Friday, December 29, 2006

Tennessee Double Dip | by Pat

A few days before Christmas, Notre Dame's Class of 2007 rolled up to sixteen members when safety Harrison Smith publicly committed to the Fighting Irish. Growing up a Tennessee fan with two Vol alumni for parents, Smith spurned his hometown team and decided to head north to South Bend.

"Tennessee and Notre Dame have both been leaders," Smith said. "It was just back and forth through the whole process.

"Lately, I just kept coming back to Notre Dame and decided that's where I wanted to go."

You can watch video of Smith's press conference here.

Smith, who won the Gatorade State Player of the Year award for Tennessee was highly recruited and picked ND over offers from Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Stanford. The Stanford offer is worth a mention as Smith is also a very strong student, scoring over 1800 on the SAT and carrying a 3.8 GPA at Knoxville Catholic (nice school logo there, Catholic).

The consensus among recruiting services is that Smith is a 4-star safety/athlete recruit. In addition to his solid work during the season, Smith earned plenty of respect at the Athens Nike camp earlier in the year. At 6-2, 200 pounds, Smith ran the second fastest 40 time at the camp and the fastest 20-yard shuttle time. Again, the 4.38 time isn't as important as the fact that on the same track on the same day he outran a whole camp full of competition. (For the record, the kid that beat him in the 40 is Eric Berry, the #1 CB recruit in the nation.)

Likely coming in as a free safety, Smith (#22 in the picture to the left) also could probably play wide receiver in a pinch. Check out these highlights -- including a pretty impressive one-handed catch -- at this link. (his highlights start at the 1:10 mark) Still, my guess is that Smith will stick on the defensive side of the ball and compete with David Bruton, Sergio Brown, Kyle McCarthy, and Jashaad Gaines for the free safety position vacated by the departure of Chinedum Ndukwe.

Along with Golden Tate, ND has now landed two of the top three players in Tennessee. The third, and some say best, from the Volunteer State is linebacker Chris Donald, who will choose between -- you guessed it -- Tennessee and Notre Dame on January 6th during the Army All-American bowl game.