Vanderbilt defensive line commit T.J. Smith is comfortable with his decision to be a Commodore, but wants to get to the point where he is absolutely certain.
That’s why Smith (6-3, 260) – who will lead Moultrie, Ga., Colquitt County (13-0) into a state playoff semifinal game against Powder Springs McEachern (10-3) on Friday night – will be taking official visits to Arkansas and Wake Forest in January.
He solidified his intentions to visit the Razorbacks this week when defensive line coach Rory Segrest paid him a visit during a week when the Razorback staff hit the recruiting trail hard.
“Coach Segrest did a really good job of letting me know everything about Arkansas in terms of academics and getting me a lot of info about the University in general – stuff like the Walton Business School and all that,” Smith said. “It upped my interest in checking Arkansas out and I am planning on coming up there to take a visit in January.
“I really liked visiting with him and think he would be a really good position coach for me because of the fact that he has coached in college and the NFL and know what it takes to get to the highest level,” Smith added.
Smith, who had played previously in North Carolina before his family moved, has watched Arkansas via television this season and seen their improvement.
“They have really gotten better as the season goes along to where I think they are one of the best teams in the SEC and one of the best teams in the country now,” Smith said. “In fact, it would not surprise me at all if they won the SEC West next season. Heck, they might win the whole SEC.
“They go from 3-9 to 6-6 this season and I just think they have so much upside and think they have a great future ahead of them with this coaching staff,” Smith added. “I truly believe big things are about to happen there.”
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has made it clear how much he wants Smith – who has a 3.8 grade point average - to be a part of that future.
“He tells me I would be a perfect fit for them as a three-technique (tackle lining up on outside shoulder of the guard),” Smith said. “He wants me to be a Razorback and thinks I can be a great player for them.
“I feel like I can play either defensive end or defensive tackle,” Smith added. “Most of the ACC schools see me as a five (defensive end) while the SEC schools see me as three.”
Bielema also has made it clear that he views Smith as an uncommon man – which is a reference to character and what the head coach says he wants to have in his program.
“He knows what it is like at my house, how my parents have raised me with discipline and how it is all about accountability on and off the field for me,” Bielema said. “I always say that life is about control and discipline and that is something that my parents have instilled in me.”
Smith has 42 tackles this season, 13 tackles for lost yardage, 4 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and a pass deflection this season for the Packers.
“I feel like I have played pretty well as an individual, but it is all about how we have played as a team that and that’s why we have a 13-0 record and have a chance to win it all,” Smith said. “We are in the semifinals now and need two more wins.”
Smith had previously played at New London, N.C., North Stanly – which is a small school just outside of Charlotte.
“It has been a great move for me after my dad got a job here,” Smith said. “I have developed as a player and it has been a great level of competition. I also got a lot of exposure and have a lot of great opportunities that have come my way."
Smith is in the process of setting up his visits to Arkansas and Wake Forest.
“I know I am going to Vanderbilt on the 16th (of January) and then will take the other two after that,” Smith said. “I’ve got no problems with Vanderbilt, but it is a big decision and I just have to be sure about it.
“That’s why I need to check out this other places and just be sure what is best for my future,” Smith added. “That’s what this is all about.”
Smith Looking Forward to Arkansas Visit
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