published Monday, January 24th, 2011

Tom Smith ready make mark in Vols' backfield

KNOXVILLE -- Between his ordinary name and his status as a long-time Tennessee commitment, it's easy to forget about Tom Smith.

But with a potential open door in the backfield next season for the three-star running back from Florida, Smith could be a household name soon enough.

"It all depends on me, how I do in the weight room and on the field," Smith said Sunday afternoon after he returned home to Apopka, Fla., following his official visit to UT this weekend.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Smith became UT's third verbal commitment after pulling the trigger in June, and he joined five other visitors on campus.

Linebacker A.J. Johnson (Gainesville, Ga.), offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson (Knoxville) and defensive tackle Allan Carson (Oxford, Ala.) were the three UT commitments visiting, joining defensive tackle Mickey Johnson (Convington, La.) and tight end Brandon Fulse (Fort Meade, Fla.), who are both uncommitted four-star prospects.

"[The visit] went well, and the best part was how I got to know the recruits that came on the trip with me," Smith said. "We got to know the [current] players, who was going to be at our positions, and we got to know the coaches better."

Smith and the other visitors were the first to meet Ron McKeefery, UT's new strength coach hired earlier last week. McKeefery drew praise from current players on Twitter and Facebook, and Smith reaffirmed that sentiment.

"He's a pretty cool dude," he said. "He's about business and that's what I'm waiting for."

Smith ran for 1,753 yards and 17 touchdowns and averaged more than seven yards per carry as a senior in leading Apopka to the playoffs in Florida's largest classification, earning a second consecutive selection to the All-Central Florida First Team by the Orlando Sentinel.

With his speed (4.5 seconds in 40-yard dash) and bowling-ball frame, Smith has the ability to be an effective runner either between the tackles or in the open field, which could help him see the field as a freshman.

"Speed [or] power back, it doesn't matter," said Smith, who was hosted by redshirt freshman running back Toney Williams and freshmen receivers Matt Milton and Da'Rick Rogers.

Oku, who split duties as Tauren Poole's backup with freshman Rajion Neal last season, is transferring after the spring semester, leaving Neal and Williams in the Vols' backfield for next season.

Smith, the only true running back commitment in UT's current class, received offers from Michigan and Florida after committing but stuck with the Vols. He won't waste any time getting up to Knoxville to begin working his way into a possible rotation spot.

"I graduate June 2," he said, "and I'm leaving June 3."



Follow our Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter by following this link.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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