Saturday, December 10, 2005

Man in the Middle | by Pat

Right on the heels of Dan Wenger, Georgia linebacker Toryan Smith announced his decision to attend the University of Notre Dame and became the 24th known verbal commitment. And Smith didn't need a fancy explanation as to why he chose the Irish.

“It’s just Notre Dame — enough said,” said Smith, who ranked as the No. 5 inside linebacker in the nation.
“Academically, athletically, there’s nothing above that. I think they have the best coach in the nation and they can get me where I want to go.”
Also important was his connection with Coach Weis.
“He was honest with me from day one and he never second guessed and me never knocked any other schools,” Smith said. “I appreciate that honesty. He thought I was the best player and I thought he was the best coach. It was a match made in heaven.”
The Rome, Georgia native is expected to come into Notre Dame as a middle linebacker, a position that loses current starter Corey Mays after this year. With Scott Smith seemingly ahead of Mitchell Thomas on the depth chart at MLB, the battle for a starting position seems to be wide open. It will be interesting to see if the physical Smith can make a push for early playing time next year.

We make fun of the recruiting "star ranking" system all the time, and the 6', 240-lb Smith is a perfect example of why Top 100 lists and such on rivals, scout, and elsewhere should always be taken with the proverbial grain (or ton) of salt. According to Rivals, Smith is the 14th-best inside linebacker in the country and a 3-star recruit. Pretty good, but not great. Scout is even harsher: they have Smith listed as a 3-star player and the 46th best linebacker in the country. The funny thing is, when you look at the scholarship offers that Toryan Smith attracted, it really makes you wonder what the internet experts saw (or didn't see) in comparsion with the legion of D-1 coaches who deemed Smith talented enough to join their programs.

The truth is, Toryan Smith is one of the most heavily recruited players to commit to Notre Dame this year. As far back as April, Smith had scholarship offers from finalists Alabama, Michigan, and Florida, as well as Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee. One would think that a player possessing those sort of offers would be better than the 46th-best at his position (cough-Scout-cough).

For those wondering how ND pulled such a player out of the South, which tends to do a great job keeping local kids local, it turns out that ND coaches had an interesting connection to the Smith family. Toryan's father was an offensive lineman who blocked for Herschel Walker at Georgia in the early 80's. And his defenisve coordinator at that time? None other than Notre Dame's current secondary coach Bill Lewis.

Time of course will tell if Smith can live up to the expectations generated by scholarship offers from nearly every strong football program in the South. In the meantime, he will do all he can to help the Irish.
"I can promise that I am going to bring that intensity to the defense," Smith said. "Right now, they've got a great offense because coach Weis is probably the best offensive coach that has every coached. But I want to bring that cut-throat attitude to the defense. That's what you want to do being a middle linebacker."