Running with a Clean Conscience

After being suspended for five road games last year, junior running back Lance Smith is running with a clean slate and is more determined than ever to make an impression.

MADISON - It's fair to say that last season was one junior running back Lance Smith will never forget.

After a domestic dispute with his girlfriend in the offseason, Smith was indefinitely suspended from the football team by Athletic Director Barry Alvarez for violated the school's student-athlete discipline policy in July, reinstated before camp and then received a five-game university-imposed suspension that forced him to miss all five regular season road games.

While he was somewhat deterred by the suspension, Smith was also motivated. Finishing the year as the team's third-leading rusher (429 yards on 71 carries), Smith averaging six yards per carry in eight appearances, far an away the best on the team.

Now with last year troubles in his past and a clean slate in front of him, Smith is looking to make an impact in 2008, whether he will be carrying the ball or catching the ball for the Wisconsin offense.

BN: How have you approached these spring practices? What's the biggest thing you are focusing in on?

Lance Smith: Staying focused, taking one practice at a time and realizing that the coaches are really trying to get me on the field. I just got to stay focused and take advantage of every rep.

BN: I read that one of the main reasons you came to Wisconsin was because of the running back tradition. What's it like to be following players like Michael Bennett and Ron Dayne?

Lance Smith: It means a lot. That's honestly why I came here, just being able to watch them on TV and be productive on the field. It's something I've always wanted to do since I started watching them in eighth grade, so I wanted to come here and be successful too.

BN: In your eight games last year, what do you think you were able to show the coaching staff and how excited are you at the prospect of playing a whole season?

Lance Smith: Last year, I feel like I showed that I have the ability to do a lot of special things. I'm just so anxious to have a full season and show the coaching staff and the fans what I can do with a full season. Honestly, I feel like Coach Chryst will find a way to get the ball in my hands so I'm not worried about how many touches I get.

BN: Throughout spring practice, we've seen you show off your speed running off the end but we've seen you more and more lined up as a wide receiver. Where are Badger fans going to see you in 2008?

Lance Smith: You'll see me in a lot of different looks. I don't want to tell you what looks because some other teams might read Badger Nation one day, but you might see me in a lot of different looks. Hopefully I'll be able to be successful out of those looks and help the team out. I feel like I've got pretty good hands, but I know all of us can catch the ball.

BN: What's it like getting a chance to run some shotgun and spread offenses this spring? Are these things we might see this upcoming season?

Lance Smith: We never really ran the shotgun; we're going to use the shotgun a little bit and the spread a little bit too. Obviously Wisconsin is a run-first team so we're going to run the ball, but we're going to do a lot more passing.

I have my own plays and my own sets so me being on the field won't be a problem. I have my plays so I'll be out there.

BN: There were rumors that your five-game suspension last year could have been either a) the five road games or b) the first five games of the season. Was there any truth to that and if so, why did you come to that decision?

Lance Smith: Well, me and Coach B sat down and talked. At first they told me I wasn't going to play at all but we talked to the Dean of Students and we got it down to five (games). I suggested that the away would be best because the first game of the season, you need a reliable back at running back, so that's how that situation went down. I really wanted to play in the first game. But if I could go back in time, I'd pick the first five games because I believe my team needed me in Illinois and against [Ohio] State.

BN: When you think Wisconsin, you think running the football and UW has a lot of options this year in the backfield. How are you handling the running back competition this spring?

Lance Smith: Coming to the University of Wisconsin, that's something that a lot of running backs know they're going to have to deal with, is having pretty good running backs at the running back position and I just feel like we all can bring things to the table and whoever's in there just needs to make plays.

We're all competitive running back and we all want the job but whoever's in there needs to focus on being in the game and making big plays.

BN: How friendly are you guys off the field? Do you ever let the battle make for some interesting off-the-field conversations? Lance Smith: We all get along. It's not like ‘I hate somebody' or ‘he hates me,' if somebody does something bad at practice, we'll all go up to each other and be like ‘you need to do it like this.' It's more like a friendly competition. On the field you're competing, but off the field it's friendly.

BN: In a couple words each, how would you describe the styles of your fellow running backs? Lance Smith: (PJ) is more of a pounder (and) Clay is more of a pounder too, (Zach) is sort of a mixture of (PJ) and me, and me, I can be used in a lot of different situations and can do a lot of different things.

BN: Lastly, what does Lance Smith enjoy about the game? What words would you use to describe it?

Lance Smith: Vision, fast, a gamer. I love to take over games and get the crowd into it. I love to take over games. I'm a breakaway running back with hands too.

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