March 5, 2008

Smiley comes close to being a Rebel

Early on Tuesday evening, it looked like Helena, Ark. defensive standout and four-star rated prospect Eric Smiley was set to commit to Ole Miss.

Smiley's grandmother, his legal guardian, said Smiley had about decided to commit to Ole Miss, but hadn't called the coaching staff to make his verbal pledge official.

However, by late Tuesday evening, Smiley had reversed field and decided to wait until his senior season.

"I haven't pulled the trigger," Smiley said. "I'm just not sure right now. I guess you could say I had first thoughts (about committing to Ole Miss), then had second thoughts."

Smiley, a 6-foot-5, 280 pound defensive tackle with 4.7 speed, became impressed with the Rebels after attending junior day last Saturday. Smiley's teammate, running back Turrell Williams, committed after his visit on Saturday.

With a four-star rating and a member of the Rivals100 (top 100 athletes in the country) to his credit, the fact that Smiley has only played on year of high school football makes his situation certainly unique.

He's already notched offers from Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Arkansas State, and was informed this week by his head coach that Southern California had also sent a written offer.

Smiley is originally from Seattle and moved to Arkansas the summer before his junior season,

"I just flew down here to make a new start," Smiley said. "I never knew all of this would happen."

He got his start in football by happenstance.

"I was at a BBQ at a friend's house and I met the head football coach," Smiley said. "He said he was going to work with me."

And work he did.

The coach's work resulted in Smiley accounting for 75 tackles, 14 sacks, and 29 quarterback pressures in his rookie season.

For now, Smiley is making the rounds on junior day at various schools. In addition to Ole Miss, he also visited Memphis and is planning to go to Arkansas this weekend.

He says he's received letters from around 30 schools, but claims no favorite.

"I'm wide open," he said. "I'm just undecided."

Smiley said he really didn't grow up as a fan of any school, but was always impressed with Miami."

With Smiley's stock on the rise, his recruitment figures to be heated.

Going in the Rebels' favor is a positive visit and an early relationship established with Smiley that left him impressed with Ole Miss.

"I how they care about you more as a person than a player, he said. ""I did not know they had that much history. I was looking at all of those banners and All-Americans they have had at Ole Miss."

His tour of Ole Miss included the IPF and all the stops in the facility as well as the FEDEX Academic Center.

"I met mostly all the coaches," he said.

For now, he says he'll delay making a commitment until his senior season.

"I just want to look around," he said. "I don't want to make the wrong decision."

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