UGA recruiting: The cool and clever way Chris Smith II chose Georgia
Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. Well, except for the next week. The Intel is taking a family vacation.
This feature is a case study of why newly minted 4-star CB Chris Smith II chose to play for the Bulldogs. If you like reading why Georgia boys choose to stay home, it should hit the spot.
Chris Smith II, a Georgia commit, just earned his fourth star on the 247Sports composite. It was more than deserved. It was earned.
Most folks around the Hapeville Charter program will say he’s already one of the two best players produced by the Atlanta school. That’s saying a lot, given that SEC players such as Arden Key (LSU), William Poole III (UGA) and Antoine Wilder (South Carolina) came from the program.
Smith has endured a gauntlet of evaluation and showcase 7-on-7 camps this year. He never failed to impress. He never left observers wondering if he was one of the top cornerbacks at those events.
The new 4-star only gave up one touchdown on a busted help coverage at The Opening Finals this month.
He also had 3 interceptions and scored touchdowns on two of them. That said, he’s still only rated as the nation’s No. 31 cornerback for 2018.
But this won’t be a soapbox blog to bemoan why he’s not rated higher. Nope. This is story time.
Why did Smith choose Georgia? There’s a one-part cool and two-parts nifty way to look at the way one very thoughtful prospect made his college decision.
Chris Smith II and his ‘Fatheads’
Recruiting reporters usually have their go-to bag of questions. They ask them all the time.
Those are the ones that make 5-star All-Everythings, such as Georgians Justin Fields and DeAngelo Gibbs, roll their eyes. Sometimes it looks as if they wish they could be running gassers instead.
There was a better “unlock” question for Smith.
Any reporter could have said the following: “Chris, what does your bedroom wall look like?”
Back when Smith was contemplating Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, South Carolina and UGA, that would have been very interesting to know.
That would have been the tell. If he chose to be specific, Smith would have had to include multiple items.
- A huge SEC football poster of all the teams
- A Fathead graphic of the UGA Power G logo
- Another Fathead graphic of the Georgia bulldog
Those went up about five years ago and never came down. Not even when he was considering Ann Arbor and Columbia and Columbus and even Tuscaloosa. Not even when his choice about 10 months ago might have been to play in Los Angeles for Southern Cal.
“My husband Chris, [son] Chris and I are all Georgia fans,” his mother, Shandra Smith, said. “Chris grew up a Georgia fan. He loved Georgia. He was all Georgia coming up as a kid. Georgia was actually his dream school.”
Yet that’s only half of it. His ultimate decision hinged on not what was on those bedrooms walls, but on another very important wall in his home.
Chris Smith and his ‘board of education’
Shandra Smith told DawgNation how the Smiths started to get their arms around all the scholarship offers. Her son wound up with at least 30 offers, and they came from the big boys of college football.
Those options were nothing but blessings, but they found the process to be very daunting. What separates one school from another? What separates a Kirby Smart pitch from those equally savvy messages from Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer and their key assistants?
“Once his recruiting took off, we tried to structure things around,” she said. “It was new to him. It was new to us. We just initially started thinking about how we could organize our time to take all these visits.”
But that — if we’re being honest — is really the easy part. The Smiths looked to find a way to organize what they learned on all those visits.
“We had a board,” Shandra Smith said. “We had Chris write down all the schools that he was probably interested in. The highs, the mediums and the lows. What we did was take all the schools that Chris had high on his list, we really pursued visiting those schools and learning all we could about those schools.”
That board, which could be seen as his own “board of education,” hangs in their home office. Near the family computer. It had a tandem calendar that went hand-in-hand with the process. It helped single out travel days and travel weekends and non-travel weekends.
That board started out with 12 schools in February. The Smiths then fed it with meticulous notes.
“I learned this from a friend who has a son that is at South Carolina,” Shandra Smith said. “We had these index cards. One side was what you liked about that school. The other side was what you didn’t like about that school. We put them up on the board after the visit and then numbered them. They went one through however many schools he was considering highly at the time.”
Her son just wanted to talk it out. Mom put her foot down.
“She said we had to write it down,” Chris Smith II said. “She asked me to go through all the pros and cons of all the schools and what I was maybe worried about with all of my top schools.”
Smith did that. So did his mother and father.
“I think me and my mom both came out with Georgia on top,” Chris Smith II said. “I think my dad ended up with Ohio State on top after all his pros and cons.”
That wasn’t the only measure. But it did serve as a good foundation.
UGA rallied to secure Chris Smith’s commitment
This seems the perfect time to drop in a pretty interesting plot twist. Smith committed to the Bulldogs on May 1. But that was a comeback commitment.
“Georgia initially was not the top school for Chris,” Shandra Smith said. “The communication wasn’t really there like it was with other schools. His schools that were on him heavy at the beginning were Auburn and Michigan and South Carolina, and then USC out in California.”
Smith went to UGA a couple of times with his father. His mother chose not to tag along, despite the proximity.
“I just didn’t think in the beginning that Chris was that interested in Georgia,” she said. “But after a few visits, he began to build a relationship with Mel Tucker and Kirby Smart and Dell McGee. That interest started to come along, and that relationship started to change. Georgia quickly rose to the top for him.”
His first 12 schools were whittled down quickly. There were just three schools left in the race for Smith by the time April rolled around. Ohio State was still in it then.
The decision eventually came down to Michigan and UGA. Smith’s friendship with Michigan commit Myles Sims, another Atlanta cornerback, was also a factor there.
When Smith and his father took a trip to Michigan, they sent a text back home that they were about to commit. Mom put a stop to that. She had to visit first.
That trip was planned for mid-May. It never happened. Those Fatheads on his wall got in the way.
How Georgia sealed the deal for Chris Smith
Georgia locked up Chris Smith’s decision on G-Day in April.
“I had a real good and long conversation with Mel Tucker,” Shandra Smith said. “I wanted to know where he saw Chris Smith in their program. When he told me that they saw him as a true cover cornerback and how much he would mean to the team, that began to really key things in for me. Coach Tucker sold me after that conversation.”
That trip was just as fruitful for the rest of the family.
Smith actually wanted to commit that day. That would’ve been a second commit on G-Day to offset the loss of 4-star OLB Adam Anderson.
Mom shut that down, though.
“I said, ‘No, son,’ and he was going to sleep on this,” she said. “I wanted him to sleep on that instinct and that impulse because we see so many kids commit to schools and they end up de-committing. That’s something I didn’t want him to do.”
He eventually convinced his parents.
“He said to us, ‘I want it’ and ‘I feel it’ and ‘This is the school,’ and I saw the way he felt when he said that and told him if that was really his school, then we would support it 100 percent,” she said.
Georgia had an engineering program. So did Michigan. Both were degree fits.
In the end, it was all about getting the wall that held that “board of education” to sync up with those Fatheads on his bedroom walls.
“But at the end of the day, Georgia had more positives than negatives listed on their side of the card,” Shandra Smith said.
The Hapeville Charter standout opted to commit to UGA on his birthday. It was great news for Tucker and the staff.
“Coach Tucker told us it was the best news he had gotten in awhile,” Shandra Smith said. “He said he was going to go home and pop open a nice bottle of wine with his wife to celebrate.”
Chris Smith II as ‘the old soul’
His parents describe their son as an old soul. He listens to all types of music. He gets that from his father.
If he could, he’d probably eat hot wings every day of his life. Smith is the sort who would rather stay at home or work out than hang out all day with his friends.
The next UGA cornerback was described as being very mature for his age.
Smith also made sure to notify Alabama DB coach Derrick Ansley when he reached his decision. Those two had established a bond. Ansley extended Smith’s first scholarship offer when he held that same post at Kentucky and they had grown rather close.
Why did Smith call? It was just the sort of thing that a young man who is about to turn 17 years old and is still called “an old soul” would want to do.
UGA fans probably don’t have to worry too much given the thought that went into this decision. Those two walls in his home are Exhibit A and B that this seems to be a very structurally sound commitment.
“This commitment is very strong,” his mother said. “When we had the conversation with Chris, we told him he really didn’t have to make that commitment when he did. He was like, ‘Ma, I want to. There’s not another school that is up there like Georgia is.’ We were sold with that. You have to understand that Chris is a very smart and intelligent and purposeful kid. Chris knows what he wants. I couldn’t ask for a better 17-year-old to have in my home. I think he was waiting for that relationship to strengthen with the Georgia staff. Once that did, he went ahead and pulled the trigger.”