UNC Jumps In Race for Ga. DL

North Carolina was a part of a wave of scholarship offers that came T.J. Smith’s way this week.

“Coach Kap [Chris Kapilovic] actually got in contact with me Sunday night and he asked me if I had any film,” Smith said. “He watched it Monday, was impressed with it, and showed it to the rest of the staff on Monday. And he told me to call him the next morning and I did and they offered me.”

A couple days prior to Kapilovic’s phone call, Vanderbilt offered Smith, who now supports 260 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame and stars on the defensive line for nationally ranked Moultrie (Ga.) Colquitt County. Monday brought offers from Central Florida and Georgia Southern. The avalanche continued Tuesday when UNC and Wake Forest offered.

Smith began his prep career at New London (N.C.) North Stanly but transferred to Colquitt County in July when his father took an administrative job at a south Georgia middle school. After adjusting to the transition between a 1A school in N.C. and a 6A school in Ga., Smith put together a highlight film. That film was distributed to colleges by both Colquitt County’s coaching staff and North Stanly head coach Ralph Jackson.

In late June, Smith verbally committed to Charlotte, which began playing football in 2013 and will move to the FBS in 2015.

“I can tell you right now I’m still committed there,” Smith said. “That’s all I can tell you right now.”

When asked whether he would explore his new opportunities, Smith said he’d “be an idiot not to.” That includes visiting some of the schools that have recently offered.

“I don’t have a top five, yet,” Smith said. “Things are coming in everyday.”

Smith is in the process of finalizing dates with Vanderbilt. He’s deciding between game visits against Old Dominion (Nov. 1) and Florida (Nov. 8) for his first trip, and definitely wants to return to Nashville for the Commodores’ regular season finale against Tennessee on Nov. 29.

Regarding UNC, Smith is in discussions with Kapilovic regarding the scheduling of a possible official visit.

“When Coach [Larry] Fedora said ‘You have a scholarship at the University of Chapel Hill,’ it really took me back,” Smith said. “I remember being a child watching UNC playing on TV – it was basketball, but it was still UNC… [The offer] put a smile to my face. Carolina was a place I always dreamed of going. I was always a Carolina fan when I was younger. When the whole recruiting thing came, I kind of grew out of the whole being a fan of anybody.”

When he lived in N.C., Smith attended a handful of Tar Heel football games.

An X-factor with Smith: Antonio Williams, a 2016 running back who was committed to UNC for nearly a year but continues to consider the Tar Heels. Smith and Williams aren’t just former teammates but close friends. They last spoke on Monday night.

“Back when I was living in North Carolina, we kind of agreed that we were going to go to the same [college],” Smith said. “[Monday] he told me his top few [schools]. I told him my top few. Some things may need to be worked out, but our plan [to play together] may happen.”

Williams, who plans to make a verbal commitment following the football season, announced a top six consisting of Auburn, Duke, Georgia, UNC, Tennessee, and Wisconsin about a month ago. However, a visit UNC on Saturday has the Tar Heels surging.

Smith camped at UNC in June as a 6-foot-3, 243-pound defensive end. With over 15 pounds added to his frame, the Tar Heels see him being a “very athletic three-technique.”

“Coach Kap told me there are a lot of athletic [defensive ends], but there are hardly any athletic three-techniques on the inside,” Smith said. “Athletic insides guys are hard to stop.

“Whatever school I go to, I’ll play whatever they want me to play and I’ll try to be the best at it.”

Smith, who started at both tight end and defensive end for North Stanly, lines up everywhere along Colquitt County’s three-man defensive line.

“If you ask me what position I play on the defensive line, I’ll say all of them,” Smith said. “I play three-technique, four-[technique], zero-[technique], shade, five-[technique].”

Adjusting to Colquitt County, which is ranked No. 5 in the nation by the USA Today, took some time for Smith. He started the season as a second stringer, but was a part of a five-man D-line rotation. Eventually, though, he became a starter and now sees more consequential snaps than any other defensive lineman on roster.

“It was really just mental things that I had to catch on with,” Smith said. “There were some physical things, like leverage and learning to get off the ball quicker.

“The other thing is the environment down here. In North Carolina, you might play a game with 4,000 people. But if you come to south Georgia to play a football game in Region 1, you’re going to have at least 10,000 there – depending on what the stadium can hold, you might have 12,000.”

Smith leads the team in tackles for a loss with 19 and is tied for the lead in sacks (3.5). He has 28 total tackles, plus 13 QB pressures.

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