- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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For USC commit Nathan Smith, things are finally starting to get back to normal. With offers from over 25 top college football programs from coast to coast, the Murrieta (Calif.) Mesa offensive tackle prospect felt a little overwhelmed at times this past winter and spring from all of the recruiting attention that he was receiving.
After committing to the Trojans on April 15, however, Smith has seen the craziness slowly die down, and he couldn’t be more thankful.
“I’m 100 percent committed to USC,” said Smith, who along with Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei’s Frank Martin II, is one of two offensive linemen from the Class of 2016 who has pledged to the Trojans. “I’m still hearing from some schools, but I’ve kind of deleted all of the social media and everything off of my phone. I still get some calls and letters, but it’s not nearly as bad. I’ve been able to work out a lot more, and also to just focus on school. It’s a privilege to get that attention, but it’s also not always the most fun thing, so committing early has been fantastic.”
Of course, it wasn’t as if Smith’s choice was made in haste. On the contrary, before committing to the Trojans he unofficially visited over a dozen other schools, including Miami (Fla.), Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA, among others.
And while the Trojans did ultimately win out in the Smith sweepstakes, USC’s tradition as a college football powerhouse surprisingly didn’t play a role in his decision. That’s because, in contrast to a lot of other local prospects, Smith didn’t really grow up watching the Trojans on TV. In fact, he didn’t watch much college football at all.
“I didn’t start watching college football closely until the playoffs this past season,” Smith said. “I’d watch it every now and then, but I really always just watched the NFL. In making my decision I just assessed my priorities and what I was looking for in a school, and USC was the school that came out on top. It was all the connections that I could make in Southern California, the weather and the coaching staff.”
None of the coaches at USC made a bigger impact on Smith than Trojans offensive line coach Bob Connelly, who was just on the Mesa campus last week to watch Smith in action during spring drills.
Smith, who in addition to starring at left tackle, also lines up at defensive end as well as on special teams, was happy to see his future position coach in attendance.
“Coach Connelly was here on Wednesday and it was great,” Smith said. “It felt good to see him out here. I’ve built up a good a relationship with him. I’m on a call with him about once a week, so I talk to him all the time about everything. He’s a great guy and a great coach. He demands respect, but he also gives it back. He’s my kind of coach.”
Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing in at the 265-270-pound range, Smith says that Connelly and the rest of the Trojans staff would like to see him get up close to the 315-pound mark at some point at USC. A hard-nosed, physical player who is surprisingly light on his feet, he’s willing to play anywhere along the offensive line, but acknowledged that with his size and skill set, offensive tackle is where his future likely lies.
“I’ll play wherever they need me at, but I know I’ll most likely be at tackle,” Smith said. “I’ll play on either side. It doesn’t matter.”
Eager to get a jump on things, Smith is currently on pace to graduate high school early, which will allow him to enroll at USC in January and participate in spring practice.
“I would like to get to college a little bit earlier, get my head in the offense, learn more about the strength training and stuff like that,” Smith said. “Really, I kind of just want to get to college as fast as I can. It’s just a giant head start. I think it will really help in the long run. I just have to take one English class, I believe, in the summer to make it happen.”
But before he graduates, Smith still has his senior campaign to go, and while he isn’t likely to attend any camps this summer, he does plan to continue to hit the field and the weight room at Mesa hard throughout the coming months.