Smith solid with Wisconsin

Highly regarded Warren, Ohio running back prospect verbally committed to the Badgers in August

Lance Smith returned from his official visit to Minnesota saying he was still solidly committed to the University of Wisconsin football program. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound athlete is's No. 43-ranked running back prospect for the class of 2006.

"He visited Minnesota for a couple reasons," said Dick Angle, Smith's coach at Warren (Ohio) Howland High School. "No. 1, I thought it was important that he take an official visit at another school so that he can do some comparative looks when he gets to Wisconsin, because he was up there in the summer without students.

"We want to get him that campus feel… And the first thing he came back and said, ‘Well, I can't compare Minnesota to Wisconsin yet because when I was at Wisconsin it was no students… the atmosphere was different."

Smith visited Wisconsin in August and verbally committed to the Badgers shortly thereafter. His official visit to Wisconsin is scheduled for Jan. 20. There is some chance Smith will take another official before then, but that possibility appears marginal after discussing the subject with Smith and Angle.

The second reason Smith set an official trip to Minnesota was because of Wisconsin's coaching transition from head coach Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema, currently the team's defensive coordinator.

Smith has been recruited by wide receivers coach Henry Mason, who is expected to be retained next season. But the question marks swirling around the transition had concerned Smith and Angle.

"With the coaching change," Angle said, "you hear rumors…. That Henry Mason wasn't coming back and this guy wasn't coming back and they're going five wide and so forth…

"So kind of to protect his interests too we wanted to take a look. But he feels very comfortable with Coach Mason, he feels very comfortable with Wisconsin. That's something, unless he would have a terrible visit, which I don't see happening, I don't think he's going to change his mind."

Smith said he has had little contact with Bielema, but that he was impressed with him when the two spoke in August.

"Once I got up there in the summertime I got the chance to meet Coach Bielema I realized he's a good man for the program," Smith said. "Coach Alvarez is going to be there. It's not like he's going to another school. He'll be around. So whenever I need something I can always go to him anyways."

The greater worry was, as Angle said, that Mason might not be returning or that the team would drastically change its offense. Smith said he liked Wisconsin because of its tradition of having a strong running game. Plus, he has developed a close relationship with Mason, who paid him a home visit last week.

"Coach Mason, he's real cool," Smith said. "He's straight up with me. It don't seem like he hide nothing from me. I can relate to coach Henry real good."

Angle said that Mason was appraised of Smith's intentions regarding the Minnesota visit.

Said Angle: "Lance was very (upfront) with Henry in saying that ‘I'm going to make this visit. I just think I owe it to myself to take a look at across the street and what's going on.'

"So Henry knew he was visiting (Minnesota) and was very cordial about it. I don't think there's any change in the plan."

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