Gators commit C.J. Smith discusses commitment, spring game and his recruitment plans


C.J. Smith couldn’t keep his commitment a secret.

After going silent with his commitment to UF, the four-star safety out of Oxbridge Academy (West Palm Beach, Fl.) announced on March 28 that he was committed to the Gators.

And after a front row seat to Friday night’s Orange and Blue Debut, the 2018 prospect revealed just how strong his relationship is with Florida’s coaching staff.

“The only way I’m going to flip is the whole coaching staff just gets fired or something,” Smith said. “You have to be special, you have to do something real spectacular. Houdini, man.”

When it comes to his recruitment, Smith said Florida made several key off-season hires that affirmed Gainesville is the place to be.

First, the Gators added Corey Bell as the team’s defensive backs coach. A Miami native, Bell first met Smith when the 6-foot-2 prospect camped at Florida Atlantic in 2014.

“I’ve known him since I’ve been going to FAU camps since ninth grade,” Smith said of meeting Bell. “We’ve been keeping in touch ever since.”

When he saw Florida had brought Bell on board, Smith’s interest peaked.

“That was really big,” Smith said of Bell’s hiring. “Him and coach (Greg) Nord came and recruited me very hard, before I even had an offer.”

But Bell wasn’t the only coach familiar with Smith, as UF running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider had reached out to the south Florida native while Seider was on staff at West Virginia University.

“I’ve known him since West Virginia so every time he used to come in and check with me, he never really said he wanted me to go to West Virginia,” Smith said, “but he always kept me in touch, told me to do what’s best for me.”

Despite a commitment to Florida, Smith said he still plans on taking visits to other programs. And it doesn’t mean other programs have cooled on him, too.

“I’m still going to take some visits, I haven’t taken any so I’m going to take some,” Smith said. “Oklahoma, Alabama and LSU. Those are the main schools still after me.”

Yet the may not have the NFL pedigree that UF offers, and Smith has taken notice. It’s a pitch Florida has used to the rising four-star prospect, but it hasn’t been the only pitch.

“I heard that all their starting free safeties have gone to the NFL Draft,” Smith said. “So that was a big opener for me to come in and get a big chance to push this season.”

While Alabama and LSU will seemingly pose the biggest threat to flip Smith, there’s a nearby program that could possibly make a push to flip him.

“I haven’t got an offer from Miam, I haven’t got any looks from Miami and it’s just 30 minutes down the street. So it’s like, I’m iffy with them,” Smith said. “Yeah they still talk, we have conversations her and there. Mark Richt is a great guy, a great coach.”

But the point remains the same: a program will have to make a massive push to change Smith’s mind in the next 10 months.

“The facilities, people just came up and said this is where I need to be, this is where I need to go,” Smith said. “This is my fourth time visiting here this year, they treat me like I’m home. They treat me like a regular student on campus, even better. So it’s really nice to be here.”