Why Vols' football super freshman Trey Smith made Tennessee coach Butch Jones cry

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Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith (73) during the Tennessee Volunteers vs Indiana State Sycamores game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, September 9, 2017.

Trey Smith brought Butch Jones to tears last December.

Jones was in Miami recruiting and stopped to have lunch with a donor. Jones knew Smith, the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit by ESPN, was set to announce his college decision that day.

“They say a watched phone never rings,” Jones said Wednesday on his radio show, Vol Calls. “Well, I was watching the phone, and it rang.”

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Jones walked out to take the call. He came back with tears on his cheeks. The Vols had landed Smith’s commitment.

“That’s one of those moments I’ll never forget,” Jones said.

Why Smith carried a sledgehammer around

Three games into Smith’s college career, it’s easy to see why Jones was so excited to get the 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman in his program.

Smith is UT’s starting right guard, and he’s quickly shown he is one of the Vols’ top linemen.

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“He’s progressing. He’s playing well,” offensive line coach Walt Wells said.

He played well enough in his college debut against Georgia Tech that he earned the sledgehammer that’s given weekly to a UT offensive lineman to reward his performance.

Smith decided to showcase his prize, carrying the sledgehammer around campus days after the game against the Yellow Jackets.

“Oh, man, I got some looks,” Smith said.

“I really want to leave my mark on Tennessee,” he added. “I want to have some fun while I’m here.”

Jones described Smith as having a humble, engaging personality. He can sit and shoot the breeze with you for an hour on a weekday.

“You think he’s the nicest individual in the world,” Jones said.

Come Saturday, though, the switch flips.

Where Smith needs to improve

As steady as he’s been through three weeks, Smith knows he can get better.

He considers run blocking his specialty, and he has work to do in pass protection.

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“I enjoy the physicality of (run blocking) and just really getting into somebody’s chest and run them over,” Smith said. “That’s the fun part about football.”

That mindset of mauling defenders is appropriate when Smith needs to clear a path for a running back. But pass blocking requires more restraint, and Smith is learning not to be overly aggressive. Instead, he must show patience, keep his chest back and his facemask upright.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones, right, speaks to Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith (73) during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

Wells also is trying to get Smith to be more mindful of his full task on a given play. Instead of just destroying the man in front of him, advance to the next level and clear a linebacker, too.

“Trey is a physical, physical player,” Wells said. “And sometimes, it sounds bad to say, but he gets so locked in to one thing when he’s got to do two things in that job, and he forgets about the second thing. That’s being a young player. We made those corrections, and he continues to make those corrections in game time, which helps.”

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On his radio show, Jones said he’s never worked harder to land a recruit than he did Smith.

Jones had some help. Smith is from Jackson, where, as he put it, “I always saw orange everywhere I went.”

Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith (73) drills with Tennessee offensive lineman Devante Brooks (77) during Tennessee fall football practice at Anderson Training Facility in Knoxville, Tennessee on Wednesday, September 6, 2017.

Except for the time Smith saw red and blue lights behind him while driving his truck a bit too fast traveling home.

“My heart drops. I’m freaking out,” Smith said on Vol Calls. “It was my first time ever being pulled over. I get to the side of the road. The officer comes up to my car. He takes one look at me and goes, ‘Oh, you’re the Smith kid, right?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ He said, ‘Go Vols,’ and walked away.”


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