Smith gets big offer, but no commitment yet

Mission Viejo (Calif.) center Cole Smith came away from the USC camp without a scholarship offer, but Monday, he returned to Howard Jones Field with an opportunity to play for the school his father coached at so many years ago.

Mission Viejo (Calif.) center Cole Smith took an unofficial visit to USC Monday knowing he had the potential of spending four years of his life there.

Just before arriving on campus, Smith was offered a scholarship by offensive line coach Tim Drevno and head coach Steve Sarkisian.

“They actually told me I had an offer before I got there, and that they were having people commit as soon as possible,” said Smith. “That was kind of thrown on me real fast.

“Coach Drevno was kind of pushing me to commit, but Coach Sarkisian was more understanding of the process. I kind of got the good cop, bad cop thing. But I wasn’t ready to commit.”

Smith went to the USC Linemen Camp on June, where he worked out as a center for the Trojans coaching staff.

“I actually went to their camp last year, but they changed coaching staffs, so that was kind of a bummer for me,” said Smith. “I went to the camp again this summer, but they said they really only wanted to recruit offensive tackles for this class.

“I went there and competed real hard, but they weren’t sure they wanted a center. What they usually do is recruit a guard type and then move them to center.

“But they think Max Tuerk might leave early to the league, so they think I would be a good addition. Maybe he could mentor me for a year and then have me take that spot.”

Smith has pretty strong family ties to USC, and the school’s alumni base also is a big draw for the 6-foot-3, 255-pouf center prospect.

“I grew up a Southern California boy, so my dad coached there and my sister went there,” said Smith. “USC has always been a big school for me.

“The thing I like about USC, which not a lot of schools have, is the alumni network. There are so many connections and loyalty. Even if football doesn’t work out there are a lot of people that will help you get to where you want to be.

“But UCLA and USC are so competitive now, it’s going to be a tough decision to make. I don’t know what I’m going to do, truthfully.”

Smith appears at face value as a Trojan legacy, and while he may very well end up committing to USC sooner rather than later, he is taking his time with the process.

“The pressure to commit is a little bit off, so I’m just going to commit when I feel right,” said Smith. “I was going to wait to see how the season played out, but I don’t know if USC wants to put a timetable on the offer.”

Smith also has some interest in Stanford, but with no scholarship offer and the prospect of cramming more classes into his already busy schedule, USC and UCLA stand out as his two favorites.

UCLA offered Smith a scholarship right after their own linemen camp in June. The Bruins decisive move to recruit Smith still lingers as a positive for UCLA.

“They offered me so fast, it took USC a little while to figure things out,” said Smith. “I’ve loved USC for so long, but they didn’t have the confidence in me UCLA did.”

When Smith made it to USC’s campus Monday, he watched the Trojans’ offensive closely. At center is a rotation of Max Tuerk, Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao.

“What they did tell me is that they usually have guards that move to center, but this whole training camp its been a pain for them to convert guys to center,” said Smith. “They want the center breed, Coach Sarkisian kept saying.

“The rotation is giving them a little bit a trouble. They want a guy who is more comfortable playing center. Whether it means calling plays or just having your hand on the ground the whole time.”

Having seen USC in fall camp, Smith may still take a visit to UCLA in the coming weeks to give the Bruins another look.

“I saw the practices fields during their camp, but I didn’t really get to tour the facilities that much,” said Smith. “I feel like I got a good understanding of what USC is about, so I think I need to see UCLA again before I have a better understand of what I want to do.”

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