Jonathan Smith is 'College Ready'

Scotland County head coach Richard Bailey gives a comprehensive breakdown of his star linebacker - and future Tar Heel - Jonathan Smith.

LAURINBURG, N.C. --- Inside Carolina caught up with Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County head coach Richard Bailey to learn more about UNC’s newest verbal commitment, Jonathan Smith, a 6-foot, 228-pound linebacker.

What type of player is UNC gaining in Smith?

“As college ready a football player that I’ve ever coached, because of his [football] IQ and his work ethic. He’s not going to be overwhelmed at North Carolina as far as the amount of commitment it takes to be a football player, because he embraces the process it takes to be a football player. He loves the lifting, he loves the running, he loves the film study, [and] he loves the Xs and Os. He can get on the board like a coach and draw [plays and concepts], which is very unique for a high school player… Jon’s a very intelligent football player.

“He’s extremely athletically gifted – he really is. There may be some people that might have some athletic ability in some areas, but a lot of those guys don’t fill their cup up, so to speak. He’s one that’s going to maximize every bit of his talent – and his talent is considerable.

“I think some of these people that didn’t offer Jonathan – the Clemsons, the Georgias – are going to wonder three years from now when Jon’s a two-time first team all-conference ACC player what they were thinking.”

From your vintage point, what was Smith’s recruitment like – particularly the last couple of weeks?

“He had a tough decision. He got down to Duke and North Carolina. And he agonized. There were times throughout this process I thought he was going to Duke and then I thought he was going to Carolina. I really didn’t know until he pulled that hat out where he was going.

“He had called the coaches Wednesday and I told him, ‘You don’t have to tell me.’ But I was the one that kind of encouraged him, ‘Go ahead and call [the coaches at UNC and Duke] Wednesday before we scrimmaged. They won’t say anything. Give them that that way if you get hurt in that scrimmage you’re kind of covered. You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to tell anybody. I’m not going to take away your moment.’

“I felt pretty good that it was Carolina, because this week I was getting that vibe. But I didn’t really know for 100-percent until he pulled that hat out.”

What are your thoughts on how UNC recruited Smith?

“I want to credit Carolina for doing an unbelievable job, because they really had to make up some ground. Jon went to Carolina June [‘14] and he really wasn’t 100-percent with his knee after coming off of that surgery where he fractured his kneecap. But he wanted to go and get his name out there. And to be honest with you, he didn’t run real well. To be honest with you, the Carolina coaches really didn’t show him a lot of love – the defensive staff that was there. And he was really kind of annoyed by it to some degree. Though, it was the same way everywhere he went – the people he camped with before he was 100-percent, a lot of them weren’t [high on him] because he wasn’t moving that well because of his injury. Now the ones that did not get him into camp and just saw him on film, they were like, ‘Wow’ and they were offering him right and left.

“But then when Carolina’s new defensive staff got in there and started looking at film, they were like, ‘Why haven’t we offered this guy? He’s the best linebacker in the state of North Carolina – he’s the best one we’ve seen yet.’ And I said, ‘Well, this is what happened…’ And immediately they offered him.

“And since January or February – whenever that [defensive staff] change was made – they have recruited Jon harder than any kid that I have ever had and done a great job of doing it. They’ve had his parents up there several times. They’ve had him up there, obviously, multiple times. And just have done a wonderful job of convincing him that Carolina is the right place for him.”

How do you feel he fits within UNC’s 4-3 defensive scheme?

“Great. I think he’s a great scheme fit. He’s a pure inside linebacker and he is a force between the tackles. And that’s what they need.

“Watching Carolina as a Carolina fan, I haven’t seen that vocal, passionate defensive player on their team the last four, five years. I haven’t seen that guy and Jon can be that guy – he really can.”

Seeing him sustain a knee injury that not only wiped out his sophomore year, but delayed his recruitment, how does it feel to see him reach this point?

“One, I’ve had a lot of kids commit to go play D1 football, but for him to come back from that and to go through what he went through, it’s more special. It makes it a little more special because of what he had to go through and a lot of the second guessing.

“He has such a wonderful family, too. His mom and dad are a great support system for him. He’s a reflection of great parenting. I wish all our players were like him. Polite, hardworking guy and has a great work ethic.”


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