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January 6, 2009
Every year it seems Washington High School has a high profile recruit that keeps everyone guessing until the end. Whether it was guard Duke Robinson in 2005 or safety Reshad Jones in 2006, you knew that if you wanted to know where they were headed, not to hold your breath until the New Year. 2008's version did not break the mold. Five-star cornerback Branden Smith did things the Washington High School way.
"Clemson was on top in the beginning, but they had the coaching switch, then all the coaches started dropping, so it actually made it easier for me. Alabama and Georgia were even for awhile towards the end. "
When high profile recruits have decision day ceremonies, most tell you they didn't know where they were going until they woke up that morning. Such is not the case for the Rivals100 standout. Not only has he known, but he has let others in on his little secret as well.
"I knew about a month and a half ago," he admitted.
"I told Coach Richt before Christmas, so he said that was all he needed under the tree. When Coach Martinez found out, he wanted me out there for the bowl game.
"The other commits, they all had been working on me throughout, so when I let them know, they all welcomed me and they were pumped."
With Georgia seemingly neck and neck with Alabama, what was it that put the Dawgs over the top?
"Basically I connected with all the coaches," Smith said. "Part of picking the program is connecting with all of them and the teammates and I did. Plus now my mom is able to come watch me play, so she is excited."
During his announcement at the Under Armour All-American Game, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back spoke of the Bulldogs' pitch of using game tape of former UGA great Champ Bailey to preview how they would utilize him on offense and defense.
"I think there is a good chance [I will play both] because I have speed that you can't teach. Whether it's screen passes or returning kicks; if they need yards, I can get them," boasted the newest Bulldog.
Analysts raved all week about Smith's ability to blanket the top wide receivers and smother them at the line of scrimmage. Moreover, prospects like Alshon Jeffrey and Keenan Davis present different challenges, but Smith was able to keep them under control.
"To tell you the truth, I have the confidence to make it look easy. I have fun out there, keep a short memory, and learn from my mistakes," he said.
There was one play, however, the one where five star receiver and newly announced Florida Gator Andre Debose got by the fastest and most athletic corner prospect in the nation.
UGA Verbal Commitment
Since the game, Smith has paid attention to the happenings in Athens as the University of Tennessee offered UGA recruiting coordinator and defensive tackle coach Rodney Garner a position on Lane Kiffin's new staff in Knoxville.
"Actually, I wasn't really worried about it, I know he had to take care of his family," Smith said. "But I am glad to have him stay and continue coaching the d-line to put pressure up front and make it easier for me back in the secondary."
With just a few weeks remaining between now and national signing day, and with the pressure of recruiting off his shoulders, Smith plans to just take it easy.
"I feel relieved to get other schools out of my head," he admitted. "I'm ready to learn the playbook as early as I can to get a jump on other players. Right now I'm focused on UGA, as long as they are there (coaches), I'm coming to Athens."
Just like the other Georgia commitments pulled and pried at him to choose the Bulldogs, so too will he began an effort to get more talent in the red and black. Not just for this season, but for the next in the Washington legacy as well.
Said Smith: "After the game, I told Marlon Brown him he would look good across from A.J. Green next year. Greg Reid and I would be unstoppable in that secondary, I hope he knows that. My boy back at BTW, receiver Antonio Goodwin, has a good head on his shoulders. I feel that before I leave, I can do some things to help him improve. While I keep working on him to be the best wide receiver in Georgia next year, I will motivate him by letting him know UGA only takes the cream of the crop."