Another Keeper in K-Town

In an era when the scholarship pinch places added pressure on the evaluation process, a prospect like Harrison Smith, of Knoxville Catholic High School, offers added value due to his outstanding versatility.

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, with impressive 4.53 speed, he could immediately line up at wide receiver, safety or tailback or develop into an H-back, fullback or linebacker down the road. Anyway you look at it Smith is a diverse athlete and a talented football player who will be hard to keep off the field.

He's is being recruited at each of those first three positions and has offers on the table from Clemson (running back), Ole Miss (running back), Boston College ·receiver), Virginia Tech (safety), Stanford (wide receiver) and Tennessee (safety/wide receiver).

There's nothing from Smith's high school career to suggest he couldn't fill all those roles in college. As a junior he earned All-State, All Region and All-conference honors as a two-starter.

He played safety on defense and recorded 61 tackles (11 for loses), five interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He returned two of his INTs for TDs. When Catholic had the ball he was just as busy, rushing for 1,312 yards and 17 touchdowns on 155 carries for an 8.7 yard per carry average. Additionally, he caught 32 passes for 446 yards and six more scores.

To underscore Smith's big-play ability consider that he returned an interception 84 yards, caught a pass for 68 yards and had a run of 70 yards.

This writer had the opportunity to watch Harrison Smith work out at the Combine in San Antonio and was impressed with his hands, instincts and route running skills. He could excel as a strong safety in UT's defensive system given his size, speed and quick reaction to the ball. He would be like having a fourth linebacker on the field or a second free safety. A player with that type of dimension could be used to disguise defensive intentions while eliminating potential match-up problems posed by tight ends.

If used on offense he could play anything from wideout to single back, plus his ability to catch the ball coming out of the backfield will create mismatches in his favor. It's the type of diversity that keeps defenses guessing and adjusting.

"He's a heck of a running back," Catholic head coach Mark Pemberton told Jeff Baumhower if "He's definitely a power back, but he can run away from people. He can make you miss. He's got good hips and he has a tremendous stiff arm. I should have kept stiff-arm stats. It's unbelievable the number of people he's made miss with the stiff arm."

Pemberton, who has led the Fighting Irish to a 34-3 record the last three seasons, is equally enthusiastic about Smith on defense.

"He's a heck of a defensive player too," he said "He could be a big safety. He could be a linebacker defensively in college. He's very physical. I could see him playing a ‘Will' linebacker in a 4-3 scheme or playing the strong safety in the 4-2-5 look. He's just the type of kid you could plug in anywhere. Because he's so fast, big and physical I think he'll fit in a lot of places."

Getting a commitment from Smith would give UT at least two prospects from Knoxville for the first time in recent memory. The Vols already have a commitment from Knoxville Austin East's Anthony Anderson.

However the competition for Smith's services is strong. In addition to the aforementioned offers, he is also being strongly pursued by Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish haven't made an offer yet, but it appears to be little more than a formality. The buzz around San Antonio was that he is high on Notre Dame's board at more than one position.

Smith, who reports a 3.8 GPA also took an unofficial visit to Auburn last month for Junior Day and the Tigers appear to be prominent players in his recruiting picture. He attended camps at Alabama, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Tennessee last summer and plans to make a few one-day camps this year.

Wherever Smith visits the offers are sure to follow, but Tennessee hopes what he discovers on his journeys is that there's no place like home.

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