The Vols are hot on the heels of Warren, Ark., wideout Bret Smith, who was informed on Tuesday he has been selected for the elite squad. Smith accepted a plaque during at ceremony at this high school on Wednesday commemorating the honor. He is the first Arkansan to be named a Parade All-American since 2001, when Cedric Houston and Shawn Andrews made the cut. Smith is only the 24th player from Arkansas to make the prestigious Parade squad in the 40 years of its existence. A total of 26 states were represented on the 55-player Parade team.
"This award means a whole lot," said Smith in a story published by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "Who wouldn't be happy being selected as an All-American for Parade? That's a great honor."
Previously Smith was selected the state's Player of the Year after a senior campaign in which he played quarterback for the first four games before switching to back to his more familiar wide receiver role. Smith had only one reception through the first four games of the season, but finished with 62 receptions for 1,143 yards and 10 touchdowns as the Lumberjacks won their second straight Class-3A state title. Smith also completed 58-of-117 pass attempts for 1,110 yards and 11 TDs while narrowly missing the 1,000-yard mark in rushing.
As a junior, Smith (5-11, 175, 4.55) compiled one of the most productive seasons in the nation, catching an incredible 103 passes for 1889 yards (18.3 yards per catch) and 23 touchdowns to lead Warren to a 15-0 record and the state championship. That averages out to nearly seven catches for 130 yards and 1.6 TDs per game. In one game against perennial state pigskin power Nashville, he had 12 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
However it was during the 2002 playoffs that Smith took his game to another level, catching 34 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns in five do-or-die battles. Smith entered the championship clash with a badly sprain ankle and a severe limp, but managed to grab 12 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. In the semifinals against Prescott, he caught seven passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.
"It never mattered to him about being a quarterback or receiver," said Warren head coach Bo Hembree. "He was going to do whatever it took to win. Everything we've ever asked him to do, he's done. That says a lot for a kid who was the highest-recruited receiver (in Arkansas) coming into the football season and then moves to quarterback.
"He never worried about records. Those meant nothing to him. What meant something to him was winning the state championship."
Star City High head coach Buck James concurred with Hembree after watching Smith connect on 8-of-18 passes for 92 yards and catching six passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns against his squad.
"If he doesn't play on Sunday, it's just because he has some bad luck," James said. "That's what I think. I think if you're looking at Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, guys like that when they first started out, they can't be any different than he was when he was a senior in high school. This guy has all the physical tools, and he seems to have the mental make-up for it.
"You can't even talk about comparing him to anybody else in the state of Arkansas that's ever played receiver as far as what I've seen and I've been doing this for 16 years."
Smith visited UT last weekend with teammate RoShaun Fellows, a cornerback who has already committed to Tennessee, and had a great time. Though it was his first trip to Knoxville, Smith came away convinced he would be coming back and still lists the Vols as his leader. However, he will be in Fayetteville this weekend for his last official visit and admits: "things might change."
If Smith decides to become a Vol, Tennessee's success recruiting big-time wide receivers would change.