UNC Football Class of 2016 Signee: LB Jonathan Smith

Inside Carolina takes a closer look at the Tar Heel signee.

BIO: Enrolled at UNC in January • Member of North Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team • Named the area Defensive Player of the Year by WPDE-TV • Helped lead Scotland to its fifth-straight Southeastern Conference championship as a senior by recording 120 tackles (17 for loss), one forced fumble and recovery, and three interceptions • Provided the highlight of Scotland’s season in the regular season finale against Richmond Senior, picking of a pass in the red zone during the final seconds • Twice named all-state • Named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season • As a junior, was named to the 2014 AP all-state team and earned conference player of the year honors as Scotland finished 12-2 overall and advanced to the third round of the state 4A playoffs • Totaled a team-high 156 tackles (22 for loss), four sacks and an interception that season

LEAD UNC RECRUITER: John Papuchis

RECRUITMENT: While searching for a Mike linebacker for their yet-to-be-installed 4-3 defensive scheme, Gene Chizik and John Papuchis found Smith in, of all places, J.P.’s in-state recruiting territory. A UNC offer quickly followed as did several Smith visits to Chapel Hill. Along with Duke, Georgia Tech, Michigan, and Notre Dame, UNC made regular appearance on Smith’s favorite schools list. At a community event to kick off the 2015 high school season, Smith announced for the Tar Heels.

WHY CAROLINA: “They had a game plan of what I was going to do when I got there, how they were going to fit me into the defense, and how they were going to build the defense around me. They told me they’re going to bring in great D-line recruits – and for a linebacker, that’s very important to have big defensive linemen in front of you to protect you from the offensive linemen. They told me I’d have early playing time and they’re on the rise. … It just felt right in my mind to be a Tar Heel.”

EVALUATION: At a stocky 6-feet and 229 pounds, Smith is your prototypical MIKE linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He possesses the football IQ and leadership qualities to be the heart-and-soul of a defense. He won’t blow anyone away with his speed (5.01-second electric-timed 40), but he makes up for it with quick diagnosis, taking the proper angles, and his ability to sift through traffic. When making a tackle, he will sell out his body for the sake of making the stop.

HS COACH QUOTES: “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… He’s extremely athletically gifted – he really is. 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.” — Richard Bailey, Scotland County HS

UNC LB COACH PAPUCHIS: “Right when Coach Chizik and I got here, he was the first linebacker that we targeted. We felt like he was the best in-state ‘backer there was and really the best inside linebacker we were looking at in this region. For us to be able to get him was tremendous. When we’re looking for ‘backers we’re looking for footwork, instincts and guys that can finish plays. Jon brings all those things to the table and I’m really look forward to and am excited about coaching him … There are a lot of reasons why it was important to get Jonathan, but most important was the type of person that he is. He’s been on campus three weeks and what I knew of him has totally translated to the way he is (in his first weeks) here. He gets rave reviews from the academics, he gets rave reviews from Lou in the weight room. Obviously he has a lot of work to do but I think he’s going to give himself a chance to be a tremendous football player.”

INSIDE THE COMMITMENT: During the initial stages of their defensive revamp, Gene Chizk and John Papuchis were flabbergasted watching Jonathan Smith’s junior highlights… Read the full subscriber-only report


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