Smith Trying To Earn Spot In RB Rotation

Eric Smith talks with Inside the Auburn Tigers about his practice performance this August and goals between now and first game.

Auburn, Ala.—Through the first week and a half of preseason practice Eric Smith has drawn the praise of the offensive coaches and his teammates. The true freshman running back from Armwood High School in Seffner, Fla., has a goal of being part of the rotation this season, and he knows what he has to do to achieve that.

"Mentally I've got to grow some," Smith says. "Physically I've got to lose some."

Smith reported to camp on Aug. 1 a few hearty meals over his playing weight and is trying to get down under 220 pounds by the season opener on Aug. 30.

"I came in at 232, now I'm at 224," Smith explains. "Eating in Sewell Hall, it's really hard to lose it. When we come out here and do all of this running it drops off a bit.

"It's most definitely a goal to play," he continues. "I believe that every freshman that comes in wants to play. Some people come into good situations and some don't. I feel like I came into a pretty good situation and I most definitely want to see the field this year. I know what I have to do to get there. I've got to drop a few more pounds, get ready mentally, get all of the plays down and different blitzes."

Smith came into preseason practice behind three returning backs--Brad Lester, Ben Tate and Tristan Davis--who are all having solid camps. However, offensive coordinator Tony Franklin has stated that he expects Smith to play this season if he continues to progress.

"I haven't really been told anything about a redshirt or getting on the field," Smith remarks. "Coach (Eddie) Gran just tells me to keep my head right mentally and get right physically. If I do that there's a possibility I could see the field and get some playing time. I'm really not into all the hype and everything like that. I'm just staying humble and listening to whatever the coach tells me. It's still a learning process."

The Auburn offense has been running at such a fast pace during practices this August that it'd be easy for a freshman to have his head spinning. However, Smith says that the time spent in meetings with Coach Gran has been a tremendous help.

"We go over a lot of different plays and a lot of different scenarios in our meetings," Smith explains. "When we come out here we're well prepared. Coach Gran is a great coach and he really prepares you for a lot of different scenarios, the hardest scenarios basically so when you get out here everything's a cakewalk.

"It's a lot different from high school," he adds of practice. "There are a lot of different plays, a lot of different routes, holding the ball high and tight, jogging back with the ball high and tight also, bursting all the way through the end zone. It's a lot different, but it helps you a lot."

Even at 5-10, 224, Smith has shown soft hands in the passing game and the ability to make plays in the open field.

The Tigers had their first scrimmage of August last Saturday and Smith was one of the highlights according to his coaches and teammates.

"I felt like I did pretty good running with the ball," he says. "There's a little bit I can work as far as pass blocking. My offensive line was the credit for the yards because I had a lot of big holes that I hit. I had receivers blocking for me, and they were blocking like they were linemen. The credit goes to them really.

"I feel like I'm doing good," Smith continues. "I'm giving it all I've got, basically. I'm trying to look at my playbook a lot. There is a lot to remember, a lot of different plays calls, signals and things. You've just got to take it all in stride."

Tuesday's practice is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. on the Auburn intramural fields.

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