Every year a senior prospect has a good year and pops up on more big-time programs radars including the Florida Gators recruiting board.
This year one of those guys is North Carolina State commit Nick Smith (6-3, 210, Orlando, FL. Dr. Phillips) who has been talking to Jim McElwain and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon a lot since he picked up an offer last month.
“I’m really starting to like Florida, I’m starting to get more of a relationship with Coach Shannon,” Smith said of his interest in Florida. “Now that he’s the defensive coordinator, he has more power over the defense so I benefit more from that and understand what he’s talking about. I’ve been talking to Coach Mac too.”
The Gators are hoping to make a big move this week when they go down to Orlando to visit with the linebacker and his family on Thursday.
“I have an in-home visit with Florida on January 12th,” he said. “I’ll see how that goes and after that visit I’ll decide on my last official visit. It will be to either Florida or LSU on the 27th. If I don’t take an official visit to Florida then I’ll take an unofficial visit to them.”
During that visit Shannon is sure to explain to Smith about how he can play for Florida and the coach has already started that process.
“Coach Shannon talks to me mostly about our relationship and then how I fit into their defense at Florida,” Smith said. “He says that they need linebackers and that they had one of their linebackers leave early for the draft. He said that they only have a few linebackers on the roster and then the guys that they have coming in for the 2017 class.”
Smith watched Florida play three young guys this year and Shannon has explained that more young guys are needed at linebacker for the Gators.
“He says that as long as I come in and work then I can have an immediate impact on the field next year,” he said of what Shannon has told him. “He said that he isn’t afraid of playing a freshman and that he knows that I can play. He wants me to start off as an outside linebacker but from my film he knows that I can play both.”
Head coach Jim McElwain is also getting in the mix with recruiting Smith and his main message is just for the linebacker to give Florida a chance.
“Coach Mac is now starting to talk to me more and he’s just trying to get me set up for either an official visit or an unofficial visit,” Smith said of his talks with McElwain. “He just says that he wants me to come up to Gainesville and get a feel for how they do things up there. He says it isn’t too far from home so I should come up there.”
One good thing for Florida is that Smith has been on the Gainesville campus several times in the past so the Gators aren’t completely new in his mind.
“I’ve been up there before and I was able to see the atmosphere so this time when I visit, I want to see more of the details,” he said. “It also helps that I know a few of the guys up there like Chauncey [Gardner] and Marcell [Harris] so they’re able to tell me things about the school.”
Florida however isn’t the only big-time program trying to flip Smith as three other schools are also making a big push.
“I’m still committed to North Carolina State,” Smith said. “I’m going to Michigan State this weekend and then Louisville that following weekend. All of those schools, plus Florida and LSU are still in the mix.”
When it comes time for Smith to make a final decision he knows exactly what will help him make up his mind.
“Honestly, I’m just making sure that I make the best decision for myself,” he said on what a school has to do in order to flip him. “There is really not nothing specific but if I have a better feeling about a school and if my parents feel it’s a better fit for me. It isn’t just a football decision, it’s a place where I will be for the next four years.”
INSIDERS TAKE: After talking to Smith it sounds like the Gators or LSU have the best chances at flipping the linebacker. Of course the Gators really want to get that official visit for the 27th but that will be determined after the in-home visits from both Florida and LSU.