"I am back at West Helena Central," added Eric Smiley. "I came back from Daphne (AL) last week. They said I was ineligible to play down there because I sat out a year of high school, so technically, this would be my fifth year, but they ruled me eligible in Arkansas because I was not in school."
The 6' 5", 285 pound defensive lineman actually played his first year of football last season. He moved in from Seattle and made an immediate impact for Central's program. In his first year of organized football, he had 73 tackles, 14 sacks, and had 29 qb hurries.
Scout.com ranked initially ranked him as one of the top 100 players in the country and a 4 star ranking, but then Eric went missing in action..
The job that Eric took on actually hurt his conditioning.
"I got a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken and put on 35 pounds. I was up to 320 pounds in two months, but Coach Russell worked it all off of me since I came back to West Helena and now I am back to 285. I feel great."
Smiley's sudden departure to Alabama left the college recruiters not knowing where the All-State performer was during the summer.
"The only school I heard from was Alabama, and they called me the first day I got down there. I was pretty much set to go to school there until they ruled me ineligible. Coach Lance Thomas was keeping up with me pretty good until I couldn't play down there, and I have not heard from them since. Really, I have not heard from anyone but Ole Miss because my coaches at West Helena are pretty tight with those guys."
Eric actually had a chance to visit the Rebels over the weekend with several of his teammates, including Darius Winston, DeAndre Johnson, and Turell Williams.
"We did not get there until about an hour and half before the game so I did not get a chance to see the Grove but Darius has not stopped talking about it (laugh). We went to the IPF, got our tickets, and walked on the field and watched them warm up. I was mostly paying attention to the defensive ends. I did not really look at the atmosphere, although it was real loud and packed."
What did Smiley learn about the ends?
"I need to get faster (laugh), a lot faster."
The West Helena Central product did get a brief moment to talk to the Rebel boss before he left.
"Coach Nutt shook my hand when he was running to the tunnel. He said it was good to have me back (in Arkansas)."
Smiley holds offers from Southern Cal, Oregon, Washington, Ole Miss, and Arkansas.