by Taylor Barton
In what was a 3 horse race between OSU, UCLA, and ASU for Caleb Smith’s services last week was narrowed down to 2 heading into the weekend. “I called coach Tuiasosopo at UCLA last Thursday and told him I wasn’t going there.” Said Smith, by phone from his house today. So heading into the weekend it was down to ASU and OSU. Caleb planned to visit OSU on an “unofficial” visit Friday and Saturday, then head home Sunday for an in-home visit with ASU Head Coach Todd Graham and Recruiting Coordinator Chip Long. The $64,000 question was whether or not ASU could follow up with what Caleb called an “unbelievable visit”, and convince him to de-commit from the Beavers. However, OSU fans are able to breathe a sigh of relief today as Caleb made his decision final, again, and committed to playing for Mike Riley and the Beavs.
After committing to Oregon State in August heading into his senior season, things slowed down on the recruiting front for a while. The 6’6” 250lb TE from Kendrige HS in Kent, Washington was able to concentrate on the season and enjoy his last year of HS football. He knew he was headed to Corvallis in the Spring(he graduated and is able to enroll early), and even took his “official” visit when OSU hosted UW in November. But as the college football season ended, rumors began to swirl about head coaches and possible vacancies at their programs. Soon, UCLA and ASU fired their staffs and hired new Head Coaches. Both decided Caleb was worth taking a shot at. Also out of seemingly nowhere came the Razorbacks of Arkansas, an SEC power and top 10 ranked team nationally. So waters that seemed so clear only months earlier, were now muddied. After visiting Fayetteville in December and seeing what the SEC was all about, Caleb decided the distance was just too much to overcome. “I really liked the coaches and players there, and the facilities were amazing.” Said Smith, reflecting back on his trip. “But I just didn’t want to go so far away from home.” But Riley and staff weren’t counting their chickens yet. As soon as they were informed by Caleb he wouldn’t be attending Arkansas, they were also told that he would be taking trips to UCLA followed by ASU. When asked how the coaches at OSU handled the news, Caleb said they were “really cool” about it.
Next up was his visit to UCLA. The Bruins new TE coach is Marques Tuiasosopo, a name well known to people in the Pacific Northwest. He lined up a visit to Brentwood that Caleb said was “one of the best weekends of my life”. His host was Jerry Neuheisel, the son of former Bruin Head Coach Rick Neuheisel. “Jerry was my host and it’s amazing how similar he is to Rick. He was pretty cool though, and I came home after that visit thinking I could see myself going there for the next 4 years.” But Tuisosopo and the Bruins didn’t stop there. They put on the full court press, knowing that a TE like Caleb could change their program. Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. and Marques Tuiasosopo flew up to Seattle to do an in home visit with Caleb and his parents. It’s very apparent when watching the last few weekends of the NFL that having a great TE is a game changer. Mora and Tui knew that, and Caleb was their answer. They also knew a commitment from Smith would be a huge statement in terms of status and perception, a warning to schools in the Pac-12 that the Bruins are for real. By the time they left the Smith household, Caleb says he seriously thought about committing to UCLA. “They are running a pro style offense, and I’d be able to start early and compete for championships.” He still had a visit lined up for ASU the following weekend, but wasn’t sure if he’d take it or not. But with the snowstorm that was on the horizon in Washington, Caleb thought it would be a nice getaway to head out to sunny Tempe, Arizona.
As he arrived in Phoenix and was driven into Tempe, Caleb said he immediately felt a good vibe. “You can’t beat the weather there.” The ASU coaches had Caleb on campus for 48 hours, and didn’t waste any time in showing him their plan for both him and the team in the future. “They are doing really good things there. He said. “They showed me film of their offense, and how they planned to use me. They told me I’d be in a 2 point stance a lot, similar to what New England does with Rob Gronkowski”. By the end of his trip on Sunday, Caleb felt like maybe the Sun Devils were the place for him to go. “I actually thought about committing while I was meeting with Coach Graham.” The ASU coaches planned on following Caleb’s recruiting visit up with an in-home visit the following Thursday. However, the blizzard that hit Washington grounded all flights and prevented them from making it.
So after a few weekends of fun in the sun in Los Angeles, California and Phoenix, Arizona, Caleb was facing a difficult situation. He decided that UCLA wasn’t the right fit, and informed Coach Tuiasosopo that week. Down to 2, Caleb decided to visit OSU on an “unofficial” visit Friday and Saturday, and host the ASU coaches at his house last night. He had a great trip to OSU and saw Isaac Seumalo, a 5 star recruit who had also committed to OSU early and just recently visited USC. Isaac recommitted to the Beavers this week, and was working on convincing Caleb to do the same. After a great visit to Corvallis, Caleb and his parents met with the ASU coaches. The visit went well, and Caleb had a tough decision to make.
After sleeping on it last night, he woke up this morning with an answer. “My heart just told me OSU.” He told me, right before committing to OSU. After informing the ASU coaches he wouldn’t be playing for them, he made the call that Mike Riley, his staff, and all of Beaver Nation were waiting for. When asked who he talked to and what they said, Caleb laughingly said. “I called and talked to Coach Locey. He started screaming and jumping around.” So within 1 week, the Beavers landed recommits from their 2 most high profile recruits in Isaac Seumalo and Caleb Smith. After a tough season in 2011, and rumors swirling about UO Head Coach Chip Kelly leaving, 2012 might end up being the year of the Beaver.
Caleb’s original commit to OSU: