Smith takes finalists number down to 2

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ORLANDO, Fla. — And then there were two.

The third highest rated safety prospect in the 2014 class still uncommitted is close to changing that. D.J. Smith eliminated one of his finalists recently and is set to decide between a pair of Southeastern Conference schools.

"I trimmed it down to South Carolina and Tennessee," Smith told InsideTennessee. "I recently cut Clemson out because I want to play in the SEC."

No league in the nation is churning out talent to the National Football League these days like the SEC. Smith sees that and wants to be a part of it.

"The best of the best play there," he said. "If I want the best chance to go to the league or try to make it, then I have to play with the best of the best."

Last week, Smith participated as one of the country's best, competing in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl at the Citrus Bowl.

"I had fun," said Smith, rated by Scout as a four-star prospect. "I met a lot of new players, went against some good receivers. Out of all of it, I had a really good time.

"Everyone on this field is a Division I player. Overall, I had fun. I got worked a couple times, got beat a couple times, made a couple plays. Overall, I think I did good though."

It won't be long until the Walton (Ga.) High School product is challenged athletically again. After verbally committing this month, possibly on television on Jan. 13, his skills will be tested in either Columbia, S.C., or Knoxville, Tenn.

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Getting on the field sooner rather than later is also what has the Gamecocks and Volunteers as the top two.

"Early playing time and then the coaching staff (at South Carolina) is real good but mostly early playing time, just for both them actually, them and Tennessee," Smith said.

Vols defensive backs coach Willie Martinez is the lead recruiter on Smith.

"Yeah, I talk to him a lot, that's my homeboy," Smith said of Martinez. "I love him the most. He's one of the coolest recruiting coaches I talk to. When I hang out with him, we just have a blast. He probably is one of the biggest reasons I like Tennessee. He keeps coming back. He's a funny dude. I have a great relationship with him."

Six future Vols participated in the O-D Bowl alongside Smith with four-star defensive tackle Charles Mosley being on Smith's team.

"Yeah, I hung out with him a lot," Smith said of Mosley. "He was a character. He's funny. He a big dude. He talk a lot out on the field and keeps us laughing."

The No. 17 safety in the nation says he will join some Gamecock commitments with an official visit to South Carolina on Jan. 17. The following week he plans to official to Tennessee and the Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes figure to have him on campus the last weekend before National Signing Day (Feb. 5).

Smith, who entered the 2013 season as the No. 8-rated prospect in the Peach State, scored a 12-yard touchdown run for Walton's only score in their GHSA Class AAAAAA state playoff game on Nov. 15. That proved to be Smith's prep finale as the Raiders lost 41-7.

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the Scout team July 2011.
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