Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes

by Rafael Zamorano on February 5, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


The 2006 Heisman Memorial Trophy Award recipient, Troy Smith, capped an unbelievable career as quarterback in one of the nation's premier football programs, leading the Ohio State Buckeyes all the way to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Championship Game as a senior.

In this past year, Smith would also collect the Walter Camp Award (Player of the Year) and the Davey O'Brien Award (top quarterback). Although he didn't perform as well in the championship game, where the Buckeyes were trounced by the eventual champion Florida Gators by a score of 41-14, he's a very talented player with a lot of upside coming into the National Football League.

Background

Smith arrived in Columbus being offered the last scholarship for Ohio State's recruiting class of 2002 by Jim Tressel. This came after watching game tape of Smith and thanks in no small part to the insistence of his high school head coach Ted Ginn Sr. at Glenville High School, where he played alongside Ted Ginn Jr., who would also later become his teammate at the collegiate level. As a matter of fact, this scholarship was offered to him as an athlete on the team and not as a quarterback.

After redshirting his true freshman season in 2002, he played sparingly as a running back and special teams player in 2003. Smith finally earned some playing time as quarterback in 2004 as a backup for Justin Zwick, taking over the starting job in Week 7 and leading the Buckeyes to a 4-1 finish down the stretch.

As a junior in 2005, and the team's full-time starter, Smith led Ohio State to a 10-2 season capped off by a win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. He would start 2006 as one of the top candidates to take the Heisman as quarterback of the Nation's No. 1 preseason ranked team. He would not disappoint as he lead the Buckeyes to impressive victories over No. 2 Texas, and No. 2 Michigan on route to a 12-0 regular season record, a berth in the BCS Championship Game.

Smith's outstanding individual stat line included 2,507 passing yards with 30 touchdown passes and just six interceptions for the year. Smith would unfortunately finish the championship game with a miserable performance that included just four completed passes of 14 attempts for 35 yards, one lost fumble, one interception and five sacks as his team was clearly outplayed by the Gators.

Smith finished his collegiate career with 420 completions of 670 passing attempts (a 62.7 completion percentage) for 5,720 passing yards with 54 passing touchdowns and just 13 interceptions and 1297 rushing yards with 14 rushing touchdowns in just under two and a half years as a starter. He is also the seventh Buckeye to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.

Positives

Probably the first quality that stands out in Smith as a quarterback is his superior athleticism, which enables him to avoid pressure, prolong the play and eventually either give his receiver's enough time to find an open space, or he can take of running with the ball.

Smith also possesses above-average arm strength and can deliver the throw while on the run. He is also very good at making the right reads down the field and will seldom turn the ball over due to a misread in coverage (as attested by his exceptionally low number of interceptions over the past two years).

Smith's transition to a pro-style offense shouldn't be too complicated as he has run a variety of pro-style sets in college. As for the intangibles, Smith is a warrior, a proven winner and a natural leader in the huddle. He makes his teammates believe in him, and that can take a player a long way in the NFL. He is no stranger to pressure situations as he has played in several big games. There's still some room for improvement since he hasn't tapped his full potential as a passer yet.

Negatives

Standing at just at 6-foot-0, Smith's lack of the ideal stature is by far the biggest negative for him heading into the draft. There will always be questions as to whether he will be able to see over the linemen and find the passing lanes or if his passes will be batted down at the line consistently.

Another concern is Smith's below-average accuracy, especially while standing in the pocket, which sometimes has regularly forced his receivers to adjust their routes to the ball. He also displays less-than-ideal mechanics at times, which also contributes to his lack of accuracy.

Off-field issues since high school and into college are also a concern for scouts. Smith, in high school, knocked out a player during a 2000 basketball game. The incident forced Smith to leave the parochial school of St. Edward High School for Glenville High School. Smith was charged with disorderly conduct, pleaded no contest and paid a $100 fine in 2003 for an incident with then-Ohio State teammate Santonio Holmes. The incident left one female student unconscious and another with a broken wrist.

To close Smith's sophomore season, Tressel suspended him for the 2004 MasterCard Alamo Bowl and the first game of the 2005 season for accepting $500 in booster money. Smith repaid the money and moved on with his career.

Since, Smith has been on good behavior.

Draft Placement

At some point in the second half of the 2006 season, some speculated that Smith might go as high as a top-10 pick, but that seems to be more a product of the Heisman-hype than to a realistic perspective.

Currently, there seems to be a unanimous consent that the first two quarterbacks that will be selected in the upcoming draft will be Louisiana State's JaMarcus Russell (an underclassman) and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, both of whom appear to be top-five picks at this point. After that, there seems to be a serious drop-off in talent to the second-tier quarterback group that includes Smith, Michigan's Drew Stanton and Houston's Kevin Kolb, who will be vying to be the third quarterback selected. At this point it seems they will not be able to creep into the first round unless they're able to blow away scouts at the combine and their respective pro days, something that has happened before.

A realistic scenario would have Smith selected in the second or third round of the draft to a team that would have enough patience to develop him over the course of a couple of seasons in order to make him a pro-caliber passer. Prospective teams under this scenario would include franchises that are currently set with a veteran starter at the position and might be looking for a young passer to eventually take the reigns down the road or develop a reliable backup. This scenario would consequently discard team's that are in dire need of a franchise passer now, and teams that are already developing a young passer under a veteran signal-caller.

Smith on his part has been very vocal about his desire to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns, who seem less than set at the quarterback position with current stable of Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson and Ken Dorsey. Therefore, it should be considered as a possibility as well, along with all the marketing benefits of drafting a celebrated hometown hero for a franchise in need of a spark, but Smith's immediate contributions should be nil, at best.

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About Rafael Zamorano

Rafael Zamorano is an NFL columnist and editor at ESPNdeportes.com for Latin America. He has been a contributor at KFFL since 2006.

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