Salem's Smith gets it done on both sides

Coming into the 2004 season, most everyone in South Jersey knew of Salem High School's <b>Corey Smith</b>'s accomplishments at tailback; what fewer people may have realized was that Smith also possesses the ability to be a star linebacker at the next level. The two-way star talks about his recent visits to Cincinnati and Vanderbilt, and hints at what's ahead.

Coming into the 2004 season, most everyone in South Jersey knew of Salem High School's Corey Smith's accomplishments at tailback. The burly, 6-1, 220-pounder had rushed for over 2,000 yards in a stellar junior season, and as a result had begun to attract attention from recruiters all across the U.S.

What fewer people may have realized was that Smith also possesses the ability to be a star linebacker at the next level. Forced into playing middle linebacker when an injury sidelined key starter Lamont Robinson (a four-star prospect committed to Virginia), Smith responded by helping make the Rams' defense one of the area's stingiest.

Ironically, the running back who rushed for over 4,000 yards in his high school career is now being viewed by a number of colleges as a defensive player. With his 4.5 speed, slashing running style, and razor-sharp instincts... is he a tailback, or a linebacker?

Or both?

"At the moment, more colleges are looking at me for linebacker," Smith told this week. "Sure, everyone loves running the ball, but I'm a versatile player. I don't mind playing any position."

"He's a very well put-together young man," says Salem Coach Dave Lindenmuth. "He spends a great deal of time in the weight room. He rushed for around 1,400 yards for us and averaged eight-and-a-half yards per carry. Defensively he led our team with 81 tackles. He actually made All-Conference at both tailback and linebacker."

Additionally, he was recently named area Defensive Player of the Year in South Jersey by his hometown newspaper, Today's Sunbeam.

"He's an incredible athlete who has great quickness," Lindenmuth added. "He's a great student of the game, very smart. He's capable of raising not only his game, but his teammates' game to another level. He's involved in his community, and does a lot of volunteer work with younger kids, and that's enticing to colleges as well. They know they're not only going to get a great athlete, but a great person."

Lindenmuth, who has fielded phone calls about Smith all through the spring and fall, lost track a long time ago of how many offers the two-way star has received. Among them are Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, Villanova, West Virginia, USC, Boston College, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. It's been difficult, Lindenmuth said, for him to pare his list down to the five lucky schools which will receive official visits.

Smith's first two visits were to Cincinnati (Dec. 3) and Vanderbilt (Dec. 10). He thought highly of both schools, but is not ready yet to give either school an edge.

"I loved them both," Smith said of Vanderbilt and Cincinnati. "They both had all the academic programs I wanted, and the kind of surroundings I was looking for. I met the coaches and a lot of players. I met some teachers too, and all the teachers at both colleges seemed really caring. I wouldn't mind going to either place.

"I liked Cincinnati. It's in a city, but the college is not really in the city. The campus is five or ten minutes away, and it's relatively quiet. It's a similar situation down at Vanderbilt. Sometimes the people there are rowdy and have a certain amount of energy, and other times they just feel like sitting back, relaxing, and doing their studies."

As many prospects do this time of year, Smith is reveling in all the attention he's receiving as a highly coveted prospect. "I love traveling," he says, "especially when it's for free." He still hopes to schedule three more visits.

"I can't say too much about any of the other schools, since I haven't been there or met the coaches yet. I was going to squeeze a lot of visits into the month of December, but I just decided to take my time and do some in early to mid-January."

The Salem star also runs track and plays on the basketball team. Will his visits cause a conflict for basketball, where he starts at shooting guard?

"No, the coach understands where I'm headed. He knows the goals I've set for myself. So there's no big conflict."

Smith says he will make his final decision based on his "gut feeling"-- wherever he feels the most comfortable. His coach feels either Vanderbilt or Cincinnati would be a good fit for his star tailback / linebacker.

"He enjoyed both of his trips," said Coach Lindenmuth. "Vanderbilt's a beautiful area, beautiful location, and has a beautiful campus. He enjoyed the coaches there. They're a great academic institution. Corey is a very good student as well, with a 3.6 GPA, so academics is very important to him.

"Cincinnati was a great trip for him as well. He fit in well with all the players there too. They're going into the Big East, so that's a big selling point for them."

Obviously the type of prospect enamored with taking official visits, Smith most likely will defer his decision until late January, after taking at least a couple more visits.

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