Ryan Smith Makes It Official: He's A Gator

Ryan Smith, who made freshman All-America as a cornerback on Utah's undefeated team in 2004, will be a Florida Gator. Smith, who will be graduating with a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Utah in two weeks, will be attending graduate school at the University of Florida. He will be eligible to play in the fall under a new NCAA rule.

Smith is a 5-10, 175-pounder that started at corner in 2004 when Urban Meyer was coaching the Utes to a 12-0 record that included a win over Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. He redshirted his freshman year and played two years at Utah so he will have two years of eligibility for the Gators.

He is the first player of note to take advantage of this new NCAA rule that allows a player that still has eligibility left to transfer without having to sit out a year if he has earned his bachelor's degree. Smith, who was a Mountain West Conference All-Academic selection, will enter graduate school at the University of Florida in the fall. With the recent departure of Avery Atkins, dismissed from the Florida football team last week by Meyer, Smith will have an excellent opportunity to step in and start for hte Gators.

Ryan's father, Lance Smith, a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, said that even though there are still a few days before Ryan earns his bachelor's degree it was the right time to go ahead and get this decision out of the way. Ryan was being courted by several Pacific-10 Conference schools but the presence of Meyer and cornerbacks coach Chuck Heater at Florida made the decision easier.

"He's still got to finish school at Utah and graduate, but we thought all things considered that this is the right time to go ahead and announce it," said Lance Smith. "We didn't want any pressure on him before he takes final exams for graduation so we thought it was the best thing to go ahead and announce this now."

Lance Smith said that his son is leaving Utah under good circumstances and that there are no problems whatsoever with Coach Kyle Whittingham.

"I know both coaches [Whittingham and Meyer] and I think both are admirable people," said Lance Smith, Ryan's dad, a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. "We will always be grateful to the University of Utah, but there were decisions to be made about the future. Coach Meyer has offered him the opportunity to play football at the University of Florida and we are very happy for the opportunity."

When Meyer was coaching at Utah, he made a lasting impression on Lance Smith. He liked the way that Meyer handled players from diverse backgrounds and brought them all together as a team.

"There are several good sides of Meyer that I like," said Lance Smith. "One side that a lot of people do not see is that he doesn't hold things against kids if they'll commit to bringing the right things to the table. He understands that kids are kids and sometimes they need second chances or sometimes they need confidence to prove their skeptics wrong. Sometimes all you need to succeed is having that one person in your corner that will stand behind you. He's the kind of coach that stands behind his players but he also is the kind of coach that expects each player to be accountable. We like those things and that's why he [Ryan] is going to Florida."

Heater was the cornerbacks coach at Utah when Ryan Smith made freshman All-America and was the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week in an

"Chuck Heater I would agree is the best cornerback coach in the country," said Lance Smith. "He's an older gentleman who is business-like and there is some respect that comes with the way he treats kids and the way he coaches them. He's a fine coach and a good person."

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