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November 11, 2009
National Notes: Smith makes smooth transition
COMPTON, Calif. - Kevin Smith has played in only 14 football games in his life, but it's enough to convince his high school coach and college recruiters that he has what it takes to be a special player on the next level.
After spending the first three years of high school on the hardwood as a star basketball player, Smith has found a home on the gridiron for Compton Centennial. A 6-foot-2, 205-pound, do-it-all athlete, Smith has picked up scholarship offers from Washington, Colorado and Idaho, while UCLA, Cal and others have showed heavy interest.
Centennial coach Eric Scott, who knows what a blue-chip recruit looks like from his time as a UCLA assistant, shakes his head in amazement when talking about Smith.
Scott talks about how Smith has already racked up 1,000 yards receiving, returns punts and has two interceptions on defense. But what really gets Scott excited is talking about how big Smith has been in the Apache's four-game winning streak.
"Kevin is our spark plug," Scott said. "He's only played in 14 games for us, and for him to be doing the things he does out there, it's simply amazing. His athleticism is through the roof, but what makes this even more impressive is that he's got so much potential. He was the league player of the year in basketball after averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds and never really played football until he came out.
"It's scary to think of how good he's going to be. He's just scratched the surface. I'm just glad he said yes when we asked him to come out for the team midway through last season."
College coaches agree with Scott's assessment. Scott said several recruiters have told him that Smith has become one of the hottest prospects on the West Coast. Smith said he's enjoying his newfound stardom on the football field, but he isn't in a rush to name any favorites.
"I have visited Colorado, and that trip went great," Smith said. "I liked their facilities, the players were cool and the coaches there took care of me."
Smith is scheduled to visit Washington on Nov. 28 when the Huskies play Washington State. With more schools showing heavy interest, Smith's offer list likely is about to expand.
"I'm kind of waiting to see what develops with all the schools," Smith said. "I don't really have any favorites at this point, and I'm just taking it day by day."
BIG WEEKEND FOR CORNHUSKERS
Any time you can beat a rival, it's a big deal. Any time you can beat a rival and land four commitments, it's an even bigger deal. That was the story for Nebraska last weekend.
Okuyemi and Guy are three-star defensive linemen, and Guy's commitment was especially sweet because he had been previously committed to California. Cotton, a 6-7, 265-pound offensive lineman, is the son of Huskers offensive line coach Barney Cotton and the brother of redshirt freshman tight end Ben Cotton.
Mitchell, a three-star cornerback from Corona (Calif.) Eleanor Roosevelt, might be the biggest steal in the bunch. Word is the Nebraska coaches coveted the 5-11, 165-pounder. Mitchell's senior tape showed that he has great ball skills and the ability to make big plays in key moments.
Mitchell's commitment could also help the Huskers land a pledge from his teammate, three-star receiver Austin Hill. Hill is believed to be a heavy lean toward Nebraska at this stage, but he plans on taking other visits.
TWO BIG CALIFORNIA COMMITS ON THE WAY
James, a four-star running back from Corona, Calif., will announce his decision at 4 p.m. PST Thursday. James has narrowed his choices to Arizona, Cal and UCLA. James just visited Arizona this past weekend and took an official visit to Berkeley in early October.
He has taken multiple unofficial visits to the UCLA campus, and a lot of the speculation has James as a big lean toward UCLA. But sources at Corona say Cal could be the real team to watch because he fell in love with Cal's campus on his trip and the Bears can sell James on early playing time.
Shaw, of Palmdale, Calif., will announce his decision at 10 a.m. Nov. 17 at a news conference at his high school. Shaw ranks as the nation's No. 3 cornerback. LSU, USC, Ohio State and Florida are the top candidates on his list. Shaw has visited both Florida and Ohio State twice, and he has also visited Notre Dame and LSU.
His most recent trip was to Gainesville, Fla., this past weekend, and many believe the Gators leaped ahead of Ohio State after the visit. Shaw, however, has gone back and forth with his decision multiple times, and you can't count out USC or Ohio State.
"It's been a long process," Shaw said. "I was going to wait until Christmas to announce, but I need to start focusing on the playoffs and graduating early. There's a lot to consider, so I'm going to go where I feel comfortable. It's where I feel I can succeed as a student-athlete. But I got to see a lot of schools, and it was an honor to be recruited by each."
Most of the talk about what school will finish with the nation's top class has been focused on Texas and Alabama, but a team to watch out for is Tennessee. The Volunteers have already cemented themselves a spot in the top five and should climb even higher over the next couple of weeks, especially if they continue to add standouts like four-star offensive lineman Jawuan James. The 6-6, 293-pound James on Tuesday committed to the Vols over Georgia.
Los Angeles Crenshaw coach Robert Garrett said his star junior athlete De'Anthony Thomas is already a wanted man and has plenty of early attention. "I've had several coaches tell me De'Anthony is better than any of the recruits in the state now," he said. Garrett, however, said Thomas wants to keep a low profile with the recruiting process and isn't a fan of the media attention. "He's had so many people around here in the community try to tell him how great he is, but he's such a humble kid," Garrett said. "He wants to keep the focus on all of his teammates, and you have to appreciate that."