published Friday, June 8th, 2012

CAK receiver Josh Smith commits to Tennessee Volunteers

KNOXVILLE -- Josh Smith's whirlwind 72-hour stretch continued well into Thursday.

The Christian Academy of Knoxville receiver was well below the recruiting radar when he stepped onto Tennessee's campus Tuesday with Warriors quarterback Charlie High to work out for Volunteers coaches.

Less than two days later, Smith was the second CAK player to commit to UT in less than a week.

"During my routes I felt pretty good, so all the coaches, it seemed they really liked us and were impressed," Smith said Thursday. "Once I had pretty good stats on the workout, I think that really flipped their heads a little bit. That's when they made the call, and I was real excited.

"[CAK coach Rusty] Bradley told me that if I go and do good, they'll offer. I said I'm not going to think about that the whole time or I'll probably do bad, so I just zoned everyone out and really tried to focus on football and playing what I love to do."

The 6-foot-1, 182-pound Smith had a big season last fall for CAK, which won the Class 3A state title. Despite missing two games, he caught 96 passes for 1,911 yards and 22 touchdowns in the Warriors' pass-happy offense, which features shotgun and multiple-receiver formations and emphasizes precision and timing. Those numbers, along with Smith's strong showing at a Nike event in March in Atlanta, attracted some high-profile schools such as Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Kentucky, though Smith had yet to receive a scholarship offer.

Bradley, who worked at Tennessee Tech, Louisiana Tech, Colorado and Indiana before joining CAK's staff in 2003, said he thought Smith had a "good chance" at landing an offer from the hometown Vols.

"He's a polished receiver," Bradley said. "I knew based on the number of schools that we had coming in in the spring that were expressing interest in him because of what he did last year statistically. Everybody wanted to see him run in camp. That's now become the thing in recruiting -- is it's about wanting to see kids run in camp.

"Everybody that came by fell in love with him -- loved his speed, loved his athleticism and wanted to see him run in camp. I knew that if he could go to some camps and run well and run routes and catch balls the way he does for us, that some schools would move forward with him. It just happened that Tennessee was the first camp that he went to."

Offensive tackle Brett Kendrick, Smith's CAK teammate, was in a similar situation last weekend. The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder had a lone scholarship offer from Arkansas State when he arrived for UT's lineman camp last Friday. He earned his spot and joined Bradley Central's Austin Sanders as offensive-line commitments for the Vols' 2013 class.

"I knew that that was my only chance to get a scholarship," Kendrick said. "If I didn't do well and perform last Saturday, then I never would have gotten offered. I was a little bit nervous [because] I just knew it was my chance.

"This is like my dream. It's so important to me. It was just an awesome feeling."

Kendrick said when he spoke to Smith before Tuesday, he told his teammate to "run fast." After learning via Twitter he'd soon have his teammate join him at UT, Kendrick said he "freaked out" and called Smith. For CAK, which played its first varsity season in 2002, sending players to the SEC is new territory.

The Vols and Warriors might not be done hooking up, either. The evaluation continues on High, who set the state record for passing yards (5,191) and touchdowns (65) while completing nearly 75 percent of his passes as a junior last season. He's only 6-foot, though, and his only offer is from Tennessee Tech.

High joining him would mean even more excitement for Smith.

"I think it means the world to [Smith], because early in the process that's where he told me he wanted to go," Bradley said. "Growing up here in Knoxville and living here his whole life and being a Tennessee fan, obviously that's a dream of his. It's like I told him last night after we had both visited with [UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney].

"I said, 'You are getting the chance to live out a dream that 99 percent of the population in East Tennessee only dreams about. You're getting to actually live it out, so realize how blessed you are, appreciate it every day and do something with it.'"

That's Smith's plan.

"I can't really describe it," he said of Wednesday night, when Chaney called with a scholarship offer. "It was just so much excitement, really too much excitement for one night. I just tried to live it up with my family, who's most important to me, and give God the glory because he gave me this ability. I'm going to use it for him, so we'll just see what he has in store for me."

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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