Austin Smith returned to North Carolina for its win over FCS Citadel a couple of weekends back. The experience only strengthened UNC's grip on the 2018 defensive tackle.
"I just wanted to see what it was like again, because it's just a nice football atmosphere," said Smith, who previously attended the Tar Heels' home win over Miami last season and has camped in Chapel Hill the past two summers.
"I'm really interested in UNC. It seems like every time I go, I get more and more interested. I'm trying to build relationships with the coaches each time I go."
Saying that Smith is "really interested" is putting his feelings towards UNC mildly. The 6-foot-2, 267-pounder from McDonough (Ga.) Ola considers the Tar Heels his leader.
"It's just the education there," Smith said. "They have my major -- I want to major in Exercise Science -- and that's one of their top majors. I think it would be a good opportunity for me."
Despite having a clear cut favorite, Smith doesn't anticipate making a verbal commitment until closer to his senior season.
In addition to UNC, Smith has collected scholarship offers from East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and Tulane.
Smith earned his UNC offer with his performance at the Tar Heels' camp this past June. At the camp, he worked out under the guidance of defensive line coach Tray Scott.
The bond between Smith and Scott was further advanced during Smith's most recent visit. Among other things, the two met in Scott's office prior to kickoff.
"He was just saying, pretty much, do well in academics at my school and lead my team," Smith said.
Throughout UNC's 41-7 rout of the Citadel, Smith focused on the play of the Tar Heels' defensive line, which was tasked with containing a triple-option attack.
"They really have two strong freshmen -- No. 92 [Aaron Crawford] and I can't remember the other one," Smith said. "They were stout up front and they shut down that dive pretty well."
Georgia Tech is the only other school Smith has visited this season. This offseason, he plans to return to UNC and travel to Kentucky.
A starter at defensive tackle for Ola since his freshman year, Smith collected 33 tackles and five TFLs during his junior campaign. He also was credited with two sacks, six QB hurries, and three pass deflections.