The wide receiver who has a knack for getting open better than just about any other on the west coast is Jason Ferguson, the 5-6 wideout from Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. A couple of quick cuts and Ferguson usually has a defender falling off balance or leaning the wrong way. But on Saturday, Smith stepped up to the challenge of defending Ferguson. Every time Ferguson had a rep, Smith would step to the front of the line and defend him. The one-on-one battles between Smith and Ferguson were probably the best aspect of Saturday's camp. Smith was more often able to stay with Ferguson, something that we hadn't seen before this spring. Ferguson pushed himself so much to lose Smith that he actually sprained his knee, which forced him to sit out the rest of the day.
But the general consensus among scouts and college coaches up and down the west coast is that Clifton Smith is probably the best cover corner in the west. The issue with Smith, though, has been his academics, and he told us a number of schools haven't been recruiting him because they're anticipating he might not qualify.
"Yeah, my recruiting is going kind of slow," he said. "My grades, they really aren't up to par and that's keeping some schools away. But I know this, and I'm working hard to change it. I've raised my core GPA from a 2.0 to a 2.3 with this last semester. So, I'm coming on, and I'll keep doing it this summer. I'm taking summer school. And I'll keep working hard next year."
His high school coach leaned into the interview at about that time and said, "He's doing much better and he's going to have a very good chance of qualifying."
He took the SAT for the first time in May and said he hadn't received his test score yet.
It's believed that a number of schools, including UCLA, will keep recruiting Smith because of this – and because he's just too good to drop at this point.
When it comes to college preference, Smith said that, growing up, his favorite two schools were Michigan and Miami. "If those two schools came after me, well, I don't know what I'd do." Would he commit to either if they offered? "It could be tough not to." Besides those two, he said that UCLA, USC, Oregon State and Fresno State were the others he was considering seriously. He said that Oregon State and Fresno State have offered him a scholarship.
He said he wouldn't care about leaving the west coast, but his family – his sisters – want him to stay in the west. "My parents, I haven't talked to them about it, but my sisters want me to stay close to home."
He said that, even though he likes Michigan and Miami, he'd try hard not to commit early to any school. "I really would like to wait and see all my options, see how it all plays out."
He did say that he and his teammate, Lorenzo Sims, would love to go to the same school as a package. "We talk about it and we want to do that. Hopefully it will work out."