Kentucky Nose Guard Ready to Set Sail

Buddy Green's defenses have made a living off of undersized but athletic defensive linemen over the years. But with current defensive end Jabaree Tuani about to enter his senior year, the Mids are looking to restock their ranks with a new breed of committed student athletes. Fortunately, Navy may have just secured the services of one of these young men in Henry Clay (KY) standout Ryan Smith.

Smith has been holding a scholarship offer from Navy since last May, when Midshipmen assistant Ashley Ingram began recruiting him. Following Navy on television throughout the season, Smith has also gone on to earn offers from several Football Championship Subdivision programs, including Woffard, Murray State, and Tennessee-Martin. Louisville and Texas Christian also showed interest, although scholarship offers never materialized for the 6-foot-1, 310-pound defensive tackle/end, who was recently named the 17th best Kentucky senior prospect by

Dodged by questions over his size, there is no disputing Smith's athleticism and work ethic – two factors which kept Navy extremely interested in his services as the fall continued. Smith was all too happy to learn more about the Navy program, although he initially expressed concerns about the military environment of the school and its demanding academic curriculum. Nevertheless, he visited the campus this past weekend, and what he discovered was more than enough to convince him he had found his future home.

"It was definitely a lot better than I expected going in," Smith said. "It was awesome from the time I got there to the time I left. I was impressed with everything; football and everything.

Aside from loving the Academy's picturesque location in historic Annapolis, Smith said the program's exposure and prestige are second to none. He was especially excited about the chance to play Notre Dame in 2012, when Navy will travel to Ireland to tangle with the Irish.

"The campus - Annapolis is awesome. The football? 2012, we're going to Ireland to play Notre Dame. That's pretty sweet. The level of football there is definitely high, and plus, the benefits that you get after you graduate are pretty insane."

Smith's concerns about the demanding environment of the Academy were put to rest on the trip after he met with several former and current Navy players, who helped him understand the benefits of a USNA degree, as well as the opportunities available to him in a career of Naval service. Mulling other offers, Smith learned that sometimes the best college decision is not always the one that appears the easiest on paper.

"Once I met with all of the players – two current players and three or four that already graduated like Andy Lark and Bobby Doyle – they were pretty much just telling us how they had others offers to besides the Naval Academy, but they would do it all over again and that it's definitely worth it," Smith said. "It's tough in the beginning, but it's all worth it in the end once you get that degree. "

Henry Clay went 9-3 in 2010, and although Smith's statistics were not as high during his senior year as his junior season, he remained a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line. Navy has currently pegged him as a potential nose guard, but he has experience at end as well. With sub 5.0-second 40-speed and a motor that never stops, he has the ability to both speed rush from the end and stunt inside when lined up on the outside of an odd man front like the one Navy runs.

Pleased with his verbal commitment, Smith will nevertheless take two more official visits in the coming weeks, and hasn't ruled out Louisville completely should the Cardinals offer.

"I'm strongly committed to Navy but I'm also taking a visit on the 18th and 19th to Tennessee Tech and on the 22nd I'm going to visit Tennessee-Martin," Smith said. "Those are the only two schools I'm sticking with right now besides Navy, and Louisville – I'm still waiting to see what they're going to do. But overall I'm committed to Navy."

Stay tuned to throughout January and February as recruiting season picks up, and the GoMids staff brings you the latest news from Navy football and basketball! Top Stories