Bundle of Energy

Bernard Smith

If the energy and enthusiasm of West Virginia verbal commitment Bernard Smith could be bottled, the world's energy crisis might be solved.

Smith, who committed to West Virginia after visiting this past weekend, is a live wire. Make that a bundle of live wires. Just ask the Georgia native a question, and he's off and running. For example, how was your visit to WVU this weekend?

"It felt like home the whole time I was there," Smith began. "The connection and the bond that the players have, with each other, and the coaches, it just felt right. And the fans, man, that was crazy. We went to the basketball game where they were playing Georgetown, and the whole place was chanting the head coach's name. That was great – the whole place just stopped dead when that happened. We could hear it even when we were just coming in. I grew up wanting to play big time college ball. And I know about the SEC and everything else, but where you really get that big time college atmosphere is in towns where it's just the college. There's no pro team there – they just love their college team."

Smith has long had those Division I aspirations. His mother and stepfather were both excellent athletes, having earned high level scholarship offers themselves. His stepfather, Andra Nealey, had offers in four sports, but ended up deciding to go into the Marine Corps. That still left time for him to coach Smith, who has been playing football since he was four, and help in his development.

"Having my stepfather coach me and work with me really gave me an advantage," Smith explained. "I've been watching and breaking down film with him for a long time. I'd sit and watch and pick up tendencies, like the quarterback's first step telling where he was going. Football is all about angles and getting to the right place, and not just about straight line speed. Once I learned those things, I felt like I really knew the game."

Not that Smith's 40-time is bad (he has run a 4.65 in the 40), and that's at 6-2 and 220 pounds. He notes, however, that the 40-yard dash is not the be-all and end-all of speed and quickness on the field.

"There's 40 speed and then there's football speed," he analyzed. "You can teach people how to run the 40 faster, but you can't teach game speed. I have that.

In addition to the home atmosphere Smith found on his recruiting visit last weekend, he also found a couple of other things to his liking. The first was his host, Selvish Capers.

"He was the coolest dude I can meet," Smith recounted enthusiastically. When I saved his name in my phone – I just put "Realest Guy" in there for him, because he was so real. Both of us are from the South – he's from New Orleans, and my stepfather is from Louisiana, so we had that in common. He told me it was a big transition to come here, but that he didn't regret it at all. He had some great stories about home, and about coming here.

"One of the things he told me was that he had to get used to the hills. I was scared of them at first, and he said he was the same. But he got used to the differences, and he really likes it here."

The second bonus is the proximity to the FBI Center in Clarksburg, just 20 minutes down the road. Smith, who wants to major in criminal justice, has long eyed the FBI as his dream career goal.

"I want to be in the FBI – growing up I always watched Cops and Court TV. I really got into it. I was always trying to figure out the case before they did. It became a strong interest for me, and for a long time now I've known that's what I wanted to do.

"At first, I was thinking about business, because I thought it might be easier. But then I talked to several players, and they told me to do what you are interested in. Do something that you can work at and enjoy. Even if I make it to the NFL, I will need to have a career afterward. That's why I decided to go into what I am interested it. I am really excited about seeing the FBI Center and getting into my major."

West Virginia got onto Smith late, and that came via recruiting coordinator Doc Holliday, who was recruiting Smith at Florida before he came home to the Mountain State.

"Coach Holliday and Coach Casteel are two wonderful coaches," Smith said. "West Virginia got in on me late, and it was all due to Coach Holliday. A lot of schools weren't looking at me, because I wasn't qualified yet, but West Virginia was talking to me as soon as Holliday got here. Then, the evening after they really started recruiting me, I found out I was qualified and called them with the news. They were excited too, so when I came up for my visit I ended up committing."

Smith had previously committed to Mississippi, but contrary to a previous report did not verbal to Western Kentucky after the Rebels backed off.

"I told them I could see myself coming there, but I didn't commit," he explained. They sort of ran with that, but it wasn't right."

What is right about Smith is his speed off the edge, which allowed him to rack up 125 tackles as a senior. That earned him spots on several all-star teams as well as a spot in the Georgia North-South game, and cemented his love for the defensive end position. Although some analysts pegged him as a linebacker project, he will play defensive end for West Virginia.

"I am a speed guy. I can get off the ball on the snap and get to it wherever it is. Everyone ranked me as a strongside linebacker, but I'm an end. That's what I love to do – put my hand in the dirt, come off the ball and get to the quarterback. West Virginia said they will put me as a five technique at defensive end, and I will bust my butt there."

Smith did just that in high school, recording three-fifths of his tackles on his own. Included in those numbers were 22 tackles for lost yardage and 12 sacks – numbers that most ends are hard-pressed to match. His lack of size, at least for a prototype defensive end, likely contributes a bit of doubt as to whether or not Smith can match his production at end in college, but the confident senior has no doubts he can do so.

"I have put on 10-15 pounds since the season ended, and I am still running the same speed," he said. "I know I can add what I need to and still play at the same speed."

NOTES

There's not much doubt that Smith and head coach Bill Stewart would hit it off. Both possess the same infectious enthusiasm and passion for the game, and both can speak at length when asked the most basic of questions. It would be almost impossible not to like either one, so it's no surprise that Smith quickly decided to make West Virginia his choice after his weekend on campus.

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