Smith has top three

Smith has top three

The No. 2 ranked offensive tackle has Notre Dame in his top three - plus, why his decision may come sooner than expected and what primary factor will weigh above the rest.

Offensive tackle Braden Smith of Olathe (Kan.) South is ranked as the No. 2 player at his position and is being sought-after by many of the nation's premier programs.

Smith visited Notre Dame for the Irish's junior day on March 23, and according to Smith's head coach at Olathe South, Jeff Gourley, his time on campus has put Notre Dame in a very good position.

"He really enjoyed his trip to Notre Dame," Gourley said. "He loved campus and everything. The whole trip was outstanding."

Days before Smith visited Notre Dame, he made stops at Ohio State and Michigan. Gourley said Smith had higher reviews for the Irish than its Big Ten counterparts.

"He told me that Ohio State seemed like a ‘city in itself,' and he said the same thing about Michigan too," Gourley said. "Those schools were a little big for his liking. He really like the campus feel he got at Notre Dame; that was more along the lines of what he's looking for. It had a smaller family feel and seemed tighter knit to him."

Smith is still in the process of building a list of top schools, but three schools are sticking out early.

"It's an ongoing progression, and he's in the process of figuring it out," Gourley said. "Notre Dame had him from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. when he visited, and he had been to Ohio State and Michigan before that. I think out of tiredness he named a top three of TCU, Texas A&M, and Notre Dame just to get it over with. But, I talked to him when he returned, and he's sticking with that top three right now. TCU and Texas A&M also have that family feel that Notre Dame has."

The 6-foot-6, 292-pound lineman has the coveted combination of work ethic, natural athleticism and physicality.

"He's very gifted on the DNA chain," Gourley said. "His dad jokes that he must have stepped in uranium because his sister is very gifted as well. She's one of the top throwers (shot put) at TCU right now. At one point in high school, she had the best throw in the country."

"There's a lot of gifted kids that don't work hard, and that's what separates Braden apart," Gourley said. "He's very coachable. You can tell him to tweak his hand placement or his first step, and he works his butt off to fix it. The caliber of athlete that he is and just his brute strength makes him stand out. He can bench 500 pounds and squat 500 and a quarter, and he could probably do more, but I don't let him. His flexibility is really good, too. He's a knee, hip, and ankle bender. He can get down to the pad level of guys that are 5-foot-10, 6-foot and play at their pad level. He's pure muscle."

Next for Smith is more visits.

"He'll probably take a tour of the southeast this summer," Gourley said. "South Carolina has always been on his list somewhere, so I'm hard pressed not to believe he'll visit there at some point. They were on him early. He'll probably revisit Alabama and Oklahoma. He's talked to (Georgia head coach) [Mark] Richt about visiting Georgia as well, and he'll probably see Clemson."

"There are great coaches at all of those places," Gourley said. "He really enjoyed his time with the Notre Dame coaches. You can tell (Notre Dame safeties coach) Bob Elliot is a good person just by talking with him. But, (offensive line coach) Eddie Williamson and (head coach) Gary Patterson at TCU are good as well, and so are (head coach) Kevin Sumlin and (offensive line coach) B.J. Anderson at Texas A&M. He really likes (Ohio State head coach) [Urban] Meyer too. (Michigan head coach) Brady Hoke is good as gold. I think it will come down to where he feels most comfortable."

Gourley said Smith's decision date may come sooner than originally expected.

"The original plan was to sign on signing day of next year," Gourley said. "At 17-years-old right now though, he's getting as much pressure as the President of the United States. And, he's a very humble kid. I didn't even know he could speak for the first two years. He's getting a little pensive of people asking about his recruitment."

"So, if he knows where he really wants to be, there's no need to drag it out until signing day," Gourley said. "He could make a commitment when he is comfortable. He doesn't eat up the glitz and glamour of recruiting. We talked at the beginning of this process and I told him there's no hurry to make a decision. He told me, ‘It's tough to visit places right now because I don't want to miss anything we're (Olathe South) doing.' So, he's trying to figure out who will get official visits right now."

Smith is a five-star prospect and ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle prospect and the No. 6 prospect overall in the 2014 class.

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