Va. Product Enjoys Trip Back to PSU

Linebacker Chad Smith returned to Happy Valley Saturday, this time as a known commodity. He called the visit and the game he saw "awesome."

When Chad Smith arrived at Holuba Hall in June, just hours before an Advanced Skill Camp would get underway, he was something of an unknown. He wasn't invited to the camp, but enrolled after he and his father researched it.

However, the Dominion High (Sterling, Va.) Class of 2015 linebacker performed so well at the event that by the time it was over, he was speaking to the same coaches who hours earlier didn't know him from any of the other camp walk-ups.

Smith stayed in contact with Penn State, and picked up his first offer from Pittsburgh earlier this fall. When he arrived at Beaver Stadium for the Lions' clash with Michigan on homecoming, he certainly wasn't an unknown anymore.

"When I first walked into the players' lounge, we went to where all the recruits were, and shortly after Coach Vanderlinden and Coach Johnson talked to me for a little bit," Smith said. "I didn't really anticipate them talking to me quickly. There were a lot of recruits, and I was surprised they found me so quick." He was referring to PSU linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

"They pretty much said they were glad to have me, and that they loved how I worked at camp," Smith said. "They said they would talk to me after the game if they had a chance, but we didn't get to because stuff got really crazy. It was awesome, and I had an awesome time."

Like every recruit reached in the aftermath of State's 43-40 quadruple overtime victory over then-No. 18 Michigan, Smith found plenty of words to describe the atmosphere of Beaver Stadium and the tone of the visit.

The 6-foot-3, 202-pound OLB was especially surprised by the way fans in attendance treated recruits. One told him, "Penn State is great, and we'd love to have you here." It was the first time a fan had ever said something like that to him, and he called the moment special.

An offer was not to be had on this day, but then, one wasn't expected. That was not the point of his visit.

"I would say that I just wanted to get a feel for what the place is like during a Penn State game, and what the team was like," Smith said. "I wasn't necessarily anticipating an offer. That would be awesome, but I have to keep working for it and maybe eventually they will offer me.

"That game was unbelievable. It left me speechless walking away from it. It was probably one of the best games I've ever seen in my entire life," he continued. "The players on both teams went all out, and toward the end, it really got tough, but they never gave up. It was awesome to be a part of. It was great."

So was the opportunity to watch the players at the positions he could one day work. Penn State linebacker Mike Hull's second overtime pass break-up near the goal line caught his eye.

"That was just ridiculous," Smith said. "A great play, and probably one of the plays that was overlooked a little bit. That was a game-changer right there. That could have been the game. The pass coverage from the linebackers, and their ability to drop back in pass coverage and make plays, was something they did a great job with.

"They did a great job with run support, too, and I believe I can bring those abilities wherever I go."

Smith was also impressed by what may have been the most pivotal play in overtime.

"The one moment that stood out to me was when Michigan was going for that game-winning field goal in [the first] overtime," he said. "I thought that was the game. The odds of them blocking it looked very small. It looked like the game was over in my mind. It was a great game, but I thought it was over.

"That moment, when Penn State blocked the kick, was one of the craziest moments of my life. I was looking at the teammate I brought with me like, ‘Are you seeing what I'm seeing right now?' It was crazy. That moment sums up the entire visit."

Illinois marked Smith's first Big Ten offer Wednesday, and UNC-Charlotte has also offered. As for visits, besides the recent trip to Penn State, he also took in Virginia Tech's 27-17 home win over North Carolina Oct. 5. He is planning to see Pitt play host to Miami Nov. 30, as well.

Dominion is 4-2 through six weeks of the high school football season, and Smith said he is focusing more on his season than recruiting. He gets back to the grind this week, as a Friday showdown with Loudoun Valley (Purcellville, Va.) awaits the Titans.

He knows the chances of an offer will likely be dictated by the way he plays in his remaining games this fall. Penn State will undoubtedly view tape from his junior campaign before deciding.

Will an offer come? It's difficult to say.

Penn State has already extended Class of 2015 offers to St. Christopher's School (Richmond, Va.) five-star Ricky DeBerry, St. Xavier (Cincinnati) four-star Justin Hilliard and Benedictine (Cleveland, Ohio) four-star Jerome Baker at outside linebacker.

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