Austin Smith spent this past weekend with his future team at Tennessee. The Scout three-star prospect — who announced his intention join the Volunteers last June — confirmed that he will not take another official visit leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 4.
“I had a great time like always,” Smith told InsideTennessee. “Everything was really good. I had a chance to meet with all of the defensive coaches, the early enrollees, Curt Maggitt, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and others. So, it was nice.”
Fellow 2015 linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. was among the early enrollees who spent time with Smith. The duo has already developed a close bond that should carry over to the gridiron.
“I’m very excited,” Smith said of playing alongside Kirkland. “We have a lot of similarities, but each of us brings something different to the team. Kirk is one of the nastiest pass rushers I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s similar to Maggitt in being versatile enough to excel in the pass rush and play man-to-man. Both of us bring something different to the table. We’re ready and we need each other. We hung out this past weekend, we love each other and we have a great connection.”
Freshman Cortez McDowell played host to the Scout No. 39 overall outside linebacker. Smith also spent time with linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who provided the Buford (Ga.) High School state champion with several scenarios for his future on Rocky Top.
“Coach Thigpen is awesome,” Smith said. “He’s a great guy. He said it’s a good thing that I’m very versatile because I can play behind Reeves-Maybin at the WILL spot or Maggitt on the strongside, so I can go back and forth.”
Smith also noted the similarities between himself and Reeves-Maybin. The prospect has studied the rising junior’s high school film from his days as a standout athlete at Clarksville Northeast.
“I’ve watched a lot of his high school highlights and it's similar to how I play,” Smith said. “His moves were pretty much the same as mine. So I can come in and help the team by playing alongside him or behind him.”
|TENNESSEE LINEBACKERS COACH TOMMY THIGPEN|
Tennessee currently ranks No. 3 overall in Scout’s 2015 team recruiting rankings. Smith credited head coach Butch Jones’ success on the recruiting trail and has high expectations for the Vols’ rebuilding process.
“With Coach Jones, what you see is what you get,” Smith said. “He has done a great job. He’s just being himself and he’s a wonderful coach. He tells us ‘it’s a process’ and we understand that process. It took Nick Saban three years to turn Alabama around. I think we’re going to be just like Alabama but even better. We’re buying into this process, especially for me coming from a program like Buford and having that work ethic instilled. So it’s going to be an easy transition.”
The senior says he would prefer to wear numbers “3 or 11” when he arrives in Knoxville, one of which he would share with fellow Georgia native Joshua Dobbs. Smith plans to join a Tennessee roster that already includes 15 players from the Peach State, which played a major factor in his decision.
“It’s a big plus for me,” Smith said. “It’s easy to make a transition with people I already know already in the program. When I visited Florida, I didn’t know anybody. At LSU, I couldn’t really connect with the players as much. But Tennessee had Jason Croom, Joshua Dobbs, Andrew Butcher and all of these guys that I’ve known since Little League. There’s much more of a bond and the bond becomes even stronger. So we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we can use that to our advantage against other teams.”