June 15, 2010

Coaches, campus make Smith a Vol

Having seen his offer sheet explode to 22 current scholarship opportunities, Tom Smith wasn't sure a commitment would be on the horizon when he visited the University of Tennessee and camped with the Volunteers the last few days.

But the granite-like tailback from Apopka, Fla., found all his questions answered, and more importantly, discovered an easy comfort level with the Vols' coaches and the UT campus. So committing to Tennessee and first-year head coach Derek Dooley became an easy choice for Smith on Tuesday morning.

"I didn't know what was going to happen because it was my first time up here, and I just came up here to camp and to show them that I really liked Tennessee and wanted to take it to the next level," said Smith, whose stock has steadily reason both after a 1,600-yard, 27-touchdown effort last fall and his continued excellence on the spring and summer camp circuits.

For the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Smith, he felt an instant connection with UT's coaches and the campus lifestyle. In fact, he's already planning to return to Knoxville shortly after the Fourth of July holiday next month.

"Just having a good relationship with all the coaches was big, and I had a good relationship with the head coach also. I had more time talking to coach Dooley than the other (head) coaches recruiting me, and I really felt a good vibe when I was talking to him," Smith said. "I just love Tennessee, the facilities, the major I'm majoring in (sports marketing) is great for me. Everything."

Smith, whose strength is obvious but who also possesses breakaway speed with a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, praised the coaching and structure of the Vols' camp.

"The camp was more technical than any camp I've went to. Everything was just speed and tempo and when you're doing something, coaches are right there in your ear coaching you up," Smith explained. "And they showed us some of their plays. I feel comfortable with their running style and doing these drills and how they're coaching me. They're not only about football but also the people around football. It's like a home to me."

Now that Smith, who intends to begin recruiting his Sunshine State peers to look at UT, is flying home with a college decision, he's got team-first goals in mind for his final year at Apopka High School.

"I want to work on my leadership and focus on making it, our team is young right now. I'm going to be motivating everybody and getting them to the varsity level they should be at and working harder and harder every day and staying humble," Smith explained. "I'm just going to focus on my senior year, activities with the team, motivating the seniors in my class to not give up on things and realize God is going to put you wherever He thinks is best for you. It's not always about the name of the school or whatever. It's where it fits you."

A rising prospect, Smith is rated a three-star tailback and the No. 43 player in the country at his position by Rivals.com.

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