Vols Among Leaders for Top O-lineman

Known for finishing off his blocks with authority, prize offensive line prospect Conner Smith of Cincinnati Colerain is looking to bring the recruiting process to a quick conclusion as well.

That virtually guarantees the 6-foot-6, 295-pound Smith will be hotly pursued throughout the summer, as he aims to commit to a college before the start of his senior season. At stake is a player Scout.com touts as the likely No. 1 prospect in the midwest and the No. 1 player at his position in the Class of 2006.

The early contenders are too numerous to name, but Smith names Ohio State, Michigan and Tennessee as his current leaders. The Buckeyes enjoys a strong home field advantage with both Smith's father, Joe, who also happens to be his high school coach played football OSU under both Woody Hayes and Bruce Pearl.

""I've backed away from Connor and I told him that I want him to make his own decision," Coach Smith told Scout.com's Chris Pool. "I've been at Colerain a long time and I'm not tooting his horn because he's my kid but Connor's special."

Smith's is special because of his relentless approach to blocking which combined with his size, mobility, agility and refined technique make him a rare prospect indeed. He needs to add strength to remain a dominate force on the collegiate level, but given his drive that seems to be a relatively minor obstacle.

"Connor is technically sound," said his father. "He's explosive and his foot skills are as good as any offensive lineman I've seen at this level including Mike Munoz. I've never seen a kid in high school that finishes the way he does either. When Connor steps on the field, he's an animal."

Little wonder Ohio State offered the junior a scholarship on national signing day 2005 or that schools are lined up to make their pitch. The trick for Tennessee is to get him in for a visit this summer with such contenders as LSU, Florida, Oklahoma and Wisconsin vying for his attention. He made a junior's day visit to Michigan and has taken several unofficial visits to Columbus.

"I don't have a leader," Smith said. "My dad went to Ohio State and the Buckeyes are always on the television in our house but my dad also wants me to make my own decision.

"If I had to make a decision today, it would be between Ohio State, Tennessee and Michigan. I'd like to make my decision before the season so I can concentrate on my team and school. We'll see how things go this summer."

Smith could play either guard or tackle on the next level and the Vols value versatility highly among traits of their offensive linemen. So he would probably be trained at both positions if he chooses Tennessee. Regarded as a better run blocker at this point, Smith has the long arms and quick feet needed to play weak-side tackle.

"I'm just an effort guy," Smith said. "I love to finish my blocks. I play the game with high intensity and I go to the whistle. I guess you could say I'm self motivated. I work hard in practice and I study my opponent on film. We have great coaches at Colerain and I owe a lot to them."

That fact is reflected in his sensational statistics which include: 191 knockdown blocks in 10 games as a junior with 120 of those coming in a five-game stretch as he helped lead Colerain to a 15-0 record and Division I state title.

Smith carries an impressive 3.2 GPA and runs a 5.1 time in the 40. He is currently bench pressing 325 pounds and has not yet taken his college entrance exam.

He is being recruited for Tennessee by Greg Atkins. Since UT is just four hours away distance shouldn't be a factor that works against the Vols, however, time is of the essence.

"I'd like to make my decision definitely before the season," Smith told Dave Biddle of Bucknuts.com. "I think you can expect a decision from me before the football season starts, the first game. Really, I wouldn't be surprised if I made my decision before school lets out this year (in early June). So, I'm somewhere in between that range. Probably over the summer I will make my decision. My parents and I will have to sit down and talk about it and see what's best for me."

We'll keep you posted on further developments with Smith which appear to be coming sooner rather than later.

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