After that initial confirmation, Smith made his decision public Monday, first appearing on a Fox Sports South show and later making the announcement on Twitter that evening.
The 6-foot, 191-pound cornerback committed to South Carolina over Tennessee and Clemson.
A three-year starter for the Raiders, Smith was rated a four-star recruit by many of the major recruiting services. He had more than 20 scholarship offers from several schools including Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State.
“I think it was a tough decision for him,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “I think he liked a lot of the schools that recruited him and were after him, so I think it was one of those things. Throughout the recruiting process, he liked Tennessee, and the guys over there and at Clemson did a great job selling him on their programs. But the relationship he developed with the South Carolina guys that was the difference.”
Smith was recruited by South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, a former Walton standout whose territory as a recruiter includes Cobb County. Secondary coach Grady Brown also played a key role in luring Smith to the Gamecocks.
“I think, from the beginning, he really connected with their coaches,” Hidalgo said. “G.A. Mangus, the quarterbacks coach there, is an alumnus of the school, so we have a very close relationship with (South Carolina). And I think their defensive staff did a great job connecting with (Smith) and filling him in on his future there at South Carolina.”
When Smith arrives in Columbia, he’ll join a handful of fellow Cobb County products who were on the Gamecocks’ 2013 roster and are expected to return. That includes Lassiter’s Garrett Shank — a walk-on — and previous signees Rory Anderson, Darius English and Marcquis Roberts — all from McEachern.
Another local product, former McEachern kicker Nick St. Germain, was on South Carolina’s roster in the fall, but left the program to transfer elsewhere for the 2014 season.
Smith also chose South Carolina for its proximity to Marietta, and because he felt like there was an opportunity to earn playing time as a freshman.
“Location was important because my parents didn’t want me to go too far from my house,” Smith said in a video interview with the 247Sports recruiting website. “South Carolina is like a three-hour drive, (and) playing time was one of the biggest factors. I want to get on the field early.
“I got a good idea of what I was getting myself into (from the coaches). (South Carolina) gave me the best opportunity to succeed.”
Smith totaled 42 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and five pass-breakups for Walton as a senior. He was also selected to the Georgia Sports Writers Association’s Class AAAAAA all-state first team.
Smith said in the video interview that he plans on taking an official visit to South Carolina this weekend, and that he’s glad the process is over.
“I think it’s awesome,” Hidalgo said of Smith’s commitment. “Any time you get to see one of your players get an opportunity to go to school for free and represent their school and their community is a pretty neat deal.”