HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Ever since Miami offered Keontra Smith on Feb. 16, the 4-star safety has spoken highly of the Hurricanes. Despite an almost-yearlong commitment to Kentucky, Smith has a top group and some coaching staffs he talks with far more frequently than the Wildcats’ staff.
Smith never got up to Lexington, Ky., for spring practice. Instead, he visited Miami multiple times and took an official visit to Michigan the weekend of April 14. The defensive back from Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School in Hollywood has constantly hinted at an impending announcement. Smith told DieHards that it’s still the case.
“It’s coming,” Smith said after Chaminade-Madonna College Prep’s practice Wednesday. “Before the season.”
The Hurricanes, for now, seem like the clear front-runner. Smith attended Miami’s junior day March 24, then returned to Coral Gables, Fla., for another spring practice April 5.
— Don Vito (@Juicecane) April 5, 2018
The 6-foot, 195-pound strong safety was one of the only recruits to attend practice during the second visit, which meant he got some extra attention. Smith made his way out to Greentree Practice Fields with an uncle, and talked with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and safeties coach Ephraim Banda. Smith knows he’s a somewhat unique prospect as a potential hybrid safety-linebacker, so every chance he gets to talk with the Hurricanes coaches helps. It also helps him realize how big a priority he is for Miami.
“It was a great experience. I love being out there at the crib,” Smith said. “They want me and it’s up to me, whatever I do. They want me bad.”
There are a handful of roles he might make sense for Smith with the Hurricanes. If Miami commits to its new 4-2-5, Smith could be an option at striker, the Hurricanes’ hybrid linebacker-safety position. He is also a logical fit at rover, which has been helmed excellently by Jaquan Johnson the last few seasons. The defensive back is coming up on his senior year, so Miami will be looking for a long-term successor in the Class of 2019.
Like the Hurricanes, the Wolverines are looking at Smith for some non-traditional positions. Michigan uses its own hybrid position — the Wolverines call it the viper — and Jabrill Peppers even earned Heisman Trophy attention at the spot in 2016.
“That’s exactly what they want to use me as. They want to use me as a Jabrill Peppers, the viper position,” said Smith, who will also play running back for Chaminade-Madonna. “The viper plays a lot. They do a lot of blitzing, man-to-man coverage on the slot and also the deep end. They do it all.”
At this point, Smith doesn’t prefer one role — viper or rover — over the other.
“It’s the same position as Jaquan Johnson,” Smith said of Miami’s pitched position. “There’s a lot going on in the rover. I like the rover, too. It’s nothing I don’t like about that position. I love the rover. It’s almost similar to the viper. It’s all the same, it’s just the different coverages.”
Alabama, Smith said, has also climbed into the mix a bit. Crimson Tide special teams coach Joe Pannunzio is high on the blue-chip prospect, although Smith has yet to visit.
Smith isn’t totally ruling out Kentucky, either. The senior wants to take an official visit up to the Bluegrass State. He was originally planning a trip for June along with some other South Florida prospects, but he may have a conflict the scheduled weekend. The Wildcats will probably have to nail a visit to hang on to the No. 13 safety in the 247Sports composite rankings.
“It’s going tough right now, but I’m trying to get back up there for my official visit,” Smith said. “Other than that, I talk with the coaches not a lot, but a little bit.”