Arkansas Bags Backer

Abbeville (La.) prep linebacker Jelani Smith (6-1, 210, 4.54) becomes the University of Arkansas' first defensive pledge of the 2008 class and the sixth overall when he commits to the Razorbacks on Friday.

After getting started with five offensive commits, the University of Arkansas football program got a little defensive on Friday.

That's when Abbeville (La.) High linebacker Jelani Smith (6-1, 210, 4.7) switched his commitment from Louisiana Tech to the Razorbacks.

He did so after visiting Arkansas the past few days and leaving out on Friday morning.

"Really I started to fall in love with Arkansas when I was going through the mountains - which is not a landscape we have down here in Louisiana," Smith said. "Then I got up to the campus, go to see the facilities - which are unreal - and got to meet the coaches and just know it is the right place for me."

Smith, who has knocked his 40-yard dash time from 4.7 to 4.54 in the past year, was especially mpressed with defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.

"Coach Herring is not only the defensive coordinator, but my position coach as well and I think that is going to be big for me," Smith said. "He is a no nonsense guy that will not let you be a slacker and push you to your limits. With the experience he has had in the NFL and in college, I know I am going to get great coaching and become the best linebacker I can be."

Smith is coming off a junior season in which he had 136 tackles and recovered four fumbles after bursting on a scene as as sophomore with 108 stops.

"I think the best part of my game right now is the way I am so explosive and can run down running backs, Smith said. I have been able to make plays from sideline to sideline and feel really good about my instincts.

"I know I need to put on some more weight and strength, but i know that will come, especially once I get to Arkansas," Smith said. "I'm very excited."

He had committed to Louisiana Tech earlier this spring, but made it clear at the time that it was a soft verbal and he would continue to talk to other schools.

Smith had offers from Oklahoma State. Louisiana-Lafayette and Tulane with several bigger schools beginning to sniff around him.

"I'm starting to get more interest as more people find out about me, but I am very solid to Arkansas," Smith said. "I am definitely going to be at Arkansas. Like I said, I have fallen in love with Arkansas and my recruiting is over with.

Smith hopes to make it back for one of Arkansas' football camps this summer.

"I really would like to do that," Smith said. "Other than that I am just going to be working out to have the best senior season I can and then be the best Razorback I can."


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