Smith Faces Media, Discusses Off-Season

Media members flocked to talk to OSU junior quarterback Troy Smith at Thursday's media day. Smith discussed his various off-the-field problems and how he is coping as he must still sit out the Sept. 3 season opener with Miami (Ohio).

A subdued but confident Troy Smith met with the media Thursday afternoon at Ohio State's photo day at Ohio Stadium.

Since leading Ohio State to an upset victory over Michigan last November, Smith's name has been in the news too many times for the wrong things. He will miss the team's Sept. 3 season opener against Miami (Ohio) as he serves the second of a two-game suspension for receiving illegal extra benefits from an OSU booster last year. Plus, he made a stir this summer when it was discovered he skipped some class time to go to Tennessee and work a football camp for NFL quarterback Steve McNair.

Smith spoke in mostly hushed tones as he realizes he has to toe the line in order to get back in OSU coach Jim Tressel's good graces.

"We've got the team in mind," Smith said. "The team is in focus. The team looks great. The summer workouts went well. Everybody is in shape. These guys will be ready for the Miami game and I will do whatever I can to get them ready for the Miami game."

Smith was ultimately cleared of any NCAA wrongdoing in the camp incident. He was asked if the media may have blown that out of proportion.

"I really don't want to get into that," he said. "What happened happened and I'm glad about the outcome that came. I'm just looking forward to being on the field with my teammates."

When asked what he learned from that whole scenario, Smith said, "Decision-making. Whether you're a quarterback, a linebacker, a receiver or a lineman, it's all about decisions."

Smith said he did not feel his off-the-field problems have affected his relationship with Tressel.

"Coach put the ball in my hands because he believed in me," he said. "I believe if I get the same chance this year, he'll do the same thing again. My feelings don't change. It's a year-round game and it's more than just myself and my ego on this team."

When asked if he thought his teammates could trust him, he said, "Always, always, always."

Tressel has said that Smith will log time on the scout team in the days leading up to the opener.

"The scout team are the guys who prepare the defense for the win," he said. "It is humbling in a way that I had a chance to be the starting guy, but I made a bad decision and now I need to come back from scratch."

Although Smith can't play against Miami, he said he will not – and he does not expect any of his teammates to, either – look past the RedHawks and toward the Sept. 10 showdown with Texas.

"I'm going to say it now so everybody can hear this," he said. "The one game I don't want anybody to forget about is Miami. We've got to beat Miami and get past Miami first before we look at Texas and continue with the whole national championship thing. The Miami game is the most important thing now."

Tressel told reporters previously he has some expectations for Smith to attend to before he will regain his playing privileges for the Texas game.

"I just need to be humble and be the leader I am," Smith said. "I'm sure Coach has already outlined the things he wants to discuss with you. I don't know, so I won't go into that. Just know that I'm working hard."

When asked if he expects to come back and start against Texas, Smith replied, "I expect to do everything I can to help the team win the Texas game. Whatever is necessary, whatever is possible for the team to be prosperous, that's what I want. That's what I need. That's what we're going to have to have."

Reporters asked if it would be hard to go into a game against a team like Texas without playing in the opener.

"A football game is a football game, no matter how you cut it," he said. "You still get four downs and the team with the most points will win. The tune-up is practice."

Smith said he yearns for the day to be in command once again.

"I know how I feel," he said. "Being out there with the guys is what it's all about. The camaraderie you have with the guys out there on the field, that's what this game is all about."

But he also said he will support junior classmate Justin Zwick, who will start at least the opener in his stead.

"There are no dual feelings," Smith said about a rivalry with Zwick. "That's all in the media.

"Justin is a great player. He led us to a victory in the Alamo Bowl, which is what we needed and what we wanted. We ended up 8-4 and now we're doing great."

Smith has packed 10 pounds onto his 6-1 frame in the off-season to go into the new year at 225 pounds. Yet, he said the extra weight has not hurt his speed. He talked about what he'll concentrate on during preseason camp.

"I just want to get better as a player and a quarterback," he said. "Leading the team, to me, is the biggest thing. That's what a quarterback does. He makes good decisions.

"I just take it day by day and game by game and get better. I need to get better at film study, decision making, all the little things, the intangibles."

Smith shares the belief of many of his teammates that the Buckeyes could be something special this year.

"The only people who can beat us is ourselves," he said. "The 2002 team was a great team. They had leaders and that's what we have now. We've got the leaders. Now we have to put it all together."


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