All it takes is one strong season to elevate a prospects to great heights, and Cameron Smith experienced this in 2012. As a sophomore, Smith anchored the middle of the Granity Bay High (CA) defense at inside linebacker and obliterated any ball carrier that came within tackling range. With upwards of 200 tackles in 2012, Cameron set expectations for another numerically-significant season when he returned as a larger, more developed junior prospect. While the numbers are not where they were a year prior, Smith had another dominant year in 2013 with 113 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns. Cameron also acknowledges that he set a certain standard for his play wit such a prolific year.
"I had a good season," said Smith. "I didn't have bad stats, but they weren't as good as I wanted. I made my plays and I was very happy with the team overall. I thought I had a great season, but my stats didn't match the 2012 season where I had 200 tackles and four interceptions. Some people think I need to record a pick-six or a strip fumble on every play, but a lot of times they don't even run my way. Like I said, I made my plays and what I think are some really incredible plays if you watch my highlight film."
As promised, Cameron's highlight film contains a wealth of impressive plays. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Smith's tape is prepared off the field with his rare combination of size and agility. At 6'2" and 250 lbs. during the season, Smith has terrific strength and he carries his weight very well. The ability to move as well as he does at 250 lbs. is something very uncommon in high school or even college athletes.
"I have been getting ripped on for my size lately because they are saying if I get too big I might play defensive line," said Smith. "But I am in the wrestling room right now, just got weighed and I have lost 30 pounds since the season ended, so I'm sitting at about 220 right now. I'm faster and quicker than ever and stronger than ever too.That is what I hope teams see of me now because I have really worked my butt off. With how little offseason there has been, I have to put a lot of work in to get better."
This raw size creates an attractive option for the inside of future college defenses as Smith has the size to slide into a division one starting lineup unnoticed as is. With these physical gifts also comes a concentrated player that is determined to with each repetition before it even begins.
"My knowledge of the game i great as I've played all positions, including quarterback as a freshman," said Smith. "I really pride myself on making my pre-snap reads and my in-play reads and guards. I really pride myself on doing that work and I feel like a smart player all-around. I am competitive and I love to make plays and do whatever I can for my team. My tackling is really good and it goes well with my ability to make plays from sideline to sideline. When it comes to how I get to the ball and the lines I take, they are fine. I always take great angles."
Given his refined and developed skill set, Cameron looks best fit to lead college defenses from the inside linebacker position at the next level. As a stocky, powerful and intelligent athlete, Cameron possesses many of the qualities necessary in developing a productive scheme-oriented linebacker.
"Of course I would play wherever I am needed," said Smith. "I would love to stay at the true MIKE position because I think that is where my tackling abilities can be best used, but I have worked with my linebacker coach a lot on rushing the passer and improving my hips and hands. I consider myself useful as an outside rusher Clay Matthews-type playmaker, but I really like the MIKE position and would like to stay away from the defensive line."
With these skills matching up with other elite linebackers on the West coast, Cameron Smith has received interest from all across the country. While he only holds offers from six schools at the moment, his recruitment is picking up and the Evaluation Period has only furthered this progress. While the Wolverines were not a school that stood out as a potential destination at first, they may have altered their position in Cameron's mind thanks to an impactful visit from tight end and special teams coach Dan Ferrigno.
"I had not thought about Michigan at all," said Smith. "It was probably one of the last schools that had come to my mind. Then Ferrigno came by and went over what they look for and the history of the school. I loved it and it really got into my head that I could totally see myself going to that school. The atmosphere there and all the people in the stadium has really helped form my opinion. It's making me think about going to Michigan. Eventually I would want to build my relationship with the position coach. That will be a key factor. But I thought Ferrigno was awesome. We sat down and watched a few team videos and it got me all jacked up. We watched some highlights from over the years. I thought he was a great guy and he does a great job at what he does. I liked him a lot."
Since this visit spiked his interest in the Wolverines, this raises the question as to whether or not a visit would be in his future. Once wrestling season winds down, Cameron will have more opportunities to visit schools heading into the end of the school year and summer. Schools hosting junior days in the coming weeks, Michigan included, and the Wolveines could climb into good position to receive a visit from Smith with an offer.
"It depends on how I feel in the next couple months if I would want to take an unofficial and an official visit to Michigan as well," said Smith. "Judging by my visit, most likely yes. It will depend on what others schools come up in the next couple weeks or month. Thy want to wait a little bit longer and an offer might come in a month or so. I just have to wait on it."
"I have visited UCLA and USC multiple times last summer, so it's time to get out of California and see what is out there over the Summer," said Smith. "I want to see Nebraska and Alabama has invited me to their Junior Day. I want to see Washington and more schools out of state. That is probably what my summer will consist of."
These offseason visits will be crucial in determining what school would be the best fit for Cameron to spend his college years. After spending a good amount of time around the Trojans and Bruins programs so far, Smith is ready and eager to see what other programs have to offer.
"I want to get out of California," said Smith. "I thin kit's a great state, but I want to go to that college where football is everything. A place where everyone wants to go see a college football game. There's so many things you can do in California and a lot of people would rather go to the beach than see a game. I have been talking to my parents and I could really see myself out of California and living a different life. It's not a problem for me to move across the nation."
In addition to proximity to home, which will not be a factor, Cameron has had the chance to determine what else will predicate his college decision. In line with removing himself from the California attitude towards football, Cameron will be focusing closely on the atmosphere of prospective programs.
"My relationship with the position coach is big and the strength and conditioning coach too," said Smith. "Just the possibility of playing and starting as a freshman. In the end, my goal is to succeed and go play in the NFL, so producing NFL talent is something that I will be looking for. I don't want to be handed anything and I don't think it's right for anyone to do want that. I'm comfortable with working hard and beating out a guy to do that because that how the environment should be."
As of right now, the in-state Bruins have an edge on the field despite his desire to see the country.
"UCLA is probably the top one as of right now," said Smith. "I love the coaching and when it comes to what they bring to the table. The middle linebacker coach is a great guy. He's an old 49er and I'm a huge Niner fan. Jim Mora has done a great job with the team and that would be my top school as of right now even though it's so early."
This could shift as more visits are taken during the offseason, but UCLA has set the standard at the moment. If Michigan is to offer Smith, which is a good possibility, the Wolverines would be in Smith's top group. His top offers at the moment are from UCLA and Wisconsin and another football-oriented school may soon join that list.