Devonta Smith has recently decided when he’ll be announcing his college decision and the four schools he’ll be choosing from.
There will not be an LSU hat on the premises.
The 5-star wide receiver from Louisiana is down to Alabama, Miami, Mississippi State and Nebraska, and is no longer considering the in-state Tigers when he announces his decision on Aug. 15 at his high school.
Smith eliminated LSU from the mix despite multiple visits to the Baton Rouge, La., campus this spring and last month at the team’s June prospect camp.
But why — the reasons had little to do with football.
“I just really want to get away from home,” Smith told SEC Country at Nike’s “The Opening” Finals in Beaverton, Ore. on Wednesday.
“I don’t really like being in Louisiana that much. I want to get away from home so I can explore other things.”
LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig had done everything in his power to court the Amite (La.) High School product since joining the coaching staff in February. Craig made multiple visits to the high school, including his spring game, and spent a good amount of time with Smith last month when he was back on campus.
Craig’s addition to the Tigers’ staff certainly opened the 5-star talent’s eyes to the program. Smith grew up as a fan of the LSU football team and was impressed with the strides the offense had made in recent months.
However, as the 6-foot-1, 160-pound receiver contemplated his options, the decision to choose Alabama, Mississippi State, Miami and Nebraska over his home-state team had little to do with football. Smith wanted an opportunity to get out of Louisiana and explore opportunities in other parts of the country.
Both Alabama and Miami have stood out as the most likely landing spots for Smith based on the coaching staffs, the locations and the fits on the field. Tide assistant coach Burton Burns has recruited Louisiana well, most recently luring 4-star cornerback Shyheim Carter to Tuscaloosa, Ala. Smith is also very high on the Hurricanes, as the one-time Georgia commitment remains a huge fan of former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt, who is now at the helm of Miami.
Of course, Alabama represents the clear-cut favorite, which has been the case for much of Smith’s recruitment. Florida State was certainly a close No. 2 option, and the ‘Noles will get another visit before Smith announces his decision, but not earning a spot in the top four is a signal that something had gone awry in their attempt.
Both Craig and area recruiter Ed Orgeron did all in their power to try and sway Smith to stay home, but they faced a problem a bit out of the norm for Louisiana prospects. Many wish to stay in The Boot and play for their home crowd, but Smith — as he is in so many other ways — was an exception to the rule.
Smith is a 5-star talent and a calculated person. He does not make rash decisions and does what’s best for both his and his family’s future. Alabama has hovered among the top of his wish list for some time, which means the Tide has done everything right thus far. It also means that the defending national champions can offer Smith that LSU simply could not — a chance to be a college football star somewhere other than Louisiana.
As far as LSU’s wide receiver big board goes, the team already holds commitments from three elite prospects in Stephen Guidry, Mannie Netherly and Jhamon Ausbon. All three are 4-star talents, and it is very likely that the coaching staff is set on going in National Signing Day with Guidry, Netherly and Ausbon on board. With Smith out of the picture, the two potential exceptions are 4-star Georgia receiver Jeremiah Holloman and 3-star in-state wideout Racey McMath.
Holloman impressed Craig and coach Les Miles during LSU’s June camp and will be back later this month to work out with quarterback commits Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse. Georgia and Tennessee pose the biggest threats to the Tigers’ attempt to lure the elite wideout out of the Peach State.
McMath recently earned his offer from LSU after Craig, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and area recruiter Jabbar Juluke spent much of the spring watching the 3-star talent work out. The New Orleans native has long been high on the Tigers, though he is in no rush to commit just yet. Mississippi State and Missouri have both recently extended overtures to McMath, and he’s trying to earn more from both Alabama and Florida. If that does not transpire, McMath may be convinced that LSU is the easy decision.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.