your right in that Smallville, was "How does a younger Clark, handle similar problems that Superman does, before he is Superman?", which is very different to the young lives of other Clark Kents.
Even with the age difference, I would have liked to have seen him being smarter about thing, and not quite as sacred to use his powers as he was. Fair enough all the young Clarks will have that in some small way, and its part of Superman that he knows when to and when not to use his powers, but I do feel Smallville took that to far.
Maybe this is too specific, but how many younger Clarks, had as much of a problem with flying as Smallvilles Clark did? Certainly there was nothing about the Earth in the Smallville verse, that prevented him from flying, other characters were more than capable of it.
Also whilst you are right to split the show like you did, there wasnt too much of a problem in the early seasons, where he was in High School, and no one expected him to be the big hero. Also in those season the group (almost Buffy like) dynamic worked well, the problem came later when he still needed as much help as he was getting in high school, and still not fully embracing his powers.
Only thing I ever thought about the Smallville verse, is how much kryptonite there was around, how oddly that it meant that unlike previous Clarks / Superman he was alot more aware he was more mortal than his other selves.