The Tulsa Tandem

The defensive line duo from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jared Naylor and Blake Smith, are high on UCLA's list. But if it weren't for one, UCLA might not know about the other...

Defensive end Blake Smith, 6-3, 245, 4.75 and defensive tackle Jared "the Bear" Naylor, 6-3, 270,4.9, both of Tulsa (Oklahoma) Union, have both been offered a scholarship by UCLA -- but in different ways.

In fact, the pair has seen two very different scenarios unfold since the spring evaluation period. Naylor has from the start drawn the interest of the entire Big 12 and many other schools (UCLA was actually the first school to offer a scholarship). UCLA made a good impression when Naylor was first contacted. "I like the UCLA coach (Don Johnson). He was pretty up front when he called."

But UCLA and other schools missed seeing his teammate Smith in the spring and didn't, then, know too much about him. The schools missed seeing him because he was in the hospital for a good deal of the time. "I was sick the month the coaches could call and evaluate players," Smith said. "I had a bad case of tonsilitis and was in the hospital for a while with surgery on my tonsils and my sinuses, so I really couldn't talk to anybody. My mom talked to most of the coaches. I didn't get to talk to the UCLA coaches. But it was easy to know why they were recruiting Jared more than me."

Naylor, though, possibly having a future in management or p.r., helped out his friend and teammate. He said he was impressed with UCLA's Coach Johnson so much that "I told UCLA about some of the other players on the team, including Blake," Naylor said.

Smith said, "Yeah, Jared did talk to the UCLA coach, which was great."

A few weeks later Naylor received an overnight package in the mail containing an official offer from UCLA. But no offer for Smith.

After Naylor, though, had alerted Coach Johnson to Smith, the UCLA defensive line coach checked out Smith for himself on tape. "So, I came home from the hospital two days later, and on the table was an overnight letter wrapped in plastic," Smith said. "I was looking at it and ripped it open, and then I called my mom to tell her that UCLA had formally offered me a scholarship."

His mom was part of the entire conspiracy. "My mom didn't want to tell me the letter came while I was in the hospital. She wanted to give it to me when I got home. It really seemed to come out of nowhere since UCLA coaches hadn't seen me in person. They had only talked with Jared and the coaches at school. When my mom got home she called the number and she spoke with the UCLA coach since I could hardly talk."

Naylor says UCLA, Arkansas, Oklahoma, LSU, Kansas, Texas and Nebraska are showing the most interest right now. When asked if there was still a lot of interest in UCLA, Naylor said, "Oh yeah."

Smith says UCLA and Arkansas are recruiting him the hardest while his childhood favorite, Oklahoma, who hasn't offered him, has not been recruiting him as hard. "My favorites would be UCLA and OU. Sometimes I have OU on top and other days I have UCLA on top," Smith said. "My top five schools are UCLA, OU, Arkansas, Missouri and SMU." Smith has offers from UCLA and Tulsa while, because of his illness, a number of schools told him that they are waiting to see how he plays this fall before offering.

That might not take long. Union started football practice on August 13, and last Friday competed in a scrimmage with two other high schools. "We had a scrimmage against Lawton Eisenhower and Marshall of Oklahoma City," Smith said. "Our defense played great against both teams. We gave up like one play to each school of 15 yards and that was it."

Both players have other things in common, like both playing offense as well as defense. "I play quick guard on offense," said Smith. "I like playing defense a bit better, but it really wouldn't matter to me whether I play offense or defense in college. I would play whatever they want. UCLA is recruiting both Jared and me for defensive line. The coaches say the are graduating some defensive lineman and it is certainly an area they are concentrating recruiting on this year."

Naylor attended camps at both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this summer. Smith, however, was limited to one late-summer camp. "It took most of the summer to recover from the surgery, so the only camp I got to go to was the Arkansas camp," Smith said. "A couple teammates and me went to Arkansas, and I had a really good camp there."

Both had solid junior seasons for a team that was picked to do anything but win. "Last season our team had only three or four returning starters, and we were supposed to be horrible. But we ended up making all the way to the playoff semifinals," Smith said. The team finished 11-1, and was known for its tough defense. Smith finished the season with 86 tackles, 11 sacks and two forced fumbles. Naylor had 47 unassisted tackles and had eight sacks last season.

When it comes to official visits, Naylor and Smith said they're shooting to take their trip to UCLA together. "I received a letter from UCLA with possible visit dates, but I haven't picked one yet," Naylor said. "We may go together, but I'm not sure yet since we don't have a date set."

While Naylor has family in Southern California (aunt, uncle and three cousins live in the Los Angeles area), Smith has been to northern California but has never been to Southern California.

"It would be cool if Blake and I went to school together," Naylor said.

Both players are fully qualified.

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