"This year we trying to win more games and a state championship," said UNC commitment Jonathan Smith on Wednesday from the Hillside practice field. "That's what we're focused on this year. All the guys are a lot more focused. We got a lot of seniors this year."
Smith, who verbally committed to North Carolina in April, is among the six or so Division I-A prospects on the Hornets' roster.
"Just because we have seven Division I athletes doesn't mean we don't have to go hard in the weight room or hard out on the field," said Smith. "I think, as far as having a big head as a team, we're doing a pretty good job with that."
|"I blitz, I drop back, I do a little bit of everything."|
"He plays the outside linebacker position," said Hillside head football coach Ray Harrison. "We run a 3-5 defense and he plays that outside, outside linebacker position – if you want to call it that. He'll also roll back into safety when we call a Cover 2."
Smith likes that his linebacker position in Hillside's scheme gives him a chance to demonstrate his versatility.
"I blitz, I drop back, I do a little bit of everything," said Smith. "There's just so many things we can do as a defense as linebackers – we can blitz, fake blitz."
This season, however, Smith will see some time on the offensive side of the ball, also.
"Occasionally we'll line him up at tight end," said Harrison. "We can slide him in. Because he's a fast guy, we can run corner routes with him and everything. We have a decent edge, because they have to respect his speed."
With the importance of Smith's role on defense, the introduction to offense has been gradual.
"I haven't really been working with the offense that much, but I've worked with the offensive lineman getting the blocking schemes down and stuff," said Smith. "But, as of right now I'm just doing running plays right now, but I'm definitely going to be involved in the passing game."
At the next level, Harrison isn't sure what position Smith will ultimately play, because he doesn't believe Smith is done growing and progressing.
"He's 16 years old and won't be 17 until the end of September and he's already 6-2 and a half and weighed in yesterday at 205," said Harrison. "His dad is huge, his dad is like 6-6. Right now, he has the frame to put on 20 or 30 pounds and not lose [speed]."
|"He just wants to get there and cause havoc when he meets the ball carrier."|
"He has good instincts," said Harrison. "He's so aggressive. He has that ‘I don't care what my body feels like' mentality. He just wants to get there and cause havoc when he meets the ball carrier. He uses his hands well and knows how to be physical."
As a junior, Smith recorded 95 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, and four sacks.
In addition to getting to the state championship game, Smith's senior season will also focus on assisting North Carolina with their recruiting efforts – especially Scout.com four-star athlete and teammate Greg Little.
"I've definitely been trying to get Greg to think about Carolina a lot," said Smith. "I've been talking to a couple other recruits about North Carolina, talking to them on the ‘net. I've talked to the two DBs that just committed [DaNorris Searcy and Fonterrian Ingram]."