UNC WR Tyler Smith Headed to Fork Union

The longtime verbal commitment will take a minor detour before beginning his UNC career.

Before enrolling at North Carolina in January, four-star wide receiver Tyler Smith will spend a semester at a prep school.

"So far, [UNC's coaches] want to send me to Fork Union Military School and then I'll enroll at North Carolina in January," Smith said. "I've just sent all my stuff out [to FUMA]. I'm not sure how it works -- they just sent me paperwork and I filled it out. I think I'll enroll sometime in August."

In November '15, Smith, formerly a 2017 recruit, verbally committed to UNC out of Power Springs (Ga.) McEachern High. Three games into the 2016 season, the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder tore the ACL in his right knee.

Adamantly, Smith says the only reason his UNC enrollment was delayed was because of his injury -- it had nothing to do with his academic situation.

"My grades are good enough to go to any school," Smith said. "It's just my rehab is the problem. The problem that UNC is having is I haven't really played in two years and they're losing a lot [at wide receiver], so they need some players that they know can come and play now."

Recently, Smith took the ACT and his score improved. Thus, he doubts he'll take the test again.

Smith is unsure what classes he'll take at Fork Union. But, he knows he'll play for its post graduate team this fall, though he has yet to speak to any of its coaches.

"I'll do some rehabbing and playing," Smith said. "But, I won't play too much -- I'm just getting my feet back under me."

Barring an unforeseen setback, Smith's knee will be 100-percent cleared for all activities in April.

"Right now, I'm running pretty much full speed," Smith said. "And I'm cutting off both my legs. We're still taking it slow. They said that I could be doing other stuff, but since we have a little while until football [season] comes we're just going to take it slow. I am running, backpedaling, and cutting as in routes."

Unfortunately -- or perhaps fortunately -- this wasn't Smith's first rodeo. He tore the ACL in his left knee during his junior season.

"This time around, it was actually easier," Smith said. "I know what to expect and I'm not scared to cut off of it. I'm not scared to work on it now and think it's going to tear."

Smith says he hears from Larry Fedora every once in a while. But, he receives daily text messages from Gunter Brewer, UNC's wide receivers coach. The two's relationship began the summer prior to Smith's verbal commitment 

"I can call [Brewer] and get help on anything that I need, as far as what drills to run," Smith said. "He calls to see how I'm doing and make sure I'm still on top of my grades."

Unlike other members of UNC's 2017 class, Smith didn't sign a Letter-of-Intent. Even if he had, he wouldn't be bound to UNC. Therefore, a handful of outside schools have reached out to Smith.

"I feel like I can come and start as a freshman at North Carolina, so that's my best bet" Smith said. "[My commitment] is pretty firm. I really love North Carolina, that's why I committed. I love the offense that they run -- they spread the ball and share the ball around. So, I'm pretty firm on North Carolina."

Smith, who hasn't visited UNC since last summer, plans to return to Chapel Hill for the Tar Heels' Spring Game.

Heading into his Fork Union detour, Smith is unsure what to expect.

"I just hope I don't have to march early in the morning," Smith said with a laugh. "Marching isn't for me. 

"Really, I'm just doing whatever it takes to get to the next level. It's going to benefit me so that I can get back on my feet, get my confidence back to where it needs to be. I'm always going to be confident, but there's always that doubt in your mind that something could go wrong.

"I'll have time to get bigger [at FUMA], because you know I've had two [knee] injuries and I've been focusing on my legs. I've lost a couple of pounds. I'll be able to get my speed to where it needs to be and my weight to where it needs to be, so that I can be ready for the next level."


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