ATLANTA — Trey Smith doesn’t even hesitate to answer the question.
“If he comes, man just how much better the team will be and how much better he’ll make me in practice,” Smith told SEC Country on Thursday after he was honored as the Bobby Dodd National Lineman of the Year in a ceremony at the Touchdown Club of Atlanta.
“Just going against a guy that caliber everyday. I think LaBryan is really the main target and focus right now. He’s a really big deal, man.”
Ray is the nation’s No. 26 prospect, a blue-chip defensive end from James Clemons (Ala.). Everybody wants him, but the 5-star recruit is down to a handful of schools, with Tennessee firmly among the favorites.
While Alabama remains the frontrunner for the in-state product, Tennessee has made serious in-roads in recent weeks, selling family, fit and immediate playing time. The Vols see Ray as a guy who could slide in and replace Derek Barnett on Day 1.
If the Vols manage to land Ray on National Signing Day it would give their 2017 class an oomph of star-power and another playmaker their defense desperately needs heading into a pivotal 2017 season. Smith had the chance to battle against Ray at the Under Armor All-America Game earlier this month and he delivered his scouting report on the top-flight pass rusher.
“Quick and powerful. He’s really crafty with his hands,” Smith said.
“A lot of d-lineman, they’ll knock down your hands but you can (recover). With LaBryan, you really have to run your feet, get your hands and have a lot of power or he’s just going to shed the block.”
During the weekend of Jan. 13, Ray took his official visit to Tennessee. Naturally, Smith was his player-host. The Vols mid-year enrollee has developed a real relationship with Ray dating back several years. They’ve competed in camps and have bonded over both losing their mothers way too early in life.
Smith said he doesn’t even have to sell Tennessee to Ray anymore.
“He knows,” the offensive tackle said.
“Everything I just said, I say to him,” Smith explained.
“We really genuinely care about him. We really want him to come home to family.”
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