June 7, 2009

Smith knows UT is right choice

He jumped long before Tennessee became a relatively "hot" team in college football recruiting circles. So when Ooltewah defensive end Jacques Smith attended the Volunteers' one-day camp for offensive and defensive linemen on June 1, it was a reaffirmation of sorts for the most-talented and highly sought-after Chattanooga-area recruit since Gerald Riggs Jr..

So what did the 6-foot-3-and-half-inch, 235-pound four-star defensive end glean from his first camp experience under the Lane Kiffin regime?

"I made the right decision," Smith said. "I think Alabama, Georgia, Florida ... they've got some problems now. These coaches are the real deal, and I experienced it for one day. You can just see with a Chris Walker. They're the real deal. We'll see when the season starts."

The Vols' new coaches, spearheaded by recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, made certain camp attendees understood the work they logged last week closely mirrored that of the current players on roster. Smith never doubted it.

"You know compared to last year, this was the hardest camp I've ever been to," he said. "I'd say the last staff, they were really good coaches, but these coaches, their tempo is just like that (snapping fingers). They expect you to go just like that (more snapping) 24-7. And if you don't perform, they're going to keep pushing you, you know? There were times during the second session that I wanted to quit, and I had to keep going. Coach Orgeron kept pushing me; he's a really good coach. I feel like if I work with him for the next four years, I'll be doing something special."

Smith has showcased his special talents across a variety of fields of competition. An All-State football performer, he added a runner-up finish in the state shot put competition and also took home state champion honors in discus. He has been a feared competitor on the wrestling mat as well.

But he expects to be even better because of the work he got at Tennessee's camp against and alongside a variety of talented peformers who rank among the best in the class of 2010.

"There are some talented d-linemen that came here (for camp), not to mention the talented offensive linemen like James Stone and Zach Fulton," Smith said. "There were some really good guys, and it was good for everybody because they got to see what the system is like. Just like (this camp), this is probably the biggest guys I've gone against. Always in the summer, I'll go against the biggest guys. Then when I get into a game in the season, they're either short and stocky or really big and slow.

"So these are some really good guys and good competition and that just makes me better. Hopefully our team will do well and I'll do well this season."

At times during the camp, Smith lined up alongside fellow Vols commitment J.C. Copeland and opposite coveted target Corey Miller, who if he chooses the Vols would give Tennessee without question the top pair of defensive end commitments in the country.

Smith took note.

"That would be amazing. Corey Miller is really good, and I hope he comes to the Vols, too," Smith said. "That would be really exciting. J.C. Copeland looked amazing. I can't wait to play with him. He's so explosive.

"It's amazing to see defensive linemen work like that. You'd think those guys were linebackers, and they're defensive tackles and defensive ends. That's cool."

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