Welcome to OU: Mr. Smith
Before the 10 mid-year enrollees for Oklahoma’s 2021 class arrived on campus in January, SoonerScoop.com caught up with a bunch of them for one last interview.
It was a wild, crazy recruiting ride for the 2021 class because of COVID-19 altering things like never before, but they’re all in Norman now and ready to get to work.
Fast forward seven months and Oklahoma actually landed two five-stars on May 15, 2020. The big-time RUSH linebacker offer had a huge junior year but some still doubted him. During his senior season those doubts subsided and his work was vindicated.
Though Smith had already signed with OU when the change came and held offers from not only the Sooners but Texas, LSU, Oregon, and Florida State among many others, he still enjoyed the moment
"Oh man that was a dream come true, I’ve been trying to get that done since I started playing high school football. It’s kind of relieving to put in that hard work and know you get out what you put in," Smith admitted.
A big part of that hard work was aimed at surpassing the numbers from a junior season that saw him collect a staggerring 40 tackles for loss and 20 sacks.
Unfortunately reality quickly took hold that the immense focus placed on him could make that difficult.
"Heading into it, I wanted to have a better season than my junior year but as I went along and talked to more people and got smarter I wanted to have a great season but for the most part stay healthy. That kind of took over but I had a great year and I accomplished some goals I had in mind. I’m glad I got out injury free and got to college safely," he said.
"(During games) it got to the point where I heard coaches weren’t even calling a play it was just ‘run it away from him!’."
Though his numbers weren't as impressive as he may have hoped the most important number to him, wins, was a rousing success with Texarkana (Texas) Texas high putting together an undefeated regular season and district title on their way to an 11-1 season.
"We’ve been looking forward to doing that since we were freshman. We knew when we came in that we weren’ the same Texas high that it’s been known to be. That was huge to bring it back to where it was," he said proudly.
Now though the focus is on being a Sooner outside linebacker and Smith knows he's walking into a room that already holds one of the nation's best at his position in junior Nik Bonitto. And he has big plans to learn from the Florida native.
"Definitely, that’s priority No. 1, I’m not going to come in knowing everything so it’s good to have a guy like him to lean on. Criticize, give me advice, whatever I need. I’ve not talked to Nik but I’ve talked to David (Ugwoegbu) a bit though," Smith explained.
And while Smith wants to learn everything he can from the incumbent starter that doesnn't mean he's going to lower the expectations he has for himself.
"I want to start, me being the person I am, that’s what I’m going to aim for. I want to get some playing time under my belt and then get my feet under me and have a breakout season next year if not this year," he said.
If he gets to that 'breakout' point there's no question that Jamar Cain will have a big hand in his success. It may have been Cain's first spring in Norman when Smith picked the Sooners but for Smith it was a no-brainer.
"Coach Cain, he knows what he’s talking about. He came at me and didn’t have any funny business, it was straight tto the point. He showed me what he has to offer and told me if you let me develop you, you’ll be out of here in three years," Smith stated.
"On top of that, he’s a great dude, he takes care of us and he loves us already – we haven’t known the dude that long. I just trust that he is going to turn me into the player I want to be."
And as one of the class of 2021's first elite commitments there are already plenty of expectations of him and his classmates. But their goals, according to Smith, are completely clear.
"That was the first discussion, we talked about that even before we committed – we want to go and win a national championship. I feel like we’ve got the guys to do it. I mean I don’t see anyone stopping us if we keep that mentality."
The possibility of fulfilling those goals were a big part of why he chose the Sooners.
"They don’t call it ChampU for nothing. Obviously I want to win and go somewhere with a winning attitude, somewhere that is used to winning. Oklahoma is really great at developing their guys and putting them in position to be successful. I love the town, the fans are as loyal as they get. I just don’t see anything bad about it – it’s home."