As Jim McElwain tries to rebuild Florida football into a championship program, one of his mottos is “recruit daily or die.” Join us here on SEC Country for a daily recap of the latest UF recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
C.J. Smith’s college commitment came together rather quickly in the past two months.
The 4-star safety immediately named the Gators his leader after receiving an offer Feb. 20. While en route to Florida late last month, Smith had a feeling he would pull the trigger during his visit.
“On my way up there I was saying to myself, ‘I know I’m going to commit.’ I felt it,” said Smith, whose from West Palm Beach, Fla. “I got there and started watching practice and it was amazing. The defense played physical and fast. I just fell in love with it.”
Smith indeed committed to the Gators that day, but it was a silent verbal. Only his mother and grandfather knew of his decision. And, of course, Florida coach Jim McElwain along with secondary coach Corey Bell, Smith’s primary recruiter.
“We were just talking in the office and Coach Mac asked me if I wanted to be a Gator,” Smith said. “I told him, ‘This is the place for me.’ I just felt comfortable and at home, and there’s no place like home. I committed right then and there.”
The 6-foot-2, 193-pound had no time frame on announcing his decision, but he couldn’t hold it in for long. Smith went public with his pledge a few days after his trip to Florida.
— Cj Smith (@Cj_Csmith) March 28, 2017
Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider also had a hand in Smith’s commitment. He and Bell both recruited him at their previous schools.
“When they made the move to Florida, I knew big things were going happen,” Smith said. “I liked the school a lot, so that’s why I named Florida my leader. But it took a little bit more than that for them to get me to commit.
“I just had a bond with Coach Bell and Coach Seider. They treated me as one of their own players before I even had the offer. They just kept it real and showed much love, more than any other school recruiting me. So I truly appreciate it.”
Playing time was another factor Smith took into account. Safety is Florida’s biggest need in the 2018 class with both starters at the position being redshirt seniors.
“When they told me their safeties were leaving after next season, that caught my attention and lifted my spirits,” Smith said. “There will be spots up for grabs. When I come in, my goal is to start as a freshman.”
Smith holds 20 offers, including Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Oklahoma. He’s still hearing from other schools and wants to take official visits, but a de-commitment seems unlikely.
“I’m locked in with Florida. Something real bad has to happen in order for me to change my mind,” Smith said. “It’s a great academic school. I’m not going there just for football. My mom loves what they have to offer.
“With them being DBU and putting so many players into the league, that’s very impressive. Them being that productive in the NFL Draft, it speaks volumes. It’s a place where I can get exposure and fulfill my dreams.”
Miss a previous Gator Chomps notebook? Find every daily recap of Florida Gators recruiting right here.