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Trieu: Michigan battles Buckeyes, others for top DE Tyreke Smith

Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News
Tyreke Smith

Michigan will have to go into enemy territory and win a battle if they are to add Tyreke Smith, the Midwest’s top defensive end prospect, to their 2018 class.

Smith is from Cleveland Heights, the same high school Ohio State signed wide receiver Jaylen Harris from a year ago and offensive tackle Kyle Dodson in the 2012 class. Ohio State is considered one of the schools to beat, but Smith is keeping all of his options on the table for now.

"I have not cut my list down at all, and I'm going to keep taking as many visits as I can throughout the spring and summer," Smith said. "I don't want to cut schools out without giving them a chance, so I'm going to see as many as I can."

After playing his seventh-grade football season, Smith gave the sport up and played basketball. He did not pick up football again until late in his sophomore year. Last fall, his junior season, was the first time he played in a football game in four years.

Even before he strapped a helmet back on, though, his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame and athletic ability drew colleges to him, and he began the season with several major scholarship offers despite not having any film.

After his junior film came out, even more offers arrived.

Harbaugh, Michigan conquer Rome in a day

The relative newness of the recruiting attention is part of what has him taking his time. And he hopes to explore all options. That means getting to the West Coast, potentially to schools like USC, UCLA and Stanford and down south to LSU, Tennessee and Alabama, among others.

He checked off one school he needed to see this spring. That was Michigan, a school he had never been to before.

“To be honest, it was a great visit for me,” Smith said. “It was my first time being up in Ann Arbor, so that was definitely a great time for me and my family. We went up, I toured the campus. It was a great campus, very nice. I toured the facilities, and then I went to spring practice and talked to coach (Jim) Harbaugh. I talked to coach (Greg) Mattison. It was a great visit.”

Anyone still wondering if a kid who only played one year of high school football was worthy of all this attention needed to only see Smith at Nike’s Opening Regional in Cleveland. He ran past, around and through would-be blockers, earning an invitation to The Opening Finals in Oregon this summer.

His progression from talented but raw athlete to football player has accelerated, and that has caused schools like Michigan to turn up the heat.

“They definitely want me to come there,” Smith said. “They definitely want to make an impact there. They think I have tremendous upside to my game since I haven’t played; I stopped for a little bit, now I am back up.”

Michigan just graduated a defensive end in Taco Charlton, who was similarly athletic and from Ohio.

Smith said Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame show him the most attention at the moment, so Michigan will have to take down their rivals if they are to add another Ohio pass rusher to their stable.

For all schools involved, there is plenty of time still, because as fast as he rose up the recruiting boards and as fast as he sprints past offensive tackles, Smith is handling his recruitment with a contrasting slowness.

"I definitely want to take all my five visits and then decide later in the year," he explained. "I might narrow my list down at the end of the summer, but I just want to take my time with this process."

Milton close to decision?

According to a report from 247sports, Orlando (Fla.) Olympia quarterback Joe Milton may make a decision this week or next week.

A strong-armed, 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior, Milton has not set a firm date or time yet, only saying that he was nearing a commitment. Michigan is considered one of the primary schools in the race along with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

One of the Wolverines’ top quarterback targets, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, committed to UCLA on Sunday, furthering the importance of adding Milton to the class.

Milton visited Michigan on April 15 for the Wolverines’ spring game.

Wolverines offer freshman receiver

Catawissa (Pa.) Southern Columbia freshman wide receiver Julian Fleming has been offered a scholarship by Michigan. The Wolverines are the first offer for the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Fleming.

He played varsity football in the fall and caught 36 passes for 956 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Fleming has not yet visited Michigan, but said he plans to when his schedule allows.

More information

Tyreke Smith profile

Joe Milton profile 

Julian Fleming profile

Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for Scout.com in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.