Michigan Rising with Smythe

When Belton, TX TE Durham Smythe reopened his recruitment last month, Michigan was among the schools showing immediate interest. The former Texas commit sorted through his vast array of options and settled on a select few suitors, including the Maize & Blue. GBW chatted with the four-star prospect recently about his thoughts on U-M, the factors in his decision, his decision timeline, and more.

Editor’s note: Since this interview was conducted Monday night, Notre Dame offered Smythe a scholarship.

Sam Webb: Take me back to how you got to this point.  You were committed to Texas for quite a while.  Why the change of heart?

Durham Smythe: “My whole recruiting process was – the first time around at least, it was a really quick one. It lasted about a month long; I ended up committing in March. And then as time went on, I visited Texas a couple times, and kind of got the feeling that maybe this wasn’t the best place for me a couple times; but you know, I put it away and tried to keep visiting, tried to get a real feel for it so I wasn’t making a snap decision or anything. So I did that, and as time went on, the feeling just kind of stayed there, and I ended up de-committing. And now I’m kind of where I am now.”

Sam Webb: So when exactly did you know you were going to open things up?

Durham Smythe: “It was really – I ended up de-committing in December; but toward the end of November and stuff, I started to have those feelings, and ended up opening it up officially early December.”

Sam Webb: Before we talk about recruiting, just kind of take me through your season. How did your year go for you?

Durham Smythe: “It went really well, individually and as a team. I might as well start with that, we went 7-3, ended up not making the playoffs by a point differential, which was a little disappointing. But as far as individually, I felt really good about it because I felt that I kind of progressed as the year went on. I started the beginning of the season with one or two or three catches a game, and then, you know, as the season went on, I got up towards seven to nine catches a game, that type of stuff. I ended the season with 42 catches for I think around 600 yards, and seven touchdowns, so overall it was good, the progression as the season went on.”

Sam Webb: So for people who haven’t seen you play, how would you describe your game?

Durham Smythe: “I would say, I guess, versatility is something that sticks out a little bit, just because early on in my varsity days, back in my sophomore year and parts of my junior year, I was more of a receiving tight end, someone who would flex out the majority of the time. I really tried to, over the past year, focus on being able to be a solid in-line tight end, as well as being someone who could flex out. So I really worked on my in-line blocking over the past year, and I think – at least I’ve succeeded in improving in that a little bit, so now I feel like I’m in a position where – obviously, I can keep improving, but I feel like I’m someone who can play with my hand on the ground and also split out.”

Sam Webb: What is your height, your weight, and your 40 time at this point?

Durham Smythe: “I’ve seen 6’5” and 6’6”, but I say 6’5 ½”, 233-lbs, and I run like a 4.75.”

Sam Webb: So now, as far as recruiting is concerned, I saw that you took a trip out to Stanford. You’re clearly considering Michigan right now. What other schools are kind of in the mix for you at this point?

Durham Smythe: “The three schools that I have scheduled at this point are – actually, Stanford I had already taken; Oregon this weekend; Michigan the following, and then that last weekend before signing day, I’m considering Nebraska and Notre Dame for that one -- so those are the main five. Stanford, Oregon, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame are kind of the schools that are still involved.”

Sam Webb: Can we take it to mean that Texas is pretty much out at this point?

Durham Smythe: “Yes, yes, although I’ve said I have a lot of respect for them and stuff, but I don’t have any interest in them anymore.”

Sam Webb: Let’s talk about Michigan. What was kind of the genesis of your interest in them? How did that kind of spark up?

Durham Smythe: “Well, initially, they offered me in the spring, back last February, and I was interested for a little while -- but you know, in that whirlwind ended up committing pretty quickly. And then as soon as I de-committed at the beginning of December, Coach Funk sent me a message asking my interest and stuff, and I told him I’d be willing to look into it. As the weeks have gone by, he’s talked to me a lot about the academics and athletic side of the University, and I’m kind of interested in studying biology, and he’s told me a lot about their biology and medical program, which is one of the best in the nation. And he told me a lot about how they want to initiate a more tight end friendly offense. So really all those together, it’s really developed a pretty strong interest for me.”

Sam Webb: So your impressions of Coach Funk right now; what is the connection with him been like? I know it’s been mainly over the phone. Has he been out to see you yet?

Durham Smythe: “He hasn’t, but he’s coming on Wednesday, but like you said, over the phone, he sounds like a really good guy, and I’m definitely excited to be able to meet him in person.”

Sam Webb: So this is obviously kind of new, so I don’t expect you to have a book on Michigan, but what do you know about the Wolverines right now, be it on the field or off the field? Do you have an idea of what Michigan kind of brings to the table?

Durham Smythe: “A very small one. I understand that it’s a good university, first and foremost, and especially the departments I’m looking to study. As far as athletics, obviously, there’s a lot of tradition… winning the most games in college football history, and having the biggest stadium in college football. It seems like college football is a big deal there. You know, being from Texas, that’s kind of something that I can connect to. Besides that, like I said, I know they’re switching their offense to more of a pro-style, which is exciting for me, and I’m really excited to get up there in a couple weeks to really get a feel for it.”

Sam Webb: Let’s talk about factors. You just mentioned Michigan going to a pro-style offense, but you’re considering Oregon, who’s a spread; potentially Notre Dame, that’s a spread. Is the style of offense going to be a factor for you?

Durham Smythe: “Slightly, but at the same time – I guess not the style completely. As far as use of the tight end, that’s the real thing I focus on with all of these offenses, and you know, Stanford and Michigan will be somewhat similar and more of a pro-style, and you know, Notre Dame and Oregon are running the spread, but incorporating tight end. And the same time, I’m really – I don’t have a huge preference as long as the tight end is involved.”

Sam Webb: So give me an idea of what you will be looking for, just in general, what are going to be the big factors in that choice?

Durham Smythe: “Besides the fact that it has to be a good school, the most important thing, I guess, will just be finding a place that I’ll really feel comfortable for the next four years, which I think is kind of an underrated part of this process, finding a place that’s actually right for you. When you have all these good universities lined up like this, it’s kind of tough to tell them apart as far as just picking one, so at the end of the day I think it will come down to where I can feel the most comfortable.”

Sam Webb: All of them seem to be a pretty good distance away from home. Should I take that to mean that distance won’t play a big role in your decision?

Durham Smythe: “That’s right. You know, actually, before this whole process started, I always envisioned myself going to college relatively far away, because everyone that I grew up rooting for or had a lot of interest in just going to school were all pretty far away. So as I went into this process I ended up committing to Texas, which was kind of a surprise to some people who knew me pretty well; but yeah, distance won’t play a huge factor.”

Sam Webb: So who did you grow up rooting for?

Durham Smythe: “Initially I was a huge Notre Dame fan for a long time, and then as the years went by I kind of was all over the place as far as one specific school, so I’ve just been a huge football fan over the past six or seven years.”

Sam Webb: This is a tough question for you, and it’s kind of the last one: do you have a favorite at this point? I know you’re not done, but is there a school, or are there schools, that are sticking out for you amongst your finalists?

Durham Smythe: “Honestly, I don’t. I could say at least at this point, the three that I have visits scheduled to are probably slightly above the other two, which is Michigan, Nebraska, and Stanford; but besides that, at least at this point, not having visited those other two, it’s pretty wide open.”

Sam Webb: Do you think you’re going to go all the way until signing day? Is this going to be a signing day decision for you?

Durham Smythe: “I’ve been asked that several times, and I can see myself hopefully at least picking in the days prior to signing day; but if it does run that long, then that is a possibility, but the goal, at least at this point, is to make it a couple days before.”

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