Jeff's T.R. Smith reverses field, joins stellar crop of incoming freshmen
T.R. Smith doesn't know which position he will play at Oregon Ñ could be tailback, receiver, free safety or cornerback Ñ but the Jefferson High School senior can hardly wait to get started.
The 5-10, 180-pound Smith, who verbally committed to Oregon State last summer, signed with the Ducks on Wednesday, one of 30 players Ñfour from in state Ñto ink binding letters of intent.
It could be the best recruiting class in UO history, capped when the Ducks got receiver Cameron Colvin from prep power De La Salle High in Concord, Calif. Colvin is a blue-chipper in the class of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who came to Oregon in 2002.
Smith doesn't have such acclaim, but the Ducks stole him from OSU.
'I decided that I wanted to go to a better school,' Smith says. 'I wanted to go with a coach (Mike Bellotti) who I'm comfortable with, and I want to go where I'll play the quickest. Oregon is a better program, nationally ranked and they get more exposure.'
The Beavers recruited Smith as a defensive back. The Ducks signed him as a tailback Ñthe other new back is ballyhooed Terrell Jackson of Corona, Calif. Ñ but Smith says he could wind up as a receiver or defensive back.
'In high school, I've been the best with the ball in my hands,' he says. 'I've been playing multiple positions my whole career. Wherever they put me, I'll do my best.'
Smith hasn't passed his SAT yet, and he has a cumulative GPA of 2.2. But it's improving, up to 3.5 last term, he says.
Jackson, 5-9 and 190 pounds, runs consistent 4.4-second 40-yard dashes and expects to challenge for playing time right away. Bellotti and assistant Gary Campbell recruited him to be the breakaway back the Ducks need to complement Terrence Whitehead, Kenny Washington, Ryan Shaw and Chris Vincent.
'But I consider myself an all-purpose back who can get out of the backfield and run between the tackles,' Jackson says. 'I have a lot of elusiveness, kind of like Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk. I'm not a big bruiser.'
Jackson had great numbers in his prep career, tallying 2,664 yards and 40 TDs rushing as a senior, 2,344 yards and 44 TDs as a junior. He also caught 48 passes in two years.
The last standout prep running back to land at UO was Ricky Whittle in 1991. Lately, the Ducks have had transfers such as Reuben Droughns, Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith.
Oregon beat out California, Arizona State, North Carolina and Washington for Jackson.
'I'm ready to come up, ready to step on campus,' he says. He likes the fan support and the UO business school. Furthermore, 'they stressed that Nike is affiliated with them.'
Plus, he knows all about the seven big offensive linemen the Ducks have signed. He has been talking with one of them, Aaron Klovas, every week.
Says Klovas of Jackson: 'That was one of the more exciting commits for me. A really humble guy, a standout on the field, a good attitude. I called his cell phone the other day, and the voice mail made a reference to 'National Championship, Oregon Ducks.' That's the mind-set this group has, which I felt was important. We see the big picture.'
Smith came onboard well after the Ducks had secured David Faaeteete of Medford, Cole Linehan of Banks and Ryan Keeling of Springfield. Faaeteete and Linehan are defensive tackles; Keeling is a tight end.
'Oregon all the way,' Faaeteete says, who turned down visits to OSU, Arizona and Colorado. 'I like their facilities, their coaching staff, the atmosphere on campus they have there. Not too big, not too small.'
The 6-2, 280-pounder wants to try to play next year, but 'I want to play at 280 and 285 right now. I don't plan on breaking 300 until my sophomore or junior year.' Which means he may redshirt. 'If I keep doing my training, running and lifting, I'll maintain my speed and build more muscle and not fat,' he says.
He, liked the swanky new UO locker room, saying: 'It was the first time I walked into a locker room and it smelled good. It was refreshing.'
Faaeteete visited Oregon, and his host was Ngata. 'We hung around and talked and ate a lot of food,' he says. 'He's a big, nice guy. Mean as hell on the football field. He's already told me stuff I can work on to get better, like telling me how to beat double teams.'
The 6-2, 190-pound Colvin compares himself to Randy Moss in that he is rangy, can go up for balls and is pretty quick.
'He runs really good routes,' says cornerback Jackie Bates, who will join De La Salle High teammates Colvin, safety/linebacker Terrance Kelly and cornerback Willie Glasper in Eugene. 'He's definitely the best receiver I've played against. I won't say he has blazing speed, but he's tough to guard, and he's got good hands. He's more ready than Demetrius was.'
Oregon receiver Demetrius Williams is another De La Salle alum.
Bates hardly played at all last season after being hurt in the first quarter of the first game. The Ducks were the team that stuck with him the most, he says, and he was the first De La Salle guy to verbally commit. Now he and Glasper and other UO defensive back recruits will vie for playing time, especially with Steven Moore opting for the NFL draft. Bates can't wait to slip on a lightning yellow UO jersey.
'I've always liked their colors,' he says.
Except for not signing a kicker or a punter, the Ducks could field an entire team with its recruits, if you factor in QB Dennis Dixon, who entered school in January. É Besides Colvin, three late commitments came from defensive ends Micah Howeth of Dallas, Texas, Michael Speed of Los Angeles and fullback Jerome Johnson of L.A.. É Illinois linebacker Kyle Williams stuck with Iowa. His father, Stephen, tells TheInsiders.com that 'he was considering Oregon. É We are a close-knit family, and he wanted us to continue to be a part of his life. He wanted to stay close.'