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Thursday, February 28, 2013
Q&A: Coach of Watch List OT Smith

By Brandon Chatmon

Oklahoma has been in hot pursuit of offensive tackle Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South) since his sophomore season. Olathe South head coach Jeff Gourley talked with SoonerNation about Smith's approach to the recruiting process, who's recruiting him the hardest and what makes him unique.

SN: How's he been handling the process thus far?

Braden Smith
Watch List offensive tackle Braden Smith is being pursued by several top-tier colleges.
Gourley: When he was first noticed he was 14 years old, a man-child. Between his parents, myself and Braden we wanted him to just be a kid, grow up and be as normal as possible. And that's how we've treated it. Sophomore year we didn't let anybody talk to him. Last year as a junior, once the season started he was off limits to everybody. His dad kept all the letters he was receiving but coaches weren't allowed to visit with him or talk to him. When the season ended, his dad gave him all the letters and he's made a list of 15-20 schools he's really interested in. I work with the coaches accordingly. If they aren't on the list, I don't spend a lot of time trying to make things happen for them. If they are on the list, I will certainly make an effort for them.

SN: At what point did you realize this would happen for him?

Gourley: I knew he was going to be really, really good when I saw how flexible he was and how much knee, ankle and hip bend he had along with his strength and work ethic. His sister is an outstanding athlete and it typically runs in the family. When he was a freshman, we knew he was huge. When he was a sophomore, we knew he was outstanding. The rest is history.

SN: How much has he improved since his sophomore year?

Gourley: His physical attributes continue to get stronger. He's now 292 pounds, 20-25 pounds heavier than he played last year. What has improved is his understanding of the game. As a sophomore he was fortunate to have a really good group of kids around him. He didn't have to think a lot. As a junior, we had a couple seniors on the team [and] he wasn't sure if he should be a leader. I finally just pulled him aside and said, this is your group, take charge of it. Then he started coming on real strong.

SN: What will he need to work on for college football?

Gourley: Pass protection. We don't pass much here. We were going to the Under Armour combine and I told him we needed to work on pass protection and he worked his butt off. Then during Christmas break my kids were home and we met Braden at school to do pass-rush drills to work on his techniques. That's the one area when he goes somewhere he'll have to work on a little bit.

SN: What schools have been recruiting him the hardest?

Gourley: All of them. Texas A&M, TCU, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa -- there's a bunch of them. A&M and TCU have been constant; just about every week they've made contact with me. They've have really put the right foot forward and other schools have been just as diligent but its hard to say who's recruiting the hardest.

SN: OU has undergone some coaching changes. Have you heard from [new Sooners offensive line] Coach [Bill] Bedenbaugh?

Gourley: Actually he called Tuesday morning or actually it could have been last week. We've had so many snow days we haven't been in school since last Wednesday (a strong snowstorm hit Kansas, resulting in snow days). Coach Bedenbaugh called and introduced himself, which was a surprise because Bruce Kittle had been recruiting him heavily. I haven't seen Braden since I spoke to him but I did shoot him a text saying the new coach at Oklahoma called.

SN: Do you know if he's interested in OU's junior day?

Gourley: I don't think he's going to many junior days. His goal is to find a place he fits. He's been down to Oklahoma once, went down to the Oklahoma-Notre Dame game. Quite frankly, until he has the chance to sit down with the coaches, I don't think he's going to make any decision. Bright lights don't really impress him. That's my impression and he wants somebody he knows he can trust.

SN: It seems the Sooners might be behind the eight ball with Coach Bedenbaugh just starting to build the relationship right now.

Gourley: Braden's a bright kid and his parents are bright people. We've told him all along, do not go somewhere because of a coach because they could be gone before you get there. And he knows that. I don't think it matters.