Print and Go Back ESPN.com: On The Trail: Midwest Region [Print without images]

Friday, January 4, 2013
Notre Dame still out front for Enoch Smith

By Jared Shanker

Enoch Smith (Chicago/Mount Carmel) has not hid his affinity for Notre Dame since watching the Fighting Irish play in early October. He saw them win that night. He expects to see them win Monday night, too.

“I think Notre Dame will pull out the victory,” the 2014 defensive tackle predicted for the BCS National Championship against Alabama on Monday.

The Irish offered Smith, and Notre Dame has led for Smith since he visited Soldier Field in Chicago on Oct. 6 to watch Notre Dame play Miami (Fla.) in an off-site home game.

“Nothing’s changed with Notre Dame. They’re still a front-runner,” Smith said. “I have high expectations and can’t wait to see them play in the national championship against Alabama.”

Through conversations and visits to Notre Dame, 6-foot-2, 256-pound Smith knows a lot about Notre Dame as a university and football program. Academically, he likes what he has seen of the school’s engineering program.

On the field, the ESPN Watch List member likes the effort and persistence Notre Dame shows. Several times this season the Irish were on the brink of defeat but managed to pull out a win each time, finishing the regular season 12-0.

Defensive line coach Mike Elston and Smith have a strong relationship already, too.

“I love the coaching staff and Coach Elston,” he said. “I look for that coming into a program, because I will be playing D-line and you have to have a great relationship with the position coach.”

Illinois and Purdue are also high on Smith’s list, but a new program has entered the fold for the talented junior.

Dave Doeren offered Smith while the coach at Northern Illinois, and one of his first offers after taking the job at NC State was to Smith. NC State Defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen spoke with Smith in December.

“They’re positive about the program and looking forward to building the program up,” Smith said, “and they told me they want me to be a part of that.”