Calvin Smith was pumped after talking to Appalachian State co-offensive coordinator Frank Ponce on Monday.
Ponce told the Orlando Boone athlete he’d like to offer a scholarship and Smith was ecstatic. He already had offers from Football Championship Subdivision schools Youngstown State and South Dakota State, but this one was the big time.
Appalachian State, which is in, coincidentally, Boone, N.C., turns Football Bowl Subdivision member in 2014 and Smith was happy to be on the Mountaineers’ board.
“I feel really good about it. I always knew it was gonna come but I just didn’t know when,” Smith said. “Now that I got that first one it makes me just want to get out there and get plenty more. I can’t wait to get the next one.”
Smith, who transferred to Boone from Orlando Colonial before the 2012-13 school year, played defensive back, receiver and kick returner for the Braves as a junior. This coming season he’ll be guiding the Boone offense as quarterback under new head coach Andy Johnson.
Those are the kinds of things Ponce told Smith he liked about the 5-foot-11, 180-pound athlete, who will most likely play cornerback at the next level.
“He told me he liked my versatility and how I can play all of the skill positions,” Smith said. “He said he also liked how much motor I have for the game and how I see things and react to them fast.
“They’re recruiting me as an athlete, pretty much, and he said they’d use me mostly at defensive back. He also said I might be able to get back there and return some kicks and he likes how I bring that to the table.”
Smith, who is ranked No. 38 in the Sentinel's 2014 Central Florida Super60, said he had played quarterback through most of his formative years at the Pop Warner level, but this is his first season at QB as a high school player.
“I’ve always played quarterback and when coach told me he needed me to play QB to lead the team to a state championship I embraced that and wanted to take that challenge,” he said.
When it comes to positions, however, Smith said it’s no concern to him where he ends up on the field, as long as he is on the field.
“It really doesn’t matter,” he said. “The coach needs me at quarterback this year and I’m gonna have a lot of fun as quarterback. I’ll be a lot different type of QB than we’ve had here in the past with a lot more running involved in the system.”
Smith said he’s not worried about getting rusty as a cornerback while he takes his senior year off from the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m be working at defensive back in some 7-on-7s and working with Coach Keiwan Ratliff every day in the summer to make sure to work on my defensive back skills in case it ever comes up that I need to play there during the season.
“[7-on-7] helps me learn schemes and how fast to react to top players and how to play the ball. It makes me have to step up my game.”
Ratliff, the former cornerback at Florida who played with the Bengals, Colts and Steelers during a seven-year NFL career, is helping coach Top Recruits Now, a Central Florida all-star 7-on-7 squad, which will be playing the IMG National Championships in Bradenton later this summer. He will be coaching on the staff of new Orlando Oak Ridge coach Ricky Watters this fall.
Smith said playing quarterback will help him pick up things he can use to his advantage as a cornerback.
“I can tell things from the way [receivers] line up and how they go in and out of their cuts that will tell me about how they run their routes,” Smith said.
Smith has formed a good relationship with Coach Johnson, who came over from Orlando Freedom High and took the place of long-time Boone head coach Phil Ziglar, who is now at Oviedo Hagerty.
“It’s been really good. Last year I was the new kid coming to Boone and me and Coach Zig never had that father-son kind of relationship,” Smith said. “But since Coach Johnson has been here we talk every day about things and about winning a state championship and what kind of things we need to do. I’ve never had a coach like that … ever.”
Smith said he will be attending a camp at the University of Florida in two weeks and is hopeful that he could land an offer from the Gators. His recruiting contacts at UF have been assistant coaches Travaris Robinson (defensive backs) and Derek Lewis (tight ends).
“Coach TRob and Derek Lewis came out to my school and checked me out. I’ve been talking to them since the end of last season,” Smith said. “They were out right before spring practice started and told me they are taking four corners this year and wanted me to come up to camp. They said if I ball out there they could offer me.
“It’s a big school and it’s always been one of my favorites growing up.”
As a defensive back last season, Smith had 58 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had one kick return for a touchdown.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.