Pritchett took over for Rodney Cofield in August of 2008, so last fall was his first year on the job. That doesn’t mean he did not already know Branden Smith very well.
Before taking the Washington job, he coached at rival Douglass just down the street. Smith’s older brother Darrell Hackney (played at UAB and drafted by Denver Broncos) played at Douglass and Pritchett has known those guys for some time.
Coach Pritchett had a strong career in the NFL after staring at Douglass High School and South Carolina.
He spoke highly of his five-star recruit.
“Branden is a guy that comes to practice every day ready to play,” said Coach Pritchett. “He is a leader both on and off the field. Something I always tell people about Branden is, as good of a player he is on the field, he is even a better person off the field.”
Just because Pritchett talked about his off the field character first doesn’t mean he doesn’t think equally as high of him on the field too.
“I have had the pleasure of playing with or against a lot of great athletes like R.W. McQuarters, Terrell Buckley, Champ Bailey, and Deion Sanders in my career and I feel Branden stacks up with the best of them. He is just like those guys where he can be a great corner and return punts and kicks too.”
“If he continues to do things right like he is now, then he can be a special player.”
After starring at B.T.W. in Atlanta for four years, the 5-foot-11, 162 pound elite athlete will take his game a little over an hour away to Athens.
He had over 40 scholarship offers and he ended up choosing Georgia over Alabama, Florida, and Florida State live on TV in January. Now, he is preparing to go be a player between the hedges, but his career may not stop there.
“I definitely think Branden can take his game to the NFL. The talent is there, the ability is there, and it will just be up to God’s plan for him. I know he is going to do all the things right on and off the field to get there. He has that confidence and that swagger that I have seen in a lot of guys that made it to the Pro Bowl in the NFL.”
Smith is a shut down corner and he will bring great speed, ball skills, and playmaking ability to UGA, so what does he need to work on?
“He will need to get stronger, especially in the upper body, but he will also need to work on his footwork,” explained Pritchett. “I know they will coach him on that on the next level, but he just needs to be more fundamentally sound.”
Smith plans to enroll in June.
Like any high school senior, Smith needs to improve his game as he prepares for the next level. With that said, this UGA signee likely has enough natural ability to see the field early.
“I think he will have an immediate impact at Georgia. He can help them on special teams and I think he could eventually become a starter as a freshman. He has great ball skills, great speed, and I know he is going to work hard, so he will make an impact early. I know others are going to want the job he wants, but he is going to make it tough on them.”
The Bulldogs have talked to Smith numerous times on how he will not only help them on defense, but how he will help them on offense and special teams too. Before putting an offensive package in for Smith, he may first touch the ball as a return man. That is a position that Smith shines.
“On any level, special teams is very important and Branden is the best I have seen on the high school level. He can change a game when he touches the ball and any time he gets the ball in his hands, he could go 80, 90, or 100 yards. Just give him a little crease or a little space, and he will take it to the house.”
He did a little bit of everything for the Bulldogs over the past four years. He was a four year starter and he played offense, defense, and special teams at a very high level.
The five-star UnderArmour All-American is not someone that comes along that often and Coach Pritchett agrees with that.
“You cannot replace a Branden Smith. Someone can wear his number, but he will not be Branden. We have 23 juniors that will be seniors next season, so hopefully that group can help make up for him being gone as a group. Not only his play will be missed, but the leadership he brought every day is something that we will miss at practice and games. He was a big presence and he is not replaceable.”
Smith will leave a legacy at Booker T. Washington and his number will now be one everyone will want to wear. Not just anyone will get it though.
“The next guy that wears number one at Booker T. Washington is going to have to be a special guy because of what Branden did here,” said Pritchett.
“Right now, it is retired until further notice.”
Chad Simmons is the Recruiting Analyst for the South Region and he can be reached at ChadSimmons@Scout.com.