Will Smith Jr. Looking to “Learn As Much As I Can,” Position Himself As Early Leader in 2023 Class By Participating in Every Ohio State Camp

By Dan Hope on June 9, 2022 at 11:35 am
Will Smith Jr.

Will Smith Jr.’s presence has been a constant at each of Ohio State’s first three high school football camps this summer.

The defensive lineman, who committed to Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2023 in January, has been present for the big man session of all of the Buckeyes’ camps thus far. And he plans to be back at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for each of Ohio State’s remaining three big man camps over the next two weeks.

Even though he’s already secured his spot in Ohio State’s next recruiting class, he’s come back to camp over and over again because he wants to begin absorbing as much knowledge as he can get from Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

“I'm just trying to get as many reps as I can on the one-on-ones and the drills to just try to learn as much as I can,” Smith told Eleven Warriors Monday after his second camp. “I got to go in right after camp and watch film with Coach J, and that just helped me work on things to get better. Like the drills they do each camp. And I really like just getting to learn under him.”

Smith doesn’t need to prove himself to Johnson or Ohio State at this point. Johnson actually instructed Smith not to work out for a second day in a row on Tuesday after Smith suffered from cramps following Monday’s camp.

Yet Smith, who lives just a short drive away from Ohio State in Dublin, Ohio, was still at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday to watch Johnson coach the participating defensive linemen through drills.

From the camps he has participated in, Smith says he’s learned new techniques from Johnson for how to use his hands more effectively as a pass-rusher and how to improve his footwork. Smith prides himself on always trying to get better, and he believes the work he’ll put in throughout this month at Ohio State will help him in his senior season at Dublin Coffman High School and when he starts his Buckeye career next year.

“That’s really what I try and do, I just try to work as hard as I can and learn as much as I can,” Smith said. “Just take notes that Coach J told me and just keep working at them and getting better.”

While Smith is currently Ohio State’s lowest-ranked commit as the No. 476 overall prospect in 247Sports’ composite rankings, his camp workouts have demonstrated why the Buckeyes pulled the trigger on offering Smith this winter, which led to his commitment nine days later.

Smith has won a majority of his one-on-one reps during the competitive portion of camp, lining up inside on some reps and outside for others. And while Smith’s workout groups have often surrounded him with smaller, quicker defensive ends, he’s shown plenty of burst and quickness for a defensive tackle, the position he’s expected to play at Ohio State.

Smith, who currently measures in at 6-foot-3 and 268 pounds, strives to improve his performance with each camp. He felt he performed better in the second camp than he did in the first.

“I definitely feel like I was moving through the drills and I knew them much better,” Smith said Monday.

Smith is just one of five commits who camped at Ohio State this week, as tight end Ty Lockwood and offensive linemen Luke Montgomery, Joshua Padilla and Austin Siereveld were also at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday to work out with their future position coaches.

Smith believes that speaks to the work ethic of the players the Buckeyes are building their 2023 class around.

“Just shows that we all are here to learn and we’re not thinking like we don't need to learn anything,” Smith said. “We just want to get better, keep working.”

No other commit has had a more visible presence at Ohio State this summer than Smith, though, and he’s hoping that will position him to be one of the early leaders in the 2023 class.

“That’s what I'm trying to do,” Smith said. “I just try to work and I just try to talk to all the people I can and just introduce myself and just show off what I can do.”

In addition to leading by example and giving Ohio State’s coaches repeated reminders of what he can do with his workouts, attending every camp has also presented an opportunity for Smith to attempt to recruit other prospects to join him in Columbus. 

Ohio State’s first two camps of the summer drew no shortage of top defensive line prospects to town – 2023 four-star Jalen Thompson, 2024 four-stars Elias Rudolph, Nigel Smith and Dylan Stewart and 2026 phenom Tyler Atkinson all either already had Ohio State offers or earned them with their camp performances – and Will Smith says he has done his part to try to convince them to become Buckeyes.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Smith said. “I'm talking about why I committed and how great this place is.”

Nigel Smith said Will Smith made a positive impression on him during their workout together on Monday.

“He's a great dude. I love Will. He's fun to talk to,” Nigel Smith said. “He's done a lot of this stuff, so it's just good to be able to build a relationship with a guy that is gonna be here and see the ins and outs of stuff for your class.”

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