Everything was headed in the right direction for Akron, Ohio wide receiver Corey Smith six months ago. The 6-0, 180-pound prospect was ranked in the Rivals250 and had offers from more than a dozen schools, but an unexpected hurdle derailed his plans.
To his surprise, Smith found out this past spring that his high school career would be finished in June, and he did not have enough credits to graduate.
Working with his head coach at Akron (Ohio) Buchtel, Ricky Powers, Smith found an alternate route to his goal of playing Division 1 football. Several former Buchtel players were out at Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College playing for head coach Tony Annese, and Smith had a chance to get back on path towards the Division 1 level.
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"I think in March he was shocked to find out he didn't have another year of high school," Annese said "So at that point in time he had to hurry up, take the GED, pass that - which he did - in order to even come to a JUCO."
Smith joined the Raider's program earlier this summer and has been practicing with the team in preparation for their season opener on Aug. 27 against Gattaca.
Although disappointed he is not playing out his senior year with teammates at Buchtel High, Smith is relishing the opportunity he has at GRCC.
"At first it was hard for me to handle when I found out," Smith said "But as Coach Powers talked to me more and more it made me realize the opportunities that I had, so I didn't stress it too much. In the end, it's better for me.
"I feel like it is going to help me grow up faster and it's going to help me get better because the competition is better than high school. Then, next year, I will be better prepared."
When Smith will be able to make the move to the Division 1 level is still to be determined, but when he does he expects to do so at the University of Tennessee. Smith committed to Tennessee in May and has maintained contact with Vols assistant Peter Sirmon.
"I'm still committed to Tennessee," Smith confirmed.
In the short term, Smith is working to develop his game under the tutelage of Annese, who has directed GRCC to a 19-4 record over the last two years and previously sent several prospects to the Division 1 level from Muskegon (Mich.) High, including former USC wide receiver Ronald Johnson.
"Coach Annese reminds me a lot of Coach Powers," Smith said. "They have a lot of similar ways as far as how they want their players to carry themselves and the discipline they have."
"Corey's a real good kid and a hard worker," Annese said. "He's a great route-runner. He's way ahead of his age and experience when it comes to route running.
"He has great hands; his issue is strength. He's got to get stronger, and he knows that. I think his strength will help him be a step or two faster as well. We try to set goals for each kid, and that's his no. 1 goal."
Smith was ranked as the No. 186 player in the 2012 class in the initial Rivals250, but will be reclassified as a Junior College prospect in the next rankings update.