Less than one week ago I reported to you the waves that Stanford was making with Tempe (AZ) offensive lineman Allen Smith, with two highly successful in-home visits and the news of his Admissions acceptance. In his own crafty and clever way, Smith named Stanford as his leader at that time - or the closest thing you will ever extract from him to that effect. Five days later, the recruiting world of this elite student-athlete has been turned upside down.
It all started with his official visit this past weekend to Westwood, where he for the first time got a hard look at all that the UCLA Bruins have to offer him. Many recruits come back from visits on an emotional high because of their 48 hours of fawning treatment, with gaudy meals, gorgeous girls, unmentionable parties and long stretches of face time with the vaunted head coach. But remember that Smith is a different kind of cat. His impactful visit to Notre Dame earlier this fall, for example, made an indellible impression upon him not with the sellout home crowd, not with the institutional commitment and facilities, and not with any star treatment. Smith returned to his Tempe home high on the Irish because of the time he spent one-on-one with freshman offensive tackle Ryan Harris. His story after this UCLA visit was thus familiar...
"UCLA had a very positive impact on me," the 300-pound lineman reports. "Before that I honestly had a stereotype of what it would be like, and I have to say the visit changed my view drastically."
"Well, I knew that UCLA was one of the more balanced schools on my list - not because of any particular mix," Smith continues. "Though it does provide an excellent one in academics and athletics. But more it was that there was nothing really outstanding about it - except for the fact it was in L.A. I found myself very mistaken. I thought there was no standout aspect, and then I met the players. That is their standout feature, and it's a strong selling point for me. They hit it on the head."
The Arizona superstar particularly cites a pair of young Bruin lineman as impressing him: 6'9" Ed Blanton and 6'7" Robert Cleary. The connection he established with those two young men, and others, has helped him feel a fit at UCLA he previously did not conceive as possible or probable. Conventional wisdom has held that Smith has been torn between his hometown favorite and mother's employer (Arizona State), his top official visit (Notre Dame) and his dream school (Stanford). A new reality is sinking in, however, with UCLA climbing quickly up the ladder.
"With only a little more than a month left before Signing Day, this would be the ideal time for recruits to be narrowing down to their top two or three choices," the highly contested recruit begins. "I on the other hand don't have a true top five yet. With the recent visit I took to UCLA, the task just became more complicated. Before I had an idea that this visit would make or break UCLA for me. I thought if it 'made' UCLA for me, that would only guarantee their spot in my top five. Now that I'm back, putting them just in my top five does not do them justice. I've battled in my head and my heart what order to put Stanford, Notre Dame and Arizona State, and that month of work was completely set back. Now I have to reconfigure with UCLA in the mix. UCLA could end up number five or number one. Only time will tell. Regardless of the outcome, I know that if Stanford is able to match or top the experience at UCLA, then we have a clear winner. If not, then I think February 4 is a little too soon."
There is some good news hidden for Cardinal fans in that thoughtful and long-winded commentary. Stanford holds a high enough place in this recruit's mind against three schools he has officially visited that a powerful trip to The Farm could put them solidly on top. Smith will visit Stanford the weekend of January 16, and he will close out his official trips the next weekend to SEC powerhouse Tennessee. But even more surprising than the rapid ascension of UCLA in this recruitment is the news that Allen Smith's travel plans do not end with that January 23 jaunt to Knoxville.
"Throughout this process, I've tried to be as fair and reasonable as possible in all decisions," the Corona Del Sol senior starts up again. "Now that I look back on my UCLA visit, I realize I did not get the full effect of Arizona State or Notre Dame by taking in-season visits. I was only allowed one full day to see everything they had, while Stanford, UCLA and Tennessee will both get me for two [days]. I've decided I can't make an accurate decision based on what I saw over a month ago, so I'm giving Notre Dame the last look. I will take an unofficial there in late January. This is all in its tentative stages of planning, but soon after the dead period I also plan on an unofficial to ASU, then giving Notre Dame my last look, before Signing Day on February 4."
How's that for a shocker? And this is breaking news in the truest sense of the word - not even the coaches in South Bend or Tempe yet know of this dazzling development.
The logic in Smith's mind is that he only experienced one full day and one night at both ASU and Notre Dame, while his other three hosts have the benefit of two full days and two overnights. To that end, he will give his two January unofficial destinations one more day and one more night each.
The good news for Domerfans, and bad news for the rest of the recruiting world, is that Tyrone Willingham and the Irish will have the last say before Signing Day. And though Stanford made the biggest splash to date two weeks ago, Notre Dame has managed to do favors for themselves with a strong in-home visit from their head coach. Smith also tells The Bootleg that he has taken a harder look at the Irish depth chart and sees very big opportunities for himself at offensive tackle.
If we know one thing, it is to stay tuned to the recruitment of Allen Smith. Just about the only thing you can expect is to be surprised, and with a very full and crucial January still ahead, the twists and turns could rival Lombard Street. As always, stay tuned here to The Bootleg, who has consistently brought you the most accurate, up-to-date and breaking information on this elite offensive lineman.
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