The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga may have found the offensive centerpiece of this recruiting class, and its quarterback of the future. The time and effort invested in building a relationship paid off Saturday morning when Knoxville Fulton's versatile Penny Smith, a two-time all-state performer, committed to the Mocs.
"Coach [Will] Healy has been with me since day one, and UTC was the first school to offer me [a scholarship]," Smith said. "I have a real good relationship with the coaches and some of the players, so it just felt like the place I needed to be."
Smith had committed to Appalachian State in early December but decommitted last week after an official visit there.
"The weather was horrible while I was up there, and I really didn't connect with any of their players," said Smith, who also had offers from Tennessee State, East Tennessee State, North Carolina A&T, UT-Martin, Campbell and Alabama State and was still being recruited by Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State.
"When I visited UTC, it just felt like family," Smith continued. "I know [junior fullback] Taharin Tyson from Alcoa real well, and he helped me decide that UTC was where I wanted to go.
"After I thought about it, all those relationships, plus the fact that it's close to home so my family can come watch us play every week, all that added up."
A smooth left-handed three-year starter, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Smith led Fulton to back-to-back Class 4A state championships, earning offensive MVP honors as a junior. Last season he completed 94 of 155 passes for 2,183 yards and 34 touchdowns and averaged 6.9 yards per carry with five TDs rushing in leading the Falcons to a 15-0 record.
"That's a tremendous get for UTC," Fulton coach Rob Black said. "That staff has done nice things there with that program, and I think this is a big-time addition. He's well-respected in our program as a leader.
"He's a dual-threat player who can run and throw, and when the game is on the line, when a big-play needs to be made, Penny wants the ball in his hands because he knows he'll make plays."
UTC wanted to sign a quarterback but one who could also play multiple positions, and Smith fits that description perfectly as he's athletic enough to also play receiver or safety.
"I'm going to learn several positions," Smith said. "We've already talked about me playing some receiver, having some wildcat packages for me and learning to play quarterback, too. I just want to play and be a part of a team that wins a lot of games. We won a lot at Fulton, and I wanted to go to a place where I can win more rings."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...