Smith: 'Everything Just Clicked'

Alex Smith, a four-star tight end from West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West, announced his commitment to UNC on Tuesday. Afterward, he spoke with Inside Carolina about his decision ...

Why did you choose UNC?

"Chapel Hill is a great area. It had a lot of similarities to what I liked about UC [Cincinnati] – an up-and-coming program, a conference that a dominant team can come in and take over, and the coaching staff was just terrific.

"Tight end coach, Coach ‘Mo' [Allen Mogridge], and I developed a really good bond. With Coach Mo… he has that same attitude that he has with you all the time – he's always up for it.

"Coach [Butch] Davis is a great guy. [He] always sat down with my mom and I. We'd have these long talks. It didn't even have to be about football – it can just be about shooting the breeze and what's going on about here. That really clicked.

"They're an up-and-coming program. They've got a lot of young players and have a good recruiting class coming in.

"I had to look at academics, too. If I want to get into the Kenan-Flagler Business School or get into journalism – they do have the No. 1 journalism school. Academically everything is there."

How firm is this commitment?

"Very firm. I know this is right for me... But this is a very, very solid decision. And this where I want to be at and the program I want to be in."

So no future visits to other schools?

"No. No, sir."

Are you relieved to have made this decision?

"It's a big load off my shoulders. Now I get to come in, finish up my senior year of basketball – we're going to have a good team this year. It's a lot of pressure off me and off my family to finally have this decision made. I think they're all real happy for me and backing me on what I do. So, yeah, it's a lot of pressure off."

How much did the initial visit to UNC in June affect your recruitment?

"The initial visit to UNC was a great visit. It was kind of short, because I was out there [to] check out NC State and them when I was down in North Carolina. So it wasn't too long of a visit. I'd say more the official and my visit to the Miami game was really the deciding factor.

"Mostly the Miami game was a big deciding factor, because I knew the program had everything I wanted but to finalize it by getting around the players that are coming in there. That was a big weekend for them – they had a lot of commits there. That [visit] is really what made it a final decision."

What was the motivation behind the last UNC visit?

"My final decision was Wisconsin and UNC. It was both their last home games and Wisconsin wanted me to come to more of the banquet thing at the end of the season. [But] I wanted to have my decision made sooner than later. And the Miami game attracted me and I knew Wisconsin wasn't going to have too many of their recruits coming in and I really wanted to make my decision off of the kids I'm going to be lining up next to for the next four years – I want to get to know them a lot.

"I got to spend the weekend with Sean Fitzpatrick, the tight end that's going to be playing the ‘H' tight end and who I'm going to be spending a lot of time with. It was good to meet him and all the other offensive linemen and they had a few D-linemen there, too. Getting to spend time with them made a big impact on me."

How did Butch Davis' background with tight ends affect your decision?

"That was huge. Coming in with guys like [Jeremy] Shockey and all them and Kellen Winslow, and his past NFL experience, too, you know he's been places and is an all-around type of coach.

"I think he's there to win championships – it's what he impressed on me [by] saying that's where the program is going. Obviously, I want to win and do well at whatever school I'm at. And I really think North Carolina can do that."

When did you know UNC was the place for you?

"It was actually the weekend I visited. When they started running out of the tunnel and the atmosphere, I just got that feeling where all of a sudden everything just clicked. From being on all these other visits and being unsure, that was the most sure moment, when I was on the field and hanging around all the players. It honestly felt like home and where I can see myself for years to come."

When did you tell the UNC coaches?

"I told them a few days back that I was for sure going there. When I was there, I also told them that this is where I see myself wanting to be more than anywhere else, but I didn't tell them for a fact until I announced that I was going to be doing a [press] conference. But they had a pretty good idea that that was where I wanted to be."

What happened between you and Cincinnati?

"It came down to how they ran the spread offense and I really liked Coach [Mike] Elston as the tight end coach. I wish the best for UC and the whole program there. I liked being with Coach [Kerry] Coombs and Coach [Brian] Kelly is a great guy. I want good things for them still.

"But I knew in my heart it just wasn't completely right for me. With the other schools looking at me, I want to make sure it was right. To be honest with you UC could have been the right place, but when it really clicked with me that another school fit and that I liked it more, that's what really made me attracted to another program.

"[UNC's] offense is a lot more tight end friendly. At UNC you get down in the stance more and it's more of a pro style offense, rather than a spread. I felt like I can really grow in that. That's more of the type of tight end I am – I'm going to put my hand in the ground and block a lot more."

What are some of your long term goals, career-wise?

"UNC told me they have an opportunity for me to come in and play early with Zack Pianalto being a senior next year. Career-wise, I want to get in there and help out the team as much as I can.

"Outside of football-wise, academically, I kind of want to get into journalism. I feel like that's a program I can go out and do."

Which tight end does the coaching staff project you at – Y- or H-back?

"They said I fit in at the 'Y' and Sean would be the 'H.'

"I'm happy with it. The 'H' is more up in a stance. I feel like I'd be a wide receiver if I didn't like hitting so much and getting down and blocking – that's really what the 'Y' does in their offense. He also spreads the field and gets some balls, too."

Lakota West Head Coach Larry Cox

Thoughts on Smith's decision?

"I think it's the right decision for him. When you look at all things considered, North Carolina is a fantastic school. One of the things I tell the kids ‘Throw football out of it. Where do you see yourself walking around that campus being Joe Student and really fitting in.' Because you're one injury away from never playing again.

"He called on his visit when he was down at [the UNC-Miami game] and he said ‘I really feel like I fit here, that I can walk this campus, and really be a part of something here.' And I could feel the confidence in his voice. You get to a point where you know that a fit is right – you just know it. And I told the kids you always come to that point. Obviously it just hit [Smith]…

"He just had to find the decision that's right for him… I couldn't be happier for the young man, because I know he's going to a great school and a great program."

How would you describe Smith on the football field?

"Honestly, in my 23 years of coaching football, he's the best tight end that I've ever been around. It's not even close, because he's so physical as a blocker but yet at the same time if you're going to crowd the block [to defend] the runner, he's going get behind you running. He has very soft hands… I think the sky is the limit for him. Like I said, he's a dual threat…"

Alex Smith Profile

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