BRADENTON, Fla. — The NextGen super showcase, The Show, is taking over IMG Academy this week and the class of 2025 was on full display on Thursday. Among the headliners was Palmetto (Fla.) standout Zander Smith. Smith showed a big arm and the ability to process and make accurate throws all day on Thursday at The Show, leading to some of the 7-on-7 tournament’s most exciting moments.
“I think I’m doing really good,” Smith told BuckeyeScoop.com after the day’s action. “I’ve got a lot of good teammates and we’re all really working together. I feel like I was putting the ball in the hands of who needed to have it and we were having a lot of fun.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect put up big numbers last season as an eighth grader playing varsity football at Bradenton Christian and is looking to take the next step in his development this coming fall at Palmetto High School.
“Right now I think I’m really good with my ball placement and if I continue to refine that, that will really help take my game to the next level,” Smith explained. “I’m also working on my footwork and just getting better at using my legs. I’m just working on refining everything, really. I was working with (QB guru) Tony Ballard this past year and he was really working on my throwing form and getting my elbow up to have the ball be more accurate and have a little more velocity and that has really helped me.”
Smith is already on the radar of several college programs. He camped with Alabama and Clemson this month and will camp with Miami (Fla.) this weekend where his brother, Zac, plays linebacker.
“I’ve grown up an Alabama fan so for me it was pretty surreal to play in front of coach Saban,” Smith said. “It was great getting to meet all of the amazing people there and getting to work with other (top) athletes, that was a lot of fun for me and I feel like I performed really well at that camp. At Clemson it wasn’t quite as (business-like), they wanted to get as many guys out there and see what they could do. They talked to us a lot and they really wanted everything to be about more than just football.”
The Miami camp will be interesting for Smith. He has familiarity with the program through his brother but none of his previous conversations with the coaching staff have really revolved around recruiting. That should change this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to meeting their coaches more thoroughly,” he explained. “I went on Zac’s official visit with him there, but I’m excited to let the coaches see what I have to offer because, before, we were there for him so now the coaches get to check me out. I’ve always loved the campus and everything there.”
Smith will eventually continue to expand his horizons and mentioned two programs he’d like to check out at some point during his recruiting process.
“I’d love to see as many schools as I can,” he started. “I’m hoping to go to Florida at some point and Ohio State is a big school. I’d love to go check out Ohio State, I’ve been watching what they’ve been doing the past couple of years and it has been really cool to me. I’ve kind of grown up in an SEC family so I’d kind of like to see more SEC schools and some ACC schools.”
An avid college football fan, Smith has seen plenty of the Buckeyes over the years, especially in a couple of memorable games against Alabama over the past decade.
“I’ve been watching them growing up because they are always in the big games,” he explained. “They’ve always been in the playoff or the BCS, they were just always there. I grew up with a couple of Ohio State fans in my corner as well so they’ve had me do the O-H-I-O and stuff like that. But I’ve been watching them for a while and I’ve enjoyed seeing them play, I didn’t always like it when they beat (Alabama) but it’s always a great battle.”
In seven games this past season, including six starts, Smith threw for 1,679 yards and 22 touchdowns.