player he was in 2008 to the player he is now is “a huge gap.” He has also simultaneously tried to ignore, while use as motivation, predictions that he’ll play on Sundays.

Three sacks on one day against Alabama, however, won’t punch his ticket.

“What I told him is, ‘Never be satisfied,’ ” Mathies said. “It’d be a dang shame if he goes out and three sacks is all he has on the season, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.”

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