Vols Head to Coast for Star Pass-Catcher

It's not surprising during a year when Tennessee's top recruiting priority <br> is wide receiver that the Vols are returning to the fertile territory where <br> they landed their last great one; <a target='_new' href='http://scout.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=7&p=8&c=1&nid=361929&yr=2002'>Donte Stallworth</a>. <br>

Yes, the Vols are bucking the odds and heading back to the west coast where
there are three outstanding pass-catching talents. Recently we reported on
St. Bonaventure star Whitney Lewis , who is rated the best in the nation and
is considering Tennessee.

Today we're featuring Steve Smith, 6-1, 185, of Taft High School in Woodland
Hills, Calif., who is listed No. 8 in the nation by The Insiders. Smith
doesn't have the size, speed or raw athletic talent of Lewis, but he's got
bigger numbers, and he is arguably the better football player.

During two seasons, Smith has caught an incredible 184 passes for 3,209
yards and 30 touchdowns. As a junior, he had 91 receptions for 1,612 yards
and 12 touchdowns and intercepted a school record 12 passes in full-time
duty at cornerback. Blessed with 4.45 speed, quick feet and superb leaping
ability, Smith has the requisites to get the job done on either side of the
ball.

He also has the competitive fire needed to succeed at the next level.
Example: During one game last season his team was trailing with just a few
seconds remaining in the first half and 60 yards away from pay dirt. Taft
went to maximum protection, sent Smith on a fly route where he was met by
five DBs camped under the deep pass. Undaunted by the superior numbers,
Smith soared above the crowd and came down with the football for a TD.

"His ability to catch the ball in traffic and make the acrobatic reception
is the best we've ever seen on a high school player," writes The Insiders
west region recruiting director Greg Biggins. "Throw in the fact that Smith
is a two time All-City basketball player and you have one tremendous
athlete."

Smith is continuing his stellar output as a senior. In the season opener
last Friday against Crenshaw, he caught seven passes for 165 yards and a
touchdown. He also intercepted a pass.

With that type of big-play ability, Smith has his choice of scholarship
offers from big-time football programs. He has set three official visits so
far, including one to Knoxville for the Tennessee-Miami showdown.

"We're going to Texas October 4, Oregon October 25 and Tennessee November
8," Smith's father Steve Sr. said. "We were going to take an official to
Notre Dame when they played Michigan, but we couldn't get it worked out so
we may have to get that set for another weekend. Michigan is another Steve
wants to visit."

Smith also has an interest in Florida, Southern Cal and UCLA. He won't take
visits to the west coast schools because he knows both well. In fact, USC
appears to have the inside track although Smith told Inside Tennessee that
he doesn't have a favorite and is very interested in the Vols.

"Coach (Larry) Slade is recruiting me," Smith said. "He's cool. I'd like to
play early and Tennessee uses a lot of young players. Casey (Clausen) went
there and started as a freshman."

Smith's decision, as well as that of several other premier receiving
prospects, may be the determining factor in whether Casey starts for UT as a
senior or exits for the NFL.


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