Vaught's Views: Combine has own pressure for Smith

May 13, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

One might think Brandon Smith had no reason to be nervous at Tuesday's Mid-State Coaches Association combine.

What did Smith have left to prove to the various college coaches who came to the Centre College track to watch him run, lift and jump?

He's 28-2 as Boyle County's starting quarterback. He's won two state championships and has to be one of the leading Mr. Football contenders going into his senior season. He's already heard from various colleges, including Louisville, Wake Forest, Cincinnati and Kentucky.

Smith just got back from participating in the prestigious Elite Eleven quarterback camp in Atlanta that helps determine who the nation's best quarterbacks are.


Yet he knew his future could be at least partially determined by how he did here Tuesday.

"You do feel some pressure, but you get used to it," said Smith. "I know college recruiters are at the combine to see what type of athlete you are. I think they should just look more at what you do on the football field, but it doesn't work that way. That's why you need to be able to show your athleticism at something like this because this is when teams are making preseason (scholarship) offers."

However, Smith remains a believer that the best test of a football player's talent comes on the football field, not at a combine. He liked the Elite Eleven tryout for that reason because he did all "quarterback stuff" there instead of lifting weights and sprinting 40 yards down a track.

"How often in a game do you sprint 40 yards? Maybe three times," Smith said. "But a combine can influence some coaches more than how I throw the ball. I think too much emphasis might be put on the combine, but you have to accept it and go on."

That's why he spent so much time lifting weights, running and training the past few months. He even tapered off on his workouts last week to be at his best Tuesday for all the college coaches that came to Danville.

Kentucky special teams coach Steve Ortmayer was there. So was Louisville tight ends and running backs coach Greg Nord. So were head coaches Danny Hope of Eastern Kentucky and David Elson of Western Kentucky. At least seven other schools, including Cincinnati, also had coaches at the combine organized by Boyle assistant coach Frank Crossman.

"This is run the best of any combine that I've ever been to," Nord said. "It's the most organized and best run of any of them."

Even better for the coaches was the talent at the combine. Smith and Danville running back Kelvin Turner are hearing from Division I coaches. Pulaski Southwestern running back-defensive back Lee Renfro has scholarship offers from Ball State and Vanderbilt and interest from others including Oklahoma and Nebraska after running the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at a recent Adidas combine.

Plenty of coaches wanted to see Garrard County quarterback Spencer Crutchfield and Mercer County running back Andrew McCloud, too. McCloud recently ran the fastest 40 at a combine in Lexington and also had a 31-inch vertical jump. He justified those numbers with a 4.4 40 Tuesday, the fastest at the Centre combine.

"The overall talent at this combine is better than one I recently went to in Nashville that had about 350 kids," said Cumberland College defensive coordinator Clay Clevenger, a former all-state lineman at Danville.

Smith set high goals for himself at Tuesday's combine. He wanted to do the shuttle run in 4.4 or 4.5 seconds. He made it in 4.38. He wanted to bench press 185 pounds at least 10 times. He did 12. He wanted a vertical jump of 31 or 32 inches. He got 33. His only mild disappointment came in the 40 where he was aiming for a 4.6 but ran a 4.7.

"All the schools recruiting me have said a lot of the same things," Smith said. "They said I need to have a good senior season. They said I need to work on my footwork some more and that I need to work on my running so that I can be a dual threat quarterback. They want me to develop a move when I run rather than just trying to run over people like I do, so I won't be as prone to get hurt."

Smith has no scholarship offers yet. That could change when he goes to several one-day camps at different schools this summer.

He recently got a visit from UK offensive coordinator Ron Hudson. He's no "die-hard UK fan" like many in this area, but he has gone to games since he was young and admits the Kentucky atmosphere has rubbed off on him.

His father, Boyle coach Chuck Smith, is a former UK linebacker and has been friends with Nord for many years. Brandon Smith always heard his father talk about Nord before meeting him a few years ago and now "really likes him."

However, his eventual college choice will be based on logic, not emotion. Distance from home could be a factor because he would like for his parents to be able to easily see him play. But he also knows he has to be smart about his choice.

"I am going to be interested in who is interested in me," Smith said. "I don't want to go to a school that doesn't run a system that fits me. I have to be smart about that."

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