Smith's Maturity Helps His Growth At QB

Quarterback Troy Smith has endured his share of ups and downs during his Ohio State career. But now as fifth-year senior, Smith is carrying himself as a mature leader. He is even buying into a few "Tresselisms" such as nothing good happens past 10 p.m. We caught up with Smith for his thoughts on spring ball, being compared to Vince Young, and more.

Troy Smith's development on the field has been nothing short of impressive. But the senior quarterback's growth off the field has been equally as important.

"I feel like I've grown in front of everybody," Smith said. "From a knuckleheaded young guy, to hopefully an up-and-coming wise senior who can lead this group of guys."

Smith is the unquestioned leader of the team, and with that comes a lot of responsibility. He knows he's living in a fishbowl in Columbus.

"I think one of the largest ones would have to be the nightlife," Smith said. "The nightlife is not in any of my equation right now, and for the rest of the season it won't be. Things like that will come. I think there's a time and a place for everything. Call me old fashioned and I know it's a cliché, but I'm really buying into what Coach Tress (head coach Jim Tressel) said: Nothing good happens past 10. It's pretty much the truth, man. So, I just stay in the house."

The 6-1, 215-pound Smith established himself as one of the rising stars in college football last year. He threw for 2,282 yards (62.9 completion percentage), 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His passing efficiency rating of 162.65 ranked fifth in the nation, and was the second-best mark all-time at Ohio State, behind Bobby Hoying's 163.43 in 1995.

Smith also rushed for 611 yards (4.5 per carry) and 11 touchdowns.

Smith is now being compared favorably to former Texas quarterback Vince Young.

"I don't buy into it," Smith said. "Just trying to stay the course. With the development of this team, I can't look somewhere else right now. My focus right now is on this team and where we need to be coming out of spring."

Smith says he pays no attention to preseason Heisman lists and preseason All-American lists.

"Definitely don't look into that," he said. "There have been a lot of people who were frontrunners, that ended up in the back. I think the guys that are most successful in what they do are the guys that stay the course and worry about their team, as opposed as things in the media."

But Smith was asked if seeing his name among the Heisman favorites gives him any extra confidence.

"I think what gives me confidence would be at the end of the season to be a national champion," he said. "I want to be a national champion."

And it's not just a pipe dream. The Buckeyes are expected to open the season ranked in the top five.

"Yeah, that's something to live up to," Smith said. "I look back when I was a freshman coming in and taking a lot of things for granted. But Craig (Krenzel), Mike Doss, Donnie Nickey, Will Smith and Michael Jenkins, guys like that, the things that they did, you take those things for granted. I was just a young guy on their team and they were being serious every day. And I'm trying to get everybody around us right now to be on that same page, because it's hard getting everybody on the same page to be a national champion."

Smith, a mass communications major, will graduate from OSU in June. In an age where even "regular" students usually take five years to graduate, Smith's accomplishment is impressive.

"Oh, that's huge," he said. "It's such a relief; such a weight off anyone's shoulders. I think it's just about hard work, man. Just staying the course and knowing that you have to finish school. That's always a plus."

Smith does not plan on going to graduate school in the fall. Instead, he will pursue another undergraduate degree.

"I think I'm going to go into another bachelor's," he said. "I am going to start towards another bachelor's. But I haven't decided what yet."

One would think that there might be some bad blood between Smith, and fellow fifth-year senior quarterback Justin Zwick. They came to OSU as part of the same recruiting class and Zwick was supposed to be the star. But he has handled the situation with class according to Smith.

"We talk all the time," Smith said. "Justin hasn't demonstrated being down. We signed here together. He's a great teammate and I'm glad he's still here."

Smith is looking forward to his final spring game on Saturday. He will likely only play a few snaps, but it's still a fun occasion for the players.

"For the most part it's another practice that we have to get in," he said. "Every team across the nation has 15 spring practices, and that's our last one. It's pretty much the biggest and the ultimate day where we get film on everybody, because everybody is going to get a chance to play. It's just another hard practice. This just has a little more glamour to it."

Like he did in the jersey scrimmage last Saturday, Smith thinks he will wear a black no-contact jersey in the spring game. He used to be upset when he had to wear the black jersey. But in another sign of maturity, he now understands why the coaches want him to wear it.

"Oh it helps me out so much," Smith said. "A couple years ago when I had to wear it, I would pout and be upset about it. But, it helps you mentally so much because during the season with the black jersey, maybe I won't take that hit, where I would have taken off before, and I can come back to my third receiver and things like that. The black jersey does help."

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