With three days to go before signing day Indiana head coach Terry Hoeppner is still hard at work shaping his first full recruiting class at Indiana.
Hoeppner has a pressing need to fill the linebacker position where Indiana lost Kyle Killion, Josh Moore and John Pannozzo to graduation. With a young depth chart, Hoeppner appears to be focused on a player who can step in and play right away.
Enter Vernon Smith.
The JUCO linebacker was in Bloomington this weekend to visit with Hoeppner and could be an answer to Hoeppner's problems.
"My visit went really well," said Smith. "I met with every coach and I went to see the head coach, Coach Hoeppner, at his home. We had a pretty good talk.
"I'm going to go ahead and sign on signing day with Indiana."
Smith, a highly-touted linebacker from Butler (Kan.) Community College, was originally recruited by Pittsburgh and was ranked the No. 68 linebacker in the nation out of high in 2004. With graduation depleting the Indiana linebacking corps, Smith could make an immediate impact for the Hoosiers.
"Coach Hoeppner told me it's up to me to come in and step into the lineup right away," said Smith. "If I want to start, it's my job if I want it. I just need to prove to him I want it.
"He told me he wants me and I'm just ready to do what I have to do. Take care of business."
Smith, who played his prep football at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida's Dillard H.S., led Butler in tackles in 2005 when the Grizzlies climbed to the top of the NJCAA rankings with 75 tackles and he also had eight sacks. In 2004 he had 44 tackles and two sacks.
While at Indiana, Smith got the chance to meet many Hoosier players and see what the Hoosiers have to offer the transfer.
"I met a graduating linebacker, a graduating defensive end and three guys from Florida," said Smith. "I met a lot of people and everybody seemed pretty cool.
"They have a nice place, a nice home field. I met a lot of people and they all talked about how the team is like family. That's all the teammates we talking about. They're hungry to win and I'm hungry, too. We all want to get a ring."
The Indiana coaching staff told Smith he could make a smooth transition into the Hoosier defense.
"I met with the linebacker's coach (George Ricumstrict) and he seemed like a pretty cool coach," said Smith. "He told me the defense they play is similar to the one we ran at Butler, just a little faster with a few minor differences."
Smith originally committed to Pittsburgh out of high school, but a low test score landed him at Butler where he has spent the last two seasons as a starter for the Grizzlies. Smith will earn an Associate's degree this spring and understands he will need to balance football and academics at Indiana.
"Coach Hoeppner told me how important graduating players is to him and I talked with the academic advisor while I was there," said Smith. "They have a lot of programs I'm looking at."
Vernon Smith Talks About IU Commitment
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