Donald, Smith Hit the Road

Tennessee's top two in-state football prospects — Chris Donald of Huntingdon and Harrison Smith of Knoxville Catholic High School — took recent out-of-state visits, to Notre Dame and Auburn, and came away officially impressed by their experience.

What that will mean to the Volunteers' recruiting efforts is hard to say, but two things are clear. Chris Donald will announce his choice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January, and Smith now makes his recruitment a three-school race between Tennessee, Notre Dame and Auburn.

Fortunately, it appears the Vols will get the last official visit with each athlete, and Tennessee's success this season has to help its appeal, especially with a couple of young men that grew up as Big Orange fans.

However, Auburn and Notre Dame are also having good seasons, as was underscored Saturday when the Tigers knocked off undefeated Florida and the Irish prevailed over Stanford.

In an interview with Jeff Baumhower of IrishEyes.com, Donald, a five-star prospect who is rated the nation's No. 2 linebacker prospect by Scout.com, gave the following comments about his visit to South Bend.

"Everything about Notre Dame is good. I guess there's not a bad thing about it. The distance isn't really that bad. I think I had made it a little factor before, but it really isn't bad. I was a little concerned with my parents being so far away, it's different having them see you on TV, but Notre Dame has their parent days and other things so that's good.

"I like pretty much everything about Notre Dame. It's going to be a very hard decision. I'm just going to take it one day at a time. I'm going to put it in God's hands and I'll pray I make the best decision for me. I'm just going to go from there. I know some people are going to be mad at me, but I have to make the best decision for myself. They're not going to be playing there and I am."

If that last statement sounds like Donald's declaration to follow the path of greatest resistance it's not surprising. He was talking to a Notre Dame web site immediately after returning from his trip there. The Vols hope time and his visit to Knoxville will hold considerable sway over this all-American.

One of the prospects visiting Notre Dame the same weekend Donald did was Smith, a four-star prospect who is ranked No. 25 among safety prospects by Scout.com, although many experts project the Knoxville native as a linebacker in college.

It was Smith's fourth visit to South Bend. He has also visited Clemson.

"I like Notre Dame a lot," Smith told Baumhower. "I think I'm going to go back and visit Tennessee and see what happens. I think I'm going to go to the Alabama game. I'm not sure if I'm going to take an official for that game, because I have a lot of family coming in for that game. I might take my official visit for the LSU game or on Dec. 10, I'm not sure about that. I really like both schools a lot and I know it will be a tough decision."

That decision got a lot tougher after Smith visited Auburn last weekend.

"I was impressed by everything down there," he told Adam Entrekln of Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I really like the campus. We didn't get to tour everything this time, but I have been down a couple times and I know some people that go there. I like the campus a lot, there is some grass. "I like it a lot. I would say they are like top three of my schools with Tennessee and Notre Dame. I like them a lot."

Smith reports he has gained 900 yards rushing as a senior. On defense he has 40 tackles and an INT for Knoxville Catholic which is ranked No. 2 in the state.

In addition to his remaining visits to UT, Smith said he plans to attend the Auburn-Alabama game. He indicated in previous Inside Tennessee interviews that he would like to make his commitment before Christmas.

If the Vols are fortunate enough to land these in-state stars, Tennessee fans will have both a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


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