On Sunday, the Texas Longhorns picked up a massive pledge from Scottsdale (Az.) Notre Dame Prep wide receiver Jake Smith. In an interview with Sports360AZ, the nation’s No. 17 wide receiver explained why the Longhorns won out over the USC Trojans.
“I fell in love at the spring game and I’ve known since then there was no other place for me,” Smith said.
The 6’1, 189-pounder managed to keep those feelings from becoming public for a few days, but by the end of April and the start of May, 247Sports predictions started coming in for Texas as the Horns displaced the Trojans as the perceived favorite.
Seeing head coach Tom Herman’s team in action and spending more time around campus helped solidify Smith’s belief that Austin has everything he wants in a city.
“To me, it really just seems like the complete package,” he said. “I really didn’t find that anywhere else — at any other school I went to. It’s a great city, a place I want to live, a place I want to be if I get injured and I’m not playing football. I would still want to be in Austin.”
And then there’s the football side of things, specifically the coaching staff and the program’s overall trajectory.
“I really love the coaching staff there. Coach [Tom] Herman, coach [Tim] Beck, coach [Drew] Mehringer, they’ve all kind of brought me in and we’ve been talking on a daily basis. I really like the coaching staff. Football-wise, I think they’re on the come-up and I think they’re really building something special there.”
The 2018 recruiting class and the early positive returns in the 2019 class are also encouraging signs for Smith.
“They had the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation last year and I think they’re going to be up there again this year. We already have a lot of great kids committed, Brayden Liebrock being from Arizona. I’m really excited about it and I think we’re going to be a national championship contender in the years coming.”
Smith is an arguably underrated prospect because his diverse skill set allows him to make an impact not only in the slot, but also at running back and in the return game. In fact, he averaged 9.6 yards per carry last season and scored 11 touchdowns in recording more rushing yards than he did receiving yards. So the Texas coaching staff sold him on receiving many of the same opportunities with the Longhorns that he does in high school.
“They want to use me in the backfield and also at receiver. A lot of the backfield stuff will be jet sweeps and just trying to get me the ball to the outside, but mainly I’ll play slot receiver and I think that’s where I’ll fit best. I’ll also have my opportunities on the outside on one-on-ones, so I think they want to use me in a lot of different ways. Also, in the return game, I forgot about that, so they see me as a versatile player and they want to use me that way.”
As Smith revealed during the interview, his developmental process was not without challenges — he broke his tibia playing baseball as a freshman, then broke his arm playing football several months later.
Ultimately, he decided to give up baseball and returned to a sport he’d played in middle school. Lacrosse helped him increase his speed and survive the physicality that is so central to the game of football. In his own words, Smith used lacrosse to make himself a better football player.
With a year until he arrives in Austin, Smith is intent on getting bigger, faster, and stronger in addition to improving his route-running ability. However, the physical growth is Smith’s main focus.
One thing seems clear — if Smith can improve on his remarkable junior film, he’ll have a chance to rise in the rankings and come to Texas with a chance to make an instant impact.