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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

By Sammy Batten

Pirates reel in a big catch in Smith

Mammoth lineman shuns budding attention from other suitors


By Sammy Batten
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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 Brandon Smith.

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.

Clemson, Connecticut, 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 ninth grade.

“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 holes.

“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.

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05/09/2012 04:00:07 AM


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