Similar to the other defensive recruits, Jonathan Smith was pitched defensive improvement by North Carolina’s coaching staff en route to his verbal commitment. After just four games, that pitch appears to have already begun to materialize.
“I think what they said they’re going to do, they’re actually putting it into action,” the 6-foot, 228-pound linebacker from Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County said. “They said they’re going to make this defense one of the best in the nation and so far they haven’t given up that many points. The most they’ve given up was against South Carolina and that was only 17. I like everything about the defense.”
UNC was able to effectively play that card since it replaced its entire defensive staff, who in turn installed a fresh 4-3 scheme.
While playing in an improved defense was certainly attractive, it ranked low on Smith’s reasons for choosing UNC over Duke, Georgia Tech, Michigan, NC State, and Notre Dame a month and a half ago.
“I made my decision based off of how good I felt about the players and how at home I felt with everything,” Smith said. “Because with coaches, it’s a business and if they get a call for a better place then they’re going to leave. Having Coach [Gene] Chizk and Coach ‘J.P.’ [John Papuchis] that just made it an even easier choice to make.”
Smith witnessed UNC’s defensive remodel firsthand when he attended the Tar Heels’ home-opening victory over North Carolina A&T. Afterwards, he spent the night with future linebacker-mate Andre Smith, who has seen the field this season as a true freshman.
“It was great spending time with him knowing that I’m going to be playing with him next year and just seeing how the college life is there,” Smith said.
Smith plans to be back in Chapel Hill during UNC’s four remaining home games. But, outside of his official visit – which will occur in-season since he’s a midterm enrollee – he doesn’t possess any precise plans.
That official visit is tentatively scheduled for homecoming weekend when UNC hosts archrival Duke. It will be the latest in Smith’s long line of visits to Chapel Hill.
“I’ve pretty much learned everything,” Smith said. “What I’m really looking forward to is getting around the other 2016 [midterm] commit guys and that’s also when they’re going to do their official visit. So I’m just looking forward to hanging out with my future teammates.”
Although nothing has been scheduled, Smith plans on also taking official visits to Michigan, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech.
“I’m focused on North Carolina only, but I plan on still taking my official visits,” Smith said. “Michigan and Notre Dame have really been keeping in contact with me, and so has Virginia Tech.”
Smith hasn’t discussed visiting elsewhere with anyone at UNC. Once trips have been set, though, he said he’ll broach the topic with Papuchis, who serves as Smith’s primary recruiter.
However, Smith’s focus right now is Scotland County, which is undefeated and ranked third in the Associated Press’s N.C. High School Football 4A poll.
“In my mind, I think we can win the state championship this year,” Smith said. “I’m the team captain, the defensive captain and I put the squad on me.”
To his point, Smith is leading Scotland with 57 tackles, including nine for a loss, after six games.