Notre Dame still part of the plan for OL Trey Smith

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Trey Smith’s visit to Notre Dame keeps getting farther in the rear-view mirror, but he still remains close with the Irish.

Few recruiting prognosticators believe the offensive lineman from Jackson, Tenn., will play college football north of the Ohio River. But as of Sunday, one third of his Smith’s top six schools sit above Kentucky.

The 6-foot-5, 299-pound Smith named Tennessee, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Clemson and Ole Miss as the leaders in his recruitment. It is more than a battle of geography, and Notre Dame appears to be a legitimate contender three months after visiting campus.

The culture of success that offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has developed at Notre Dame is apparent to Smith.

“Coach Hiestand is one of the best to do it,” Smith said. “The guys at that school are so good. The O-linemen, it’s a unit unlike any I’ve seen in the country to be honest with you — the way they treat each other and how much they care about each other. It’s not just made up and something a coach told me. It’s like a brotherhood down there. I love that about it.”

Smith became friends with Irish offensive linemen Tommy Kraemer and Parker Boudreaux last summer when they all competed at The Opening Finals. With Kraemer and Boudreaux already enrolled at Notre Dame, Smith returned last weekend to Nike World Headquarters again to compete against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.

Smith came in with a target on his back after ESPN named him the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2017 class earlier this year. Opinions on Smith have varied. Some recruiting analysts position him as elite; others have questioned his ceiling. 247Sports slates Smith as a five-star recruit and the top offensive tackle in the class. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect and the No. 33 offensive tackle.

The coaching staff at The Opening Finals didn’t select Smith, who took reps at both tackle and guard, as one of the top six offensive lineman in the event. When Smith completes his blocks, he can be a punishing force. But he also struggled at times against defensive lineman with a combination of speed and strength.

The experience of playing guard may have opened Smith’s eyes to the possibility of manning the position in the future.

“After this week, I’m really loving that guard position,” Smith said. “It’s straight up in your face. At tackle, it’s all patience. At guard, it’s all business. You got a second or you’ll end up in the dirt. If you get exposed, it’s over. I love that. Those D-tackles are big.”

Smith identified Marlon Tuipulotu, a 6-2, 275-pound Washington commit who finished as one of the top five defensive linemen, as one of the toughest challenges of the week.

“The ends, I can control them pretty well once I get my hands on them,” Smith said. “These big dudes like Marlon Tuipulotu — he’s a fast dude and a he’s big. You have to manage him.”

With the competition behind him, Smith can return his focus to recruiting. In the next few weeks, he’ll make another visit to Tennessee. Then he’ll start to line up all five of his official visits for the season. He wants to make one more tour of his top schools before making a decision in December in order to enroll early in January.

Smith used a checklist to identify his top six schools, which proved favorable for Notre Dame. The Irish will continue to push for Smith in hopes of crossing him off their wish list.

“My relationship with the O-line coach, the success that I might have after football, the potential that the O-line coach can take my skills from here and raise them up here,” Smith said of the main factors in his recruitment. “Another thing is life after football. What programs do they have for me to better myself in life? This football stuff is going to end. I can go down on the next play tomorrow. I have a lot of planning left.”

For now, Notre Dame remains a part of those plans.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Elite offensive tackle recruit Trey Smith named Notre Dame as one of his top six schools. (Photo courtesy of Nike)