January 7, 2008

Smith's patience in transition led to commitment

Michigan's most recent four-star commitment, New Brunswick, N.J., safety Brandon Smith probably could be the poster child for prospects the Wolverines have recruited throughout the past few months. According to Smith's high school coach John Quinn, Smith almost chose a different program over the Maize and Blue …

"Rutgers made a tremendous effort to recruit Brandon and South Carolina made a very strong recruiting push," Quinn said. "They were maybe the favorites this past month because of the change going on at Michigan, but from the beginning Michigan was the perfect situation for Brandon and when he spoke to Rich Rodriguez's people recently I think that solidified his commitment."

Smith may have made an early verbal commitment had Lloyd Carr and his staff remained in place for another season due to the instant camaraderie the four-star safety developed with the Wolverines on his official visit Sept. 21 for the Penn State weekend.

"When Coach Carr decided to move into the administration I think that created anxiousness on Brandon's part but Rich Rodriguez's people that communicated with Brandon did a good job and I think the idea of playing at Michigan in front of 110,000 people was too good to pass up for Brandon," Quinn said.

Quinn believes Szabo, who as the primary recruiter in New Jersey also landed four-star linebackers Marcus Witherspoon and J.B. Fitzgerald, deserves a significant amount of credit for securing Smith during the tumultuous weeks that passed between Carr's resignation and Rodriguez's hiring. Even when the new man-in-charge took over there were compliance issues that prevented direct conversation and Szabo served as the messenger.

"I don't think you can undervalue the job Coach Szabo did," Quinn said. "Before Rodriguez officially signed, there were some compliance issues and the buyout - there were a lot of legal nuisances that stood in the way of direct communication between Brandon and the new staff. The old staff just really reinforced why Michigan was the place for Brandon and they promised him his scholarship would be there.

"I think Rich Rodriguez was the guy that sealed the deal, though, because Brandon didn't want to play someone that didn't want him. It was great that the offer stood, but he wanted to make sure the new coaching staff saw a future for him. Otherwise I don't think he'd want to be at Michigan."

This past season, Smith played quarterback and safety for the Zebras. Offensively, he completed 42.9 percent of his attempts for 390 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 208 yards and four scores. Defensively, he recorded 81 tackles, notched 18 pass deflections and tallied a team-high six interceptions.

"Brandon's strength, in my opinion, as a defensive football player is that he has great range and superb instincts," Quinn said. "He's a very long kid at 6-3, 215 pounds and an aggressive tackler so he will certainly provide Michigan a physical presence if they utilize him at free safety. He had over 200 career tackles and 20 career interceptions so he has a tremendous nose for the football also."

At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this past Saturday, Smith recorded five tackles and a pass break up.

"I thought he played well," said Quinn, who was in attendance and has since watched film of the game. "He was around the ball when he needed to be. Unfortunately, the rules in that game really favor the offense and if you're a defensive back you're almost playing with one hand tied behind your back. But Brandon lined up a lot on the slot receiver in one-on-one coverage and he didn't have any coverage issues. I think his receiver caught only one pass and that was on a broken down offensive play. He played solid, I thought."

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