Linebacker Brandon Smith
RE: Reaction on getting the call and impressions of the Panthers
It has been, whew. Been on edge for the past few days and everything like that. Truly it's a blessing to be in this position to be honest with you. I know I have a lot of family from that area as well as (Panthers defensive lineman Yetur (Gross‐Matos) being from that area. Him being a Virginia native and also going to Penn State. So, I know a lot about the program and know that he has been put in a great situation to be successful. I know that I'll be placed in that position as well. I'm still shaking, but overall, I'm glad to be a Panther. Blessed to be a Panther and ready to get started.
RE: If he knew Matt Rhule's background as a linebacker at Penn State
I don't know a whole lot of his background as of right now, but that is definitely something to look into and learn more on.
RE: Where he is calling from
I'm in New York.
RE: If he had a private draft party
Private party. I have like 30‐something people here from family as well as agency or whatever like that. We're pretty stacked. I'm in one of the other rooms right now.
RE: What he thinks his role will be with the Panthers
Right off the jump I'm more than likely going to be playing in special teams and stuff like that. I'm definitely going to work my way up and be in the rotation. No matter where it is at as far as position wise. I'm just eager to get in the building and make my mark.
RE: How much he is aware of the history of linebackers at the Panthers
Definitely going to be learning more about it once I get there as well as throughout the time from here on out. Reading up on it. Familiarizing myself with it. Also, wanting to place myself within that group as well.
RE: If he sees himself as more an inside or outside linebacker
I feel like for the most part with my body and size frame and stuff like that I'll be more so of an outside. But also, I played inside as well. So, I feel like I can do both at a very good rate to be honest with you. Ultimately, that's not really my decision to make. I'm willing to play whichever role.
RE: Player in the NFL his playing style is like
I would have to say Tremaine Evans as far as my body type and the way I move and everything like that. His range. That is somebody who I would basically say that my game is close to. Obviously, there's certain things that he does that well that I don't do well and there is certain things I do well that he particularly may not do as well. That is somebody that I would say I'm a very close comparison with.
RE: How he would describe his style of play
I'm really aggressive. I'm very good in coverage. Got a lot of drive to the ball. A longer body, so getting in throwing lanes pretty easily. I am a violent blitzer. When I have my mind set on something I'm going to get it for sure.
RE: Previous experience with that Panthers
I wasn't really in close contact with the Panthers throughout this process. But to be honest with you just how any draft goes, anything goes. To be honest with you I wasn't naive to the fact that I may become a Panther. I was really just keeping my mind open and letting God do his work.
RE: What this moment means to him
The wait is over. Blessed to be a part of the Panthers organization. I'm just ready to get to work to be honest with you. I'm just ready to go.
RE: Relationship with Yetur Gross‐Matos
For the most part, for myself, being on different levels or whatever like that, me being in college and him being in the NFL just kind of keep my talking to a minimum because I know the schedules and stuff like that are different and everything like that. I'm the type of person who is going to respect people's time. Really me and Yetur, as well as our families, very close as far as when I was there for my one year with him at Penn State. Both of our families hung out a good amount. Really, he's an overall good dude. Cool dude and I can't wait to play with him.
RE: If Gross‐Matos will be one of the first people he reaches out to
Of yeah. I will definitely get in contact with him. I will definitely get in contact with him.
Defensive End Amaré Barno
RE: How it feels to be drafted by the hometown team and if he was a Panthers fan
I didn't really like pick teams growing up, I just had players that I liked, different players like that. My brother was actually a Panthers fan. I got to hear about the Panthers all the time, either way. Being able to stay home, it's great.
RE: Any Panthers players that he liked
Yeah, definitely Cam Newton. Watching him in college too, seeing him go to the Panthers early. He's just a great player.
RE: Where the Panthers are talking about playing
Yeah, it's definitely the edge. Using me at other places too, but I'm thinking it's the edge.
RE: His 40‐yard dash time at the Combine and if he expected to run that fast
I kept running low 4‐4s during training, so when they told me the time, I was like woah, I guess I was moving just a little bit faster than I usually do just because it was on the big stage.
RE: If he has any track background
I didn't really like run track, but I just did the little summer thing. They use to have practice and stuff during the summer and I use to just go out there with them, and run a little bit.
RE: If he has any connections to the Panthers staff, scouts or players
I know a few of the players and coaches go into my stepdad's barber shop. He cuts their hair and stuff like that.
RE: Where the barbershop is
It's in Charlotte. It's at the mall.
RE: If it is at Southpark Mall
No, I think it's a different mall. I don't know the name.
RE: If his parents live in Charlotte
Yes, my parents live in Charlotte.
RE: If he has spent a lot of time in Charlotte
RE: If his parents still have a house outside of Columbia or if their home is in Charlotte Charlotte now
Yes, it's in Charlotte.
RE: If speed was his forte when being recruited and what he needs to work on to utilize his speed better
Yes, just being able to utilize my speed. I think pass rush and stuff, adding it to my arsenal, continue improving moves that I don't use in the game. I am still kind of new to the position, just being able to have that experience and get after it.
RE: What position he played before
I played middle linebacker.
RE: Why did the coaches make the position switch and how it suited his game
They just wanted me to get closer to the ball. They didn't want me to do too much thinking, just go, just be able to just go and get after the ball.
RE: Reaction to be a part of a defensive line with Brian Burns
Just being behind someone like that, just be able to learn things from him, have experience and stuff like that and just continue to improve my game.
Offensive Lineman Cade Mays
RE: How he would introduce himself to the fanbase
I would say that I play the game the right way. I am going to come to work every day and I am going to give the organization everything I've got. I am going to be a great guy in the locker room. I am excited to get to know those guys and am looking forward to it.
RE: How he would describe his play style
I would say I play hard. I look at it from a really microscopic lens. I try to put together a really good game plan to go out and perform at a high level when I do play. I try to bring the guys along with me. This past year on the O‐line just trying to get us to play as a unit and play together. I play the game the right way. I play hard and I try to play it physical.
RE: Where the Panthers envision him playing
Haven't really had that conversation with them. I assume somewhere, you know I played all five positions, so I am assuming anywhere on the inside with the ability to play tackle. So, haven't had that conversation yet but looking forward to it.
RE: If he plays inside first but can also play outside
RE: If he has any connections with the Panthers
I don't think any of my former teammates play at the Panthers. I met with them at the Combine, but no former connections.
RE: If he has any connections to Charlotte
I have never been to Charlotte. I am really excited to see the city. I have heard it is beautiful. I have heard great things about it. So, never been there but I am really excited to go.
RE: His family's reaction to him playing at Georgia and then transferring to Tennessee
For sure. They supported me going to Georgia. They were going to come to any game anywhere I went. If I went to school in California they would have been at the games. They would have supported anything that I wanted to do. After my two years at Georgia my little brother went to Tennessee and ultimately it was my best decision to come and play with him. We had a lifelong dream to play college football together. Being able to come back to Tennessee and do that with him was so special.
RE: What position he plays best
I feel like anywhere on the O‐Line. Anywhere where I can come in and add value to the team. Wherever they need me I am willing to play.
RE: His experience playing at two SEC schools
Every day you are playing against, when I was at Georgia, I was playing every day against the number one pick in the draft this year. And there was three dudes on the D‐Line that were drafted first round. So every day at practice you are playing against the best competition. It is the same way in the games. You are going to get a dude who is going to get drafted first round, top two rounds, All‐Americans. There is not really a down week in the SEC. Every week you're getting a guy that is a really good player. It is definitely elite. I would say it is the best conference in the United States.
RE: If the SEC prepared him for the NFL
Absolutely. I definitely think playing in the SEC I have seen some really good player and learned a lot of good things throughout my years in the SEC. I think it prepares me well for the NFL and I am looking forward to it.
RE: If he has any background with Ikem Ekwonu
It was actually funny. We were sitting right next to each other, side by side, on the plane to the combine. So, it was a tight squeeze. Had a good conversation with him on the plane. He seems like a great dude. I know he is a heck of a football player, and I am excited to bridge that relationship.
RE: Where they were on the plane to the Combine
We were on the exit row. We both had the genius idea we were going to get some extra leg room, but we both thought too well and got stuck right next to each other.
RE: Where he flew out of to the Combine
I flew out of Phoenix, and I think he was flying somewhere in California, and I think he connected in Phoenix. So, we got thrown on the same flight.
RE: What he and Ekwonu talked about on the plane
We talked a little bit at the beginning of the flight. Once the flight got taken off, I think it was like a three‐hour flight, so we caught some Zs in there. Seems like a really good dude and I am excited to have some good conversations with him.
Cornerback Kalon Barnes
RE: On being recruited by Matt Rhule
Most definitely. I remember because Baylor was one of my top picks when I was getting ready to pick schools. I remember going through that process. Every chance I got to go to Baylor, I took my chance to go. So, I kind of had a relationship going with all the coaches.
RE: On if it is weird being reunited with Matt Rhule
No. It's not weird. It just feels like I'm getting back with the people I started with. I don't feel weird about it.
RE: On being the fastest in the NFL
Most definitely. I feel like I got a lot to prove. A lot of people just say I rely on my speed and I'm just trying to be a complete cornerback. Just not rely on my speed.
RE: On if he was stunned on how fast he was at the combine
No, sir. It was kind of already expected because of my times from coming out of high school. I was coming out of high school real fast, and I had a fast class coming to Baylor. So, I just put in a little bit of extra work. I did what I did at the combine. It was already expected.
RE: On when he last got beat in a race
I don't really race too often. I don't really race too often. I don't really race.
RE: On his nickname "Boogie Barnes"
The name came from when I was really young. I used to have this dance. I don't know what the dance is. I don't know how to dance anymore. The name just stuck. It kind of started out at my games. My mom and my daddy would be saying, "let's go Boogie." And they wanted to know who Boogie was. It kind of got out. And then when it did get out, the name just kind of stuck.
RE: On how old he was when the nickname started
I was probably like three. Three or four years old.
RE: On if his parents stared using his nickname once he was in youth sports
Nah. At first, it was just like a family name at first. It was pretty much family. Then kind of in high school, that's when everybody else knew who Boogie was.
RE: On what Matt Rhule called him
He called me Kalon. He had his days. Sometimes he called me Kalon. Sometimes he called me Boogie, so you never know.
RE: On his style of play
Fast, more handsy. I try to put my hands on you at the line. During this process I kind of tried to do more like Xavier Howard. He went to Baylor also. That's the person I was looking up to at the time. Then I was training at Florida. I talked to him a few times when I was out there training. So, I would say Xavier Howard is a big person I look up to.
RE: On his connections to the Carolinas
I know Bravvion (Roy.) But I've never been up that way before.
RE: On the NFL draft hat he was wearing on zoom
My cousin, he already had it made. So, we were just waiting for my name called. He brought the hats out.
RE: On how the day was for him
It was a long day. Just a long day. I just sat there and waited out. Like Coach (Matt) Rhule always told us when I first got to Baylor, just trust the process. I trusted the process. Waited my turn. Waited for my name to be called.
RE: On going from college to the pros
Just work. I know for a fact I need to be more consistent in my tackling. I had a lot of string tackles this last season. So that's something I really want to lock down on this tackling.
General Manager Scott Fitterer & Head Coach Matt Rhule
RE: What Coach Matt Rhule liked about today's picks
Matt Rhule: I think Scott (Fitterer) called me on the way in this morning with the potential of maybe moving up. Talked about certain guys. Brandon Smith was a guy that we targeted for a long time. I don't know what, Scott, six foot four, two hundred and fifty pounds, four five forty. Part of that group of kids that is young. Came out early. You see all the physical traits. Especially in this division where you have to have linebackers who can run with tight ends, run with running backs. And so just being persistent enough to find a way to get back into the fourth. To think yesterday we didn't have a second or third. We got into the third. We were able to get back into the fourth. Pick up a physical specimen like Brandon Smith and then follow that up by two other of the fastest players in the draft. So, really excited about the moves that were made to get Brandon here.
RE: If Brandon Smith or Matt Rhule was the better linebacker out of Penn State
MR: Yeah, I got a text that Brandon didn't know that I had played there. You would be surprised that there are not a lot of pictures of me hanging at the Penn State football facility. They are saved for like LaVar Arrington, Jack Hamm, those types of guys. Shane Conlan. But in all seriousness, Brandon has got all the tools to be a great talent and a great player. Now the real work starts, right? You take guys coming out after three years. Especially with the COVID year. You know (Penn State Head) Coach (James) Franklin and them do a great job, but we really have to get them here and get them to learn our system so we can get them on the field as fast as possible.
RE: If Rhule recruited Kalon Barnes at Baylor
MR: Yeah, I recruited "Boogie" (Barnes) and coached him for I guess it would be two years now.
RE: What Rhule remembers from coaching Barnes and bringing him to Carolina
MR: I think the biggest thing is that he went and raced shorts. He ran like a ten one hundred. I mean he is a track athlete who plays corner and six foot. At the end of the day, we were going back and forth between two players, and you know Scott made the decision to go at the end of the draft really go with traits. Evan Cooper is our DB coach. He coached him. He is smart. He is competitive. But he's four‐two-eight. He is one of the fastest guys to run at the combine. So, I had a lot of players that played for me in this draft that went. I had a lot of fun facetimes with guys that went in day two from Baylor. But we brought Boogie here not because I coached him but because he can flat fly and so put him in a room with guys like Jaycee Horn and Dontae Jackson and let him really learn his craft. I think he can potentially emerge as a player.
RE: What Rhule likes best about this draft class
MR: Well, I think it's a rare time when we are able to address need and take what we felt like was the best player possible. Again, Scott, I thought, did an amazing job of what is it now, it's multiple trades yet again for the second year. We felt like we have a really deep team now. We feel like over the past couple of years we have built depth. Scott has done a great job at going out at the 53 cut at the end of the year and bringing guys in to build depth. And we wanted some impact players. So, to me Ickey (Ekwonu) has a chance to be an impact player you know with helping our offensive line which has been obviously coming out of the end of the season something that we wanted to improve. Matt Corral is the guy we were talking about being a day one pick for us. For whatever reason he was available in the third round, and we made the move to go get him. But then I think the athleticism of today. To take Brandon Smith. (Amare) Barno at I dont know what Scott? Six five? Six four? He ran a four‐three‐eight. And then Boogie at four‐two‐eight. I think having guys that run that fast. They just make you special teams better. When a guy like Bryan Burns needs to blow or Marquis Haynes need to blow you have a guy like Barno that can step in and has the same skill set. So, I like the fact that we got targeted guys. The right guys. And then to add Cade Mays, a guy we had ranked really highly on the offensive line to bring some depth inside. I think that is really good as well. I think it is really targeted. We got great value. Never thought that we would get Ickey. Fired up to get Ickey. Never thought that we would end up with Matt. We got Matt. So, today was just a blessing.
RE: Is there is one position you leave the draft with feeling you have to upgrade still
Scott Fitterer: Yeah, I would say return specialist. We need someone to emerge in that area. We have some people on our team that can do it. We will look into free agency and some other places for a return specialist.
RE: Elaborating on Fitterer and the scouting department's job this week and their ability to execute the game plan
Rhule: I would say that Scott's greatest impact comes when you look at the work being done by people whose names we don't ever hear. When it's Samantha Diamond, the scouting coordinator, when it's all the assistants on the road, it's the scouting interns in place because it's amazing. You spend thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of manpower to write these reports and get all the background and get all this information on players so that you can make your decision on a clock in eight minutes. So I think Scott has built a really well, finely tuned oiled machine. I think he does an amazing job of giving people a say but at the same time having a standard for what he wants. (Assistant General Manager) Dan Morgan is a tremendous component to that. I think (Vice President of Player Personnel) Pat Stewart is a tremendous component to that, Cole Spencer, that's our director of college scouting, really firm in what he believes in but still loves to talk and discuss. I think Samir (Suleiman) does a fantastic job in terms of being disciplined about the money. But there is many many others. But at the end of the day, what I love about working with Scott is, you know he spends so much time around our team that he understands, hey this is how we want to play, this is what we need to make our team better. His constant question is, "Hey what's the vision for this player? How are we going to use him?" So he is not just picking based on ego or instinct or anything, he's picking based upon how are we going to use this player and how are we going to win. I think his whole staff is representative of that. I will finish by saying, you know two years ago there was a combine and there were no 30 visits, there were no pro days really. Last year there was no combine, there were a couple pro days, no 30 visits. This was the first year where everything came to fruition. I think in a year where we were limited in picks we got a tremendous amount of value and I think it started in free agency. I think it's a credit to Scott but also Dan, Pat, all the guys he has executing this.
RE: If there was a trend today to go with players who had high level physical traits
SF: It's basically what presented itself on the board. You know when you look there were a lot of good accomplished players that had gone and what standing there was a bunch of really athletic, almost freakish athletic guys and we are a draft‐and‐develop organization and that is where we trust our coaches to get with these players and develop them. We have a vision for them. So once we get them here they become ours, we can get them with the coaches, put them in a position where they can excel. That's what we plan to do with these guys. Until they do that, until they become impact position players we know that can contribute on special teams with their speed and athleticism.
RE: Expanding on the idea that Fitterer said the team wasn't really concerned with the number of players selected but was focused more on getting good players.
SF: I think last year, I think we ended up with, what was it 11 draft picks last year, several free agents. This year we came into it with fewer draft picks. Our intention was, let's get quality players, let's get guys that can come in and help us whether it is on special teams or come in and add depth or come in and compete with someone like Ickey. Those are the type of players that we were focused on this year. And then we are going to use the rest of the year, the 53 man cut, we'll use the trade deadline. It's just not the draft, there are several other avenues to acquire. So we are going to keep our eyes open for those as well.
RE: How many undrafted free agents the team expects to sign
SF: We are working on that right now. Our guys are upstairs calling. I can't remember if it were like 12 or so. We expect to fill those up.
RE: The next priorities and what will that process will be like for undrafted free agents and others
SF: Like I said, obviously the return game is one area we want to improve. We just want to improve depth everywhere and have competition. Whether it's at linebacker, whether it's at DB, there are other spots we are going to add to, that's receivers. We'll do that and we're going to do that at free agency at this point.
View photos of all six of the Panthers draft picks in 2022.