Terry Smith’s Recruiting, Coaching Experience A Significant Asset To Penn State Football
There’s no question that Penn State football’s coaching staff is comprised of talented coaches with successful track records.
While many may point to running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider or offensive line coach Phil Trautwein as the most important coaches not named James Franklin, Mike Yurcich, or Manny Diaz, there’s one name that has flown under the radar despite being a very important presence in the program: Terry Smith.
Smith is the associate head coach, cornerbacks coach, and defensive recruiting coordinator. In short, he’s the program’s Swiss Army Knife.
For starters, Smith is the only remaining member of Franklin’s original coaching staff from 2014. Besides Franklin himself, few coaches on staff are more familiar with the ins and outs of the program.
“He’s been highly productive,” Franklin said. “He’s got great perspective, not only to the game of football but specifically Penn State from a historical perspective, as well as what we’ve done in the last 10 years.”
The two coaches have formed a strong bond over the past decade, both on and off the field.
“Our relationship is outstanding,” Smith said. “Sometimes we think outside the box and it just helps us get to the right conclusion sometimes.”
While Franklin ultimately has the final say in the team’s most important decisions, he frequently seeks Smith out for his perspective. Franklin appreciates Smith’s honesty and bluntness when he’s trying to make tough decisions.
“He also is not a ‘yes man’,” Franklin said. “Terry’s going to tell you his opinion, which for me, in this role, I have to make the decision. I can’t make a great decision unless I’ve heard from the players, players that have earned that voice, and then the same thing for the staff.”
Smith’s sincerity has paid dividends on the recruiting trail as well. In the past, he landed commitments from Miles Sanders and Lamont Wade, two highly touted prospects. He has gained seven commitments in the Class of 2023, six of them from four-star recruits.
On top of that, he has already gained five commitments from the Class of 2024, all but one of them from four-stars. According to 247Sports, Smith is the third-best overall recruiter in all of college football and the No. 1 recruiter in the Big Ten for the Class of 2024.
“It’s about relationships. You know, just staying in touch, keeping communication, making guys feel appreciated,” Smith said. “Then, once you have them committed, you can’t slack. You’ve got to maintain the same consistency.”
Smith’s personality translates into his position room. It’s his responsibility to ensure that players are ready to go when the season rolls around.
“One of the things we do in the room is we have a peer mentor group,” he said. “So, each older guy gets with a younger guy or a new transfer guy to make sure their transition is proper, whether it’s academic support, whether it’s mental support, whether it’s learning the scheme support, or just functioning day-to-day as a college athlete here at Penn State.”
Penn State’s cornerbacks have only gotten better under Smith. Last season, his unit was a key part of a defense that finished in the top 25 in the fewest yards and touchdowns allowed.
All of this has helped Smith attract top-tier high school cornerback prospects such as Jon Mitchell, Kenneth Woseley, and Zion Tracy. Given the trajectory of the program and the secondary, it’s fair to assume that more top-ranked cornerbacks are on the way.
Another important facet of Smith’s recruiting efforts is the way he tailors his coaching to what benefits each player’s style the most. Smith initially took a one-size-fits-all approach, but he has since become more flexible in how he coaches his players.
“It’s tremendous because we can recruit different body types,” Smith said. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re just trying to polish it and to make it better for them.”
Smith believes that both he and Franklin are “wiser” after a decade of working together.
“I think we’re not as crazy as when we walked in the door,” he said. “I think we have more logic behind our decision-making. We’re more seasoned. We’ve seen more ups and downs.”
Smith’s array of talents has been a key part of Penn State’s recent success, and Franklin is one of his biggest advocates.
“He’s been invaluable for us,” Franklin said.
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About the Author
When paired with the Thespian Society by Penn State THON, the world changed for Theresa Illicete.
Fashanu is the Nittany Lions’ most recent First-Team All-American since Micah Parsons in 2019.
Johnson is the second Penn Stater to declare for the NFL Draft.