Zac Smith won’t be the biggest-name member of Miami’s Class of 2019 when he arrives in Coral Gables, Fla. He won’t have a row of stars next to his name or guaranteed early playing time. Smith won’t even come to campus with a scholarship.
He also won’t be a stranger to the spotlight.
About three years ago, when Smith was in eighth grade, he made his way on to ESPN’s SportsCenter with a freight-train hit during an All-American game that checked in at No. 8 on the show’s daily Top 10.
Smith seemingly may have come out of nowhere to commit to Miami as a preferred walk-on Saturday, but hitting ability like he displayed even during middle school has made him an intriguing under-the-radar prospect to a handful of the nation’s top programs. He has taken unofficial visits to Florida State, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee. He attended Michigan’s Big Man Big House and reportedly was one of the camp’s breakout stars. The Hurricanes were one of the first teams he visited, though, and the good first impression stuck.
“I loved Miami. I went to my first thing at Miami junior day my freshman year,” Smith told DieHards on Monday. “I got to meet Manny [Diaz] and I got to hear some words from [Mark] Richt, and I’ve always loved the city of Miami, so I was definitely really interested.”
Smith kept coming back to the Hurricanes, and before the No. 8 Hurricanes beat Syracuse, 27-19, on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, Smith made his pledge.
— Zac Smith (@zacsmith49) October 21, 2017
Smith doesn’t have any scholarship offers yet, although he said the Wolverines also have been pushing hard. Even without an immediate scholarship offer from Miami, Smith doesn’t have any concerns about committing early. The coaching staff, he said, told him he’d be able to earn one quickly.
“I’ve been interested in Miami for a couple years now from a recruiting perspective and Coach Richt said that he wasn’t going to go anywhere and that made me feel good,” Smith said. “I was not hesitant at all once they said they would like me to commit.”
Smith is currently unranked by the 247Sports composite rankings, although most recruiting services had been scouting the junior as an outside linebacker.
The 6-foot-2, 235 pound athlete has been playing all over the field this fall for Braden River High School in Bradenton, Fla. On offense, he lead blocks for South Carolina running back commit Deshaun Fenwick as the team’s fullback. On defense, he goes wherever Braden River needs him, although that’s primarily been middle linebacker or defensive end.
“I don’t come off the field,” Smith said. “They like using me at fullback now that I’m getting more comfortable at fullback. They’re trusting me more in run blocking.”
Fullback is a new wrinkle for the Pirates, who have been the top team in Manatee County the past few seasons using a quick-read, spread system. Smith, who transferred from across town at IMG Academy before the spring season, is simply too useful a piece to leave off the field.
Smith began his high school career at The First Academy in his hometown Orlando. After a freshman season of serving as the team’s primary running back, Smith transferred to IMG for his sophomore year.
With the talent-laden Ascenders, Smith’s days as a tailback were over. He started off playing defensive end and ultimately got on the field by playing special teams. Bone-crunching hits in the open field there translated to an expanded role on offense as a reserve H-back behind Tre’ McKitty, who is now a tight end for Florida State.
“For us he has the potential to fill a lot of different spots,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said in a year-end analysis of Smith. “We moved him around here.”
As Smith’s role has changed at his various stops, so has the Hurricanes’ recruitment of him. Diaz, the defensive coordinator, was Smith’s first contact. Back during Smith’s freshman year, it seemed defense would be his path to playing in college. Eventually they started looking at him as a potential hybrid linebacker and fullback before defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski told Smith after Paradise Camp he had solidified himself as Miami’s top fullback target in the class.
Bringing in a fullback will mean a return to some older tendencies for Richt. Before the coach began implementing more spread principles with the Hurricanes, Richt was known as one of the sport’s best pro-style minds. He used a fullback during all seven years he spent as Seminoles offensive coordinator. He kept using one during his 15 years as coach of Georgia.
Richt hasn’t had one this year. Miami hasn’t been able to replace Marquez Williams, who was drafted by the Jaguars in April. The Hurricanes will keep tinkering with potential short-term options. Smith could be the long-term solution.
“He’d currently love to have another one,” Smith said, “and he wanted me to be the one to fill it.”
The post Zac Smith, Miami’s new walk-on FB commit, has been making highlights since middle school appeared first on Diehards.