It’s not a matter of if with Trey Smith, rather when and where.
Tennessee’s brand new blue-chip offensive lineman hasn’t wasted time impressing coaches and teammates with his mental and physical maturity to go along with a blue-collar approach to bettering himself consistently.
“Obviously we’ve been very, very excited about him,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said following Tuesday’s practice, which was the 10th of Smith’s college career.
The Jackson native isn’t sleeping on this next step in achieving his personal goals and isn’t expecting continued red-carpet treatment like what he received during the recruiting process as a Scout five-star prospect.
"When he doesn't have to think, he can really come off the ball and hit somebody in the mouth — that's for sure," first-year Tennessee offensive line coach Walt Wells said last week.
Smith is at work commanding the respect of everyone on Rocky Top, including that of another former Scout five-star, who saw first hand how the freshman run blocks in a “Circle of Life” matchup last week that Smith won.
“Trey Smith is very impressive,” defensive end Jonathan Kongbo said. “He came in here and just put his head down, kept working. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. Every day we push each other to get better. There’s times he gets me, there’s times I get him. You know it’s just good competition.
“He doesn’t look like a freshman or seem like it at all. He’s very mature. Hat’s off to him.”
Positional home is a question mark regarding Smith. At University School of Jackson, he primarily played left tackle. As an Under Armour All-American, he logged a majority of his reps at left guard. At Tennessee, Smith looks like he’s going to be shifted to the right side.
“It wasn’t too bad (switching to the right side of the line),” Smith said Tuesday. “You know it’s obviously going to be tough. Never played right tackle that much. Just getting adjusted to the speed of the game.”
Smith’s experience is on the left side. He’s playing on the right. He’s also done much of his work out wide at tackle, but his ultimate landing spot could be at guard.
“I’ve worked interior and at tackle a little bit,” Smith said. “The transition is pretty tough. Sometimes I win a rep and sometimes they push me down. It’s back-and-forth. It’s college football, man. You’re not going to win every rep.”
Jones and his staff could play the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder at a variety of spots. There’s plenty of time to figure it out and Smith, who doesn’t turn 18 until June 16 and is Tennessee’s youngest scholarship player, sacrificed his final semester of high school to get a jumpstart.
“(Smith) has some position versatility,” Jones said. “He could also play guard, he could play tackle and that really helps itself as we know you like to have multi-positional players. Trey is able to bounce around from tackle to guard. Not only has he gained some valuable reps at tackle, but he’ll also get some reps at guard as well as we get into the conclusion of spring.”
Learn more about Smith by watching the video interview with him above and the post-practice footage of Jones below.