September 2, 2008

West Helena duo talks about Ole Miss visit

It was well publicized that West, Helena, Ark. five-star cornerback Darius Winston was at Ole Miss on his official visit for the Memphis game, but he wasn't the only athlete from West Helena on the Oxford campus.

Three-star defensive lineman Eric Smiley, and long with three-star running back Turrell Williams, a former Ole Miss commitment and current Arkansas commit, both made the trip to Oxford campus.

"I went down to Ole Miss for junior day, but that was my first time on campus on game day," Smiley said on Monday. "It was a good atmosphere and a great experience."

Smiley, a 6-foot-5, 280 pound defensive tackle with 4.7 speed, was rated a four-star prospect last spring and was initially a member of the Rivals250, however has seen his stock drop over the summer.

There were no reports of him participating in summer camps and questions surfaced regarding his academic status. He spent much of he summer with relatives in Alabama where he was apparently trying to enroll in school there, but returned recently to West Helena where he lives with his grandmother. He says he's eligible to play high school football this fall.

"I'm working with counselors and think I'm on track to graduate next summer," he said. I took some correspondence courses this summer."

Smiley claims offers from Ole Miss, Oregon, Tulsa, and Arkansas State.

Smiley, who is originally from the Seattle area, only began playing football a year ago when he was headed into his junior season. He finished the season with 75 tackles, 14 sacks, and 29 quarterback pressures in his rookie season.

"The Ole Miss offense was powerful and they did well," Smiley said about the Memphis game. "But I spent a lot of my time watching the defense, especially the line. I thought the defensive linemen penetrated well and they stopped the run."

Smiley said his trip to Oxford was just one day for the game and he didn't get to the Grove or have much time to talk to Ole Miss coaches.

"Coach (Houston) Nutt did see me and came over and shook my hand," Smiley said. "That's about all he had time for; he said he didn't realize I was back in Arkansas, he thought I was still in Alabama."

Smiley said that Ole Miss has a shot as a potential destination for him and that he likes the school and staff; however, his recruitment is currently pretty much open. He plans a trip back to Ole Miss at some point for another unofficial visit as well as for an official visit later this fall or early next winter.

Meanwhile, Smiley's teammate, Williams, also attended the game.

Williams committed to Ole Miss immediately after junior day on Mar. 1, but flipped to Arkansas almost as soon as the Razorbacks offered.

Williams, a 6-foot-2, 215 pound running back, who had 1,500 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns last year as a junior.

"I went to the game, it was an all right game," he said. "I just wanted to go somewhere to catch a game, that's all."

He says he's still firmly committed to Arkansas "for now," and plans to concentrate exclusively on his coming season instead of worrying about recruiting.

"After the season, I'll see how everything looks then," he said.

As for the Ole Miss game, Rebel fans may have been surprised at the explosive offense, but Williams has followed Nutt and the Razorbacks long enough not to be surprised.

"It's a real good offense," he said. "But you kind of expect that from Coach Nutt's teams."

In addition to Smiley and Williams, several other West Helena athletes attended the game, including quarterback Deondra Johnson.

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