POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. --- The steal of North Carolina’s 2017 class might be its second commitment – Tyler Smith.
“They’re getting an extremely talented kid, who’s a better person than he is a player,” McEachern head coach Kyle Hockman said. “You’re talking about a kid who can run and can catch anything. He makes everything look easy.”
Smith, a 5-foot-10, 171-pound wide receiver, verbally committed to the Tar Heels last November just before watching UNC’s successful defense of the Victory Bell.
“He could play any position – and I’m not talking about any wide receiver position,” Hockman said. “He could play quarterback, he could play middle linebacker, he could play center if we needed it.
“But if you really study his film, you really see him track down balls that I never had kids do and I’ve had kids that have run 4.3s [in the 40-yard dash], so it’s not like they’re slow kids; but [Smith] just has another gear.
“He’s also really, really easy in the yards after the catch. He doesn’t get out of control; he can make a guy miss without getting himself out of balance. That’s really evident when you see him break loose and all the sudden you see him full speed before everybody else because he’s been in balance; he didn’t have to shake-and-back and get himself off balance to get the defender off balance.
“And then he’s a tough, physical kid. He’s a good blocker.”
The UNC staff project Smith to play A-back within its offense, but Hockman believes Smith could easily play outside receiver in the ACC.
“He has the ability to play both,” Hockman said. “I think they’re recruiting him in general for the inside, but he has the ability to run that deep ball and be that deep threat and then run the comebacks and the deep dig routes over the middle. He has the ability to do it all.
“They might have a slot position for him in mind, but I think they’ll see when he gets there that he can do anything and fit wherever their needs might be at that time.”
Powder Springs falls within Tray Scott’s Georgia territory. While Scott was actively involved in the pursuit of Smith, he was greatly aided by wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer and quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf.
“They do a great job,” Hockman said. “I really enjoyed their staff. All of them that have come have been very personable, very down-to-earth.”
After pulling in 48 catches for 936 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, the offers flooded in for Smith – Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, UNC, NC State, Tennessee, etc. Some of those programs eased their recruiting efforts when Smith tore his ACL three games into the 2015 season. But the Tar Heels never relented.
“With Tyler specifically, they really stayed with him when he got hurt. And that really impressed Tyler,” Hockman said. “They had loyalty when they didn’t have to have loyalty… He hadn’t committed, there was no reason they had to be loyal, but they were. And that means a lot to be as a head coach and I’m sure it meant a lot to him and his dad.”