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East Carolina may have
scored the biggest in-state recruit of the entire year last weekend. And
“biggest'' is exactly the way to describe 6-foot-7 1/2, 330-pound
An offensive lineman at
East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, NC, Smith cut short what was
shaping up to be an intense recruiting battle for his services by making
a verbal commitment to the Pirates.
North Carolina, N.C. State, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wake Forest were
just some of the programs showing interest in Smith after he earned
All-Piedmont Triad 4-A Conference honors for a 9-3 club. But most of
those schools wanted to see Smith perform in person at their summer
camps before offering scholarships, while East Carolina was the first to
come through with a grant back in late February.
“I would say a lot of
people wanted him to come to camp and do a bunch of stuff,'' East
Forsyth coach Todd Willert said. “He didn't want to do all that. He
wanted to go to a team that truly believed in him like East Carolina.
I'm sure he would have gathered more offers, but he didn't want to go
through that circus every weekend all summer at camps. He decided to be
loyal to the guys who wanted him right away at East Carolina.''
The East Carolina staff
began initial contact with Smith last season through defensive
coordinator Brian Mitchell, who recruits the Winston-Salem area for the
Pirates. Mitchell then introduced Smith and Willert to offensive line
coach Brandon Jones.
“We got to talking and
they told us they'd watch Brandon on film and get back to us,'' Willert
said. “They came back pretty quickly with an offer. They've been
consistent with Brandon. They've been very caring with his Mom., too.
“Brandon, his mother and I
sat down last week and we asked him a bunch of questions. His answers
made the decision feel right. He called Coach Mitchell and told him ECU
was the place he wanted to be.''
Offensive line has become
a real priority for the Pirates in the wake of the 2011 season. Due to
numerous injuries in the blocking corps, ECU was constantly shuffling
its lineup all year, resulting in inconsistent performances.
So the Pirates are anxious
to not only improve their depth on the offensive front, but they're
trying to prepare for the graduation of seven scholarship blockers over
the next two seasons.
Smith has been recruited
to play tackle by ECU, although for most of his career at East Forsyth
he's played guard.
Due to his height and the
fact that Forsyth County schools don't offer middle school football,
Smith didn't actually begin playing for an organized team until the
“We heard all the stories
about this big kid over at the middle school,'' Willert said. “But when
you first see him you are kind of taken aback a little bit because he
was so big from the start.
“We knew it would take him
some time to develop because of the mere fact we don't have middle
school football here. When we got Brandon, it was basically his first
year ever playing organized rules. And a lot of big kids go through a
very big learning curve anyway. So we played him on the junior varsity
as a freshman.''
Smith remained on the JVs
through most of his sophomore year, too, before earning a late-season
promotion to the varsity where he started several games. He moved into
the starting lineup at guard as a junior.
Willert likes to use his
offensive guards to pull and trap. Because Smith is so big and athletic,
he became the perfect player to lead East Forsyth runners through the
“For his size, he's very
mobile,'' Willert said. “He has a size 18 foot, so he has to work hard
to keep those bad boys moving. But once he gets going you better be
careful and not get in his way.
“There were a couple of
plays last year, just on traps, when he got that 6-7 1/2, 320-pound body
going that he just punished people. He understands how to do that (trap)
and how to get his body in the right position.''
Smith will shift to tackle
as a senior due to a change in East Forsyth's offensive scheme. Willert
believes Smith could excel there or at guard for ECU in the future.
“I think he can play
anywhere, besides center,'' Willert said. “I think his versatility is
something the East Carolina coaches like about him.''
Smith plays for the same
East Forsyth program that produced North Carolina offensive lineman
David Collins and former Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year
Danny O'Brien at Maryland. O'Brien, a quarterback, recently transferred
to Wisconsin for his final two college seasons.
The commitment from Smith
increases ECU's recruiting Class of 2013 to five. Smith is the second
offensive lineman to make a pledge, joining Havelock's
Malcolm Ashley. Four of the
Pirates' five commitments are from in-state prospects.