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4-star LB Brandon Smith breaks down recruitment, Penn State visit
It’s been nearly six months since Brandon Smith departed James Franklin’s office with a Penn State scholarship offer. While it was clear at the time that this was a recruit on the rise, offseason developments vaulted him to another level.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound linebacker, received offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Tennessee between the start of May of end of July.
“A lot has changed to where I am now,” he said. “I just continue to embrace everything and I’m thankful for it.”
The Louisa County (Mineral, Va.) High School junior journeyed to more than 10 universities during summer break, including a trip to Penn State for Lasch Bash festivities and Nittany Lions camp. Smith often travels with a group of family members, and that was the case in Happy Valley this summer.
His parents, grandparents, younger brother and two uncles joined him on campus. Following the visit, it was easy to tell that the family left impressed.
“They got a chance to see what I like so much about PSU,” the Class of 2019 standout said afterward.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 16, 2017
Smith returned to town Sept. 9, attending the Nittany Lions game vs. Pittsburgh. He watched Penn State secure a 33-14 win while accompanied by his parents, brother, uncle and a close friend. They were joined by more than 109,000 others in Beaver Stadium, which recorded its largest attendance since 2009.
“The environment definitely opened up our eyes,” Smith said. “We saw what kind of atmosphere I would potentially be playing in if I pick Penn State. It was definitely a unique experience.”
— Brandon Smith (@brand0n_smith12) September 10, 2017
It’s another key part of a lengthy evaluation for Smith and his family. Along with summer camps and unofficial visits, they’ve stayed busy into the season.
Smith attended the season-opening showdown between Alabama and Florida State in Atlanta. He traveled to the Clemson-Virginia Tech matchup in Blacksburg, then spent time at Ohio State this past weekend as the Buckeyes hosted Maryland.
Through only six weeks of the college football season, Smith has seen each of AP poll’s current top three teams compete. He even shared a conversation with former Virginia Tech star Michael Vick while on the Hokies sideline.
“These trips really help me see the differences between each and every program,” Smith said. “All the camps and visits, and speaking with former professional athletes and coaches, really inform me on what I need to continue to do to be where I want to be.”
— Brandon Smith (@brand0n_smith12) October 8, 2017
Though he’s been busy on the recruiting trail, Smith continues to enjoy sustained progression as a prospect. He has 61 tackles — 11 for loss — and 5 sacks for 6-0 Louisa County. He’s also filled the stat sheet with 2 blocked kicks and 2 rushing touchdowns.
Though the Louisa County coaching staff considered moving him to defensive end this season, he remains at middle linebacker. Smith is well on his way toward topping the career-best production he posted in 2016: 75 tackles – 17 for loss – and 10 sacks.
“Between the whistles, Brandon is not going to be denied,” Louisa County coach Mark Fischer said this offseason. “He’s never encountered a situation on the field where he doesn’t believe he can dominate. … Our challenge at this level is to move Brandon around the field on defense to keep him involved with 90 percent of plays.”
That’s the mindset that led Smith, a team captain, back to inside linebacker this fall.
“I’m there because I’m able to go sideline to sideline and make plays,” he said.
While there has been some discussion about his long-term potential at defensive end, the vast majority of college programs are focused on Smith’s skill set at outside linebacker. He anticipates that will be his landing spot in 2019 and beyond, citing his speed and athleticism. Smith’s personal-best finish in the 40-yard dash is 4.44 seconds, which is freakish when paired with his 6-5 frame.
Smith, who also occasionally plays tight end and receiver for Louisa County, believes mental maturation has been just as important as physical progression.
“The game has just slowed down a lot. That’s the big difference,” he said. “I’m much stronger and faster than I was last year, too, so that’s also really important.”
Smith, listed 79th overall in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, plans to trim the recruitment process to a group of top contenders following his junior season. His father, Rico Smith, previously told me he anticipates Penn State will be on any “short list” and Brandon’s updated outlook indicates that as well.
He pointed to Penn State while discussing places where he feels comfortable with the overall student-athlete package. Smith also mentioned Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Following an upcoming announcement of priority programs, Smith and his family will continue their in-depth assessment of each option. The goal is to issue a commitment prior to his senior season.
Watch Smith’s junior-season highlights here:
Nittany Lions continue offer spree, target 4-star DT Mazi Smith
Penn State’s bye week is off to a busy start on the recruiting trail, especially when it comes to establishing new targets in the trenches. Franklin extended offers to 4-star linemen Tyler Davis and Jackson Lampley during the weekend, then followed with an offer Monday evening to 4-star defensive tackle Mazi Smith.
It was a major momentum day for Smith, who also added Ohio State to his offer sheet Monday. This 6-3, 290-pound East Kentwood (Grand Rapids, Mich.) High School junior expressed plenty of excitement when he revealed the Nittany Lions decision.
— Mazi (@mazismith) October 10, 2017
Smith referenced a discussion with Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer, then went all caps with his “love” for the program.
He’s rapidly become one of the most highly sought-after 2019 defensive prospects in Big Ten territory. Previous offers feature Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Other Penn State priorities at defensive tackle include 5-star recruits Antonio Alfano and Ishmael Sopsher, along with fellow fresh target Davis, and Ohio standouts Jowon Briggs and Rodas Johnson.
Here are early-season highlights from Smith’s junior campaign:
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