It was a hectic night attempting to find a scoutee after our original choice’s game got cancelled at the last minute. After a lot of searching and back-and-forth, we settled on 2023 APB JT Smith Jr., a current in-state standout in the class. Smith currently holds just one FBS offer, but as he showed on Friday night in Providence Day’s 32-28 win over Charlotte Christian, there is a reason that many believe it is the first of many for this talented young player.
Smith played nearly every snap of the game for the Chargers on Friday night, only coming off for a few plays in the third quarter after taking a big hit on his lone kickoff return in the game, which he took back 41 yards after initially dropping the football. Offensively, Smith only touched the football four times, but his carry was a touchdown run and he did catch three of his four targets for 17 yards. Defensively was where Smith thrived the most on Friday night statistically, finishing with eight total tackles, five of which were solos, and allowing just one catch while he was in coverage out of his nickelback position.
Smith is listed as an all-purpose back on 247Sports, but similar to former Tar Heel in-state target in the 2021 class, Will Shipley, he plays a big role for his team defensively. Smith is a strong tackler that plays with a nice physical edge and he does a great job of getting off blocks to make plays in the run game. He is a little limited in coverage and he plays in a zone-heavy scheme, something that would make playing in man-heavy schemes like Jay Bateman’s a challenge. His future, though, appears to be on the offensive side of the football, even though we didn’t get a great glimpse of it on Friday. His lone carry showed his good vision and ability to put a foot in the ground and cut up the field and he was able to show on some screen play that he can make things happen with the football in his hands. The thing that impressed me the most about Smith on Friday night, though, was his blocking ability, as he did a great job of sealing the edge for Nickel Fields a few times and was able to really control the linebacker and defensive linemen he faced throughout the night. That is the one thing that this Tar Heel backfield is really lacking right now is a running back who has proven he can pass protect. While the Tar Heels hope they won’t have to wait till the 2023 cycle to find some help with that, Smith’s blocking ability makes him an attractive option in the class once the focus shifts there, especially if he can build on what we saw from him as a freshman last year.
This will likely be the one and only time until the spring that we dip into the state of North Carolina and the 2023 class, but Smith was definitely worth it. Next week’s scoutee is still up in the air until we know for sure which prospects games will be streamed and which won’t. We’ll make an official announcement on Friday of who our intended scoutee for that night will be on Anthony’s official Twitter page.