RECRUITING: Gators In The Mix For Another Ala. Sta

Because he's the most widely sought after offensive lineman in the state of Alabama, most people figure that the battle for tackle Andre Smith of Birmingham Huffman Magnet will come down to another Alabama-Auburn affair. The Florida Gators, meanwhile, have had some success recruiting Alabama in the past three years and this 6-4, 315-pounder would be a real plum for the 2006 recruiting class.

Smith was named the most outstanding player at the US Army All-American Combine in San Antonio back in January, the day after the US Army All-America Game. He's got a 3.0 GPA and he has taken the ACT, but he's getting some "tutoring to improve that score." At least one Gator coach has dropped by his school this spring and has watched him work out.

"Yes sir, Wednesday (5-25), my coach told me Coach Meyer came by," Smith said. "He talked to my coach and he [my coach] told me that Meyer came by. Coach [John] Hevesy is recruiting me for the Gators. I saw him at a combine in Georgia ... he was there. He looked like an offensive line coach … he was real big. He called me on the phone a couple of days later."

The coaches are in a contact period, but can only call the recruits one time a month. The first day of the month is usually hectic for the big timers, and for guys like Smith it cools down as the month goes on.

"It is going real, real well," Smith said of the recruiting process, certain to be monotonous and tiring before it is all over. "The phone is not really ringing off the hook … it was at the beginning of the month but not lately."

The Smith family better take care of their mail man this year. He will have his work cut out for him with the deliveries to the Smith household.

"Everyone is coming at me the same … I am getting something from every school like every other day," he said.

Distance will be no factor for Smith and getting out of the state of Alabama may not be as difficult as one might think for the all-star lineman. He has been relatively neutral when it comes to the in-state rivalry.

"I'm on the fence here in Alabama, between Auburn and Alabama," he said. "Whoever won I rooted for them. I was always a bandwagon fan. I also have family all over the United States. My mom is from California … I have uncles in Oregon, family in Texas, Georgia, and Florida.

His Huffman team will be looking to great things this year and Smith plans on being a big part of it. The team added some new players recently and his coaches have determined that he will play on both sides of the ball this year.

"Well, we look to do real well," he said. "We have a couple of skill guys off the basketball team that decided to come out and play … one is playing free safety and he is doing great. As far as the defense as a whole, we have a couple of new linebackers that can play. I am supposed to play defense, also. I'll be playing the first-technique. I am going to have to grow into liking it."

Teams will probably grow weary of seeing him on the field every play of the game. Andre Smith is such a good athlete that he looks like a natural either as a dominating offensive tackle or as a run-stuffing defender. He has quick feet and good technique. He is very strong and plays with a nasty streak. He will be one for the Gators to keep a close eye on this year.

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