Badger Nation: When you look at the running back position, where do you foresee yourself fitting into this group?
Erik Smith: I am not sure. Hopefully as a change of pace guy, even though I believe that Zach is just as fast, quick and agile as me. I think we compliment each other really well and the game plan with the way he runs the ball. Wherever I can fit on the field, I am willing to do whatever it takes. Pretty much though, I view myself as a change-of-pace guy.
Badger Nation: What did you learn during your redshirt year watching guys like P.J., John and Zach?
ES: Patience. Without question. That and being dedicated to the job. You've got to work hard to get where you are at. Nothing is easy, especially at a school like this with a big stable of running backs. You have got to patience and wait for your turn. When you get out there and play, like Zach did his freshman year, when you get that opportunity you just have to tackle and run with it and don't look back.
Badger Nation: Is that the same principle you learned at Boilingbrook when you only started your senior year and you had to wait behind Dale Martin (Louisville running back). Was that kind of the same thing for you, having to wait and learn?
ES: Yeah, it's kind of the same thing. Dale was an All-American back and the guys we got here, they have a chance to do real great things during their career. A guy like P.J. (Hill) has done great things during his UW career. It's just being able to sit back and look at those guys, it gives you a direction of where you want to be. When I came here, I had my point ‘A' and looking at those guys gave me a point ‘B' of where I want to be two years from now, three years from now, four years from now in the program. It helps me progress faster because I know where to direct all my energy and my time.
Badger Nation: Where would you like to be maybe not two or three years from now, but on September 5th when you guys open the season (against Northern Illinois)?
ES: Anywhere that is going to help us win. I mean, if that's a different position that's going to help us win, they can move me to frickin' kicker. If we are going to go 12-0, make it to the Rose Bowl or a possible national championship, I will be playing kicker. It's not really about me, I just want to win. At the end of the day, it's all about team, it's all about winning. I just want to be in that position to help the team win, wherever that may be.
Badger Nation: What does P.J. leaving do for you in your progression? You would figured that if he would have stayed, you would not be in as prominent role as you are now. Have you thought about what him leaving would do for you?
ES: P.J. being here helped the team a lot and it helped me a lot by giving me a lot of learning experience from one of the older guys and one of the best running backs in UW history. I was able to sit down with him and talk to him a couple of times. Him being gone, it's really like being in high school and Dale left. It helps me mature faster. With him being around more, I could be lacksidasical and be, ‘Oh, it's Clay's turn and Zach's turn. It's not time yet to step into my role' With him being gone and leaving unexpectedly to me, it may me mature faster and got my mind focused on what I need to be doing on the field.
Badger Nation: Do you have a good grasp on everything coming into spring ball? Do you have a decent read on the formations and the playbook?
ES: I spent my whole summer trying to grasp the playbook. Being able to redshirt, I was able to tackle it more so. That was a big thing with the coaches. They knew I was athletics and they knew that I had ability, but they wanted someone that was going to be consistent, especially when you are playing big-time football. You have to be consistent, no matter how good you are. If you aren't consistent in your game play, those faults can cost us the game. I spent that time redshirting, learning all the ins and outs of the game, which gaps to block in during blocking plays, where to run, etc. I just wanted to come into the spring ball to show the coaches that I can execute and be the guy.
Badger Nation: It seems like you have really listen to Coach Settle because he has preached a lot about how this spring, he needed to see consistency at the position. What are some other things you have absorbed from him?
ES: Just be the best player you can be and focus on doing the right thing on the field and off the field. There are instances where you can get into something off the field and it could translate into something on the field that could affect you or your team. What Coach Settle preaches more than be consistent is being mature. He's a big preacher on maturity because he wants to develop us as men and as football players when we leave the program. He wants us to be on time to meetings, class and do the right thing on the field and off the field. That's pretty much what I take in from him – just be a mature player when I am and represent the university wherever I go.
Badger Nation: How are you approaching these 15 practices and something you are trying to refine or improve upon in your game or learn about yourself to get yourself moving forward?
ES: Attack. I have to be more aggressive. I feel that I attack well, but something I am a little nonchalant, because of my size before. Now that I put on some weight, I feel more comfortable being able to block one-on-one with a guy and be able to go in there and just attack and get after it.