February 3, 2010

Whirlwind day results in SEC opportunity for Smith

Tuesday was a day Cedric Smith will never forget.

The three-star cornerback from Prattville, Ala., began the day committed to Arkansas State.

By the time it ended, Smith had finally landed the Southeastern Conference offer he was looking for, and several other SEC schools were toying with the idea of making last-minute offers as well.

Their hesitation, Prattville defensive coordinator Bart Sessions said Wednesday, could prove costly in years to come.

"LSU and Auburn were calling yesterday, but they weren't ready to jump on the kid," Sessions said. "Ole Miss came in and we felt like they were most honest with the kid. Last night they took the grayshirt off their offer, and that's what we were waiting on. We kept it quiet, because we didn't want someone else to offer because Ole Miss did."

On Wednesday morning, Smith signed with Ole Miss, choosing the Rebels over Arkansas State, Northern Illinois, Illinois, Memphis and others.

"I'm glad the opportunity came," Smith said. "I was very surprised. I didn't think it was going to come like that. It was very emotional. It was also pretty hard. I was just beginning to build a family-like relationship with Arkansas State. It was hard to do what I had to do."

Smith, one of six Prattville players to sign Division I-A letters-of-intent on Wednesday, was overshadowed by teammates Nick Perry (a four-star defensive back who signed with Alabama) and Sam Gibson (a three-star athlete who signed with LSU), but Sessions said he believes Smith will make a name for himself quickly in the SEC.

"To be honest with you, that's the steal of our class," Sessions said. "He's a corner that will hit you. He plays corner as physically as a safety. He brings a little different element to the position. We play a lot of press-man and he's really a three-year starter. He has some great experience. His sophomore year, we ran him out there and played press-man against (former Foley, Ala., star) Julio (Jones, now an All-SEC wide receiver at Alabama). The last two years, we ran him out and he played against the other team's best player.

"Late this year, we mixed in a lot of zone and he played very well in that. He probably played his best game in his last game against Hoover. He blew people up in that game. I love him. He's something else. He's a gamer."

"I've been like that my whole life," Smith said. "It comes natural. I know football. I know what I need to do. I was coached up well. I'll be all right. Ole Miss has a great coaching staff. I know they'll lead me who I need to be led."

Smith, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder who recorded 48 tackles and three interceptions as a senior, is fully qualified academically. Sessions said Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix wants Smith in shape and in Oxford on May 26, ready to compete for a starting cornerback job. The Rebels' starting cornerbacks last season, Cassius Vaughn and Marshay Green, played their final game on Jan. 2 when Ole Miss defeated Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

"It's great I'll have an opportunity to play in the SEC as soon as I do," Smith said. "It's going to be hard work for me. That's it. I'm going to show people they missed out. I've got something to prove to everybody who didn't offer."

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