"Golden can throw the ball pretty well. He can throw pretty well," Smith repeats for emphasis. "Swindle is pretty swift, he can move around and throw the ball."
That is good news to know as Mississippi State can use a little extra aid at the quarterback position this preseason. Hopefully not in the real season but then one never knows. And Coach Dan Mullen is clear on the need to have at least three triggermen ready to roll at any time. The spring defection of Dylan Favre and late call by signee Nick Schuessler not to report left the Bulldogs a man-down in that camp category…
…until Golden, from Memphis, and Oak Grove product Swindle seized this preseason opening. Not that ‘open' means easy by any means, especially when there are a lot of veterans around more than ready to welcome a new kid, and a walk-on in particular, to the SEC game. Smith chuckles at how a youngster who only last fall was running the high school show suddenly finds a 300-pounder—with speed and attitude—bearing down.
"I was the same way when I was coming in!" Smith said. "It's just a learning process. They're still young, they're going to learn, they've got potential." The trick, he added, is sticking with their goal to make the Bulldog roster and contribute at quarterback.
"At first you get discouraged and I'll be telling them just be comfortable, just relax, relax and learn every day. Learn from the older guys."
Well and good for the young folk. But what ought to have Mississippi State fans that much more optimistic about the upcoming campaign is the scholarship second guy. Dak Prescott is getting some really good reviews in The Opening days per a guy who is catching lot of throws from that source.
"I've seen him progress a lot," Smith said. "Dak is a great player, off the field and on the field he goes hard either way. He goes so hard he's got no choice but get better." And the even better by-product of such progress is the added incentive Prescott provides starter Tyler Russell. Besides, Coach Dan Mullen has assured Prescott he will be playing for-real this season, whether in an alternate role or in specific packages for the freshman's own abilities.
"He does push Tyler," says Smith, who is naturally loyal first to his former Meridian High School teammate. "But Dak is very humble. That's what I love about him, he's very humble. And he makes everybody around him get better."
Speaking of getting better…how about Smith himself? Sure, he's a senior and coming off a 35-catch campaign that topped all Bulldog receivers. But Smith looks at other numbers from '11. A 9.4-yard average per grab for instance, which needs raising well into double-digits to be really impressive. And while two touchdowns last year doubled what he'd scored the first two varsity seasons, Smith wants to more than double that for the final year. At least.
"I worked very hard over the off-season. And we're still in the off-season right now," he added, meaning it isn't really preseason until the lineups settle and playbook is edited. Either way, "I've still got some things to learn and get better. And as a whole unit our goal is to be the best."
Seems safe to expect Smith will indeed pick up his senior-year pace. So should his classmates; Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark, and Brandon Heavens. This is their last chance both as individuals and as a squad to haul in a lot of balls and put up big points. Thing is, Smith said it seems the attitude is more collective, all-for-one, than ever before.
"We drag each other up as we get better. The first few years we were young, we were just coming out you know, everybody was a little more selfish you could tell. But now it seems like we've got a bond. And everybody wants to be the best, everybody wants to be the best in the unit."
A group that has come a long, long way since 2009 when Smith signed-on as part of Mullen's first recruiting class at Mississippi State. Those true four-year guys, who all played as true freshman, have played their part in upgrading their unit…and transforming an entire team. So 2012 is their chance, their time, to take Bulldog football to another level before they take their bows.
"A lot of us from '09 talk about that. We were the first class that came in to help this program," he said. "But we've still got time to get better, all of us. We still haven't proved nothing yet. We know we can still get better and be great."