One of Florida's best gridiron playmakers knew he was going to be fine this fall when he started turning double plays on the diamond this summer.
Michael Smith, a 5-8, 175-pound running back/defensive back from James Richards High in Tallahassee, Fla., that Arkansas covets, learned all about the alphabet soup inside his knee in the last game of his 2003 season.
"I tore my ACL, my PCL and my MCL in that game," Smith said. "They had to do some major reconstruction in there. But my coaches have been telling me that I am a new man with a new new and have never looked better. I just went through my first two days of contact in pads and came through it with flying colors."
That's why schools such as Arkansas, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, Northwestern, Purdue and West Virginia are all recruiting him with all but the Gators and Volunteers putting an offer on the table according to Smith.
"I would have to say right now that Arkansas is in my top two along with Florida," Smith said. "They are all great schools, but those two stand out to me right now."
Arkansas recruiting coordinator Chris Vaughn, a Florida native, has certainly made an impression on Smith, who averaged 11.2 yards per cary and racked up 21 touchdowns while rushing for over 1,400 yards last season.
He also took three kickoffs and two punts back for touchdowns.
"There are a lot of things about Arkansas I like, but one thing that has really impressed me is something that people wouldn't think," Smith said. "Coach Vaughn has simply shot straight with me. Everybody else has been coming around here telling me ‘you can be the man at tailback, you can start as a freshman.'
"People come in promising you the world, but it is refreshing to me to hear it straight," Smith continued. "I can look at a depth chart at each of this schools and size up things for myself anyway.
"Coach Vaughn has told me basically they have got some got some great young players, but they'd love to have me and my chance to get on the field that first year would be up to me," Smith added. "Maybe it might not be at tailback, but as a punt returner or a kick returner. That's honest, that's refreshing and it tells me a lot about the people they have up there at Arkansas."
The Razorbacks have gotten through his head how he could be another Fred Talley, the former smallish UA running back who became a big playmaker in the SEC.
"A lot of people can tell me how they would use me, but Arkansas has a history right there with Fred Talley - who is just about my size - and so it's not just all talk," Smith said. "I have gone back and read up on him and studied how they used him."
The Florida standout, who says he has put down a 4.31 40-yard dash since his surgery, thinks he and Talley have something else in common in addition to their size and speed.
"They can measure your height, but they measure your heart," Smith said. "From what I know about him, he's like me in that he has a big heart and he was fearless hitting up in there. I think we have more want to then the bigger guys have."
Smith has bench pressed right at 300 pounds and squatted 515 before the injury.
"I think my speed, strength and my vision on the field are what is best about my game right now," Smith said. "I do need to improve on my blocking."
Smith , who hit .515 and stole 31 bases as a sophomore baseball player, knew he was healthy this summer while playing AAU baseball.
"I played shortstop and second base and the knee didn't hurt at all while making all the pivots and plays I needed to make at those spots," Smith said. "So when it came time to start football practice there was no fear."
He is someone who could play both football and baseball in college, but his mom has told him not worry about the Major League Baseball draft.
"I've had people tell me that I am good enough to be drafted, but my mom is having none of that," Smith said. "She says I am going to college no questions asked."
Richards High, just 1-8 last season but with a new coach this season, got practice underway last week by being all about football and nothing else.
"We came in Sunday night and didn't leave school until Friday," Smith said. "We slept at the school every night, we practiced, we ate at the school and then we just hung around each other. It was a way to bond and I think it really brought us together."
He'll go through the season and then start taking his visits.
"I am very excited about coming to Arkansas and what all they have to offer," Smith said. "I can't wait to get up there and look it over."
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