Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TRESSEL ON TROY SMITH'S SUCCESS IN SAN FRANCISCO; AWARD WINNERS

Troy Smith (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
COLUMBUS — Former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith is starting to make a name for himself in the National Football League with the San Francisco 49ers.

After carrying the clipboard for two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, behind starter Joe Flacco, it was beginning to look as if the former Buckeye star wasn't going to get his opportunity to showcase his talents at the game's highest level. He was picked up by the Niners prior to this season in what seemed to be an after-thought move, being that the team already had quarterbacks Alex Smith and David Carr on the roster.

However, with the 49ers beginning the season 1-6, the chances of a Smith sighting were becoming more and more probable. When starter Alex Smith went down with an injury against Carolina, and Carr looked like a third-string pee wee player in relief duty, Niners head coach Mike Singletary decided to give Mr. Heisman a look.

In two starts, Smith has been a force for the 49ers, recording 552 yards passing (61.7 comp.) with two touchdowns, zero interceptions and an outstanding 116.6 quarterback rating. Smith also has a rushing touchdown to his credit.

Most importantly, though, San Francisco is 2-0 with Smith under center and are now very much alive in the NFC West title hunt. Singletary has named Smith the starter the rest of the way.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel knew that his former star possessed all the attributes of a big-time quarterback.

"I thought he had the arm," Tressel said of Smith. "I knew he had the toughness. I knew he loved studying the game, he'd grown to enjoy that, and the rest sometimes is a little bit of luck here and there."

Tressel said being that he has never coached in the NFL, he didn't really know if Smith had what it took to be a starter in the pros. So he asked someone who did know.

"It's tough for me to project what they need at that level because I've never coached it, obviously never played it, so I really don't know much about that level of football," Tressel said. "When Troy had spent two years at Baltimore, I had a chance to spend some time with (general manager) Ozzie Newsome. He said to me, he said without question Troy was the finest natural leader that maybe he'd ever seen and that there was no doubt in his mind he was going to be a starter in the NFL.

"Of course they had just come off Flacco's rookie year and they'd done okay, that type of thing, and he kind of inferred, 'but the problem is, it won't be with us, we're not going to be able to keep him.'"

Smith is coming off a career performance Sunday against the then-first place St. Louis Rams, throwing for 356 yards in the 23-20 overtime win, including a huge 16-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Michael Crabtree to take the lead late in the game.

"Troy, I guess he had a heck of a game," Tressel said. "I got a text from his quarterback coach saying, 'hey, he did a tremendous job and has done a great job leading.'"

Tressel, who has been a major influence in Smith's maturation process, still provides some guidance to the former Buckeye star. Tressels says that his first two weeks have been great, but in the NFL, two weeks just isn't enough.

"The fact that he got an opportunity at the right place, you've got to be lucky, and somebody gets injured and you get a chance to show what you do," Tressel said. "But you've got to show it next week ... you've got to do it every week.

"So, yeah, he's done it for two weeks. The way the world works, you know, two weeks is fine, but if you mess up the third ... Alex Smith might be the quarterback."

Dan "Boom" Herron
(The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK ... Ohio State junior tailback Dan "Boom" Herron was selected by the Buckeyes coaches as the offensive player of the week.

Herron ran for a career-high 190 yards and a touchdown in the Buckeyes 38-14 win over Penn State on Saturday.

Senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa was the defensive player of the week after recording four tackles and three pass deflections against the Nittany Lions, while true freshman kickoff specialist Drew Basil took the special teams honors.

Junior center Michael Brewster was named the Jim Parker lineman of the week, senior defensive end Cameron Heyward won the Attack Force award, while senior tailback Brandon Saine was given the Jack Tatum award for the best good, clean hit of the week.

Scout team winners were: Spencer Smith (offense); Don Matheny (defense); Vince Petrella (special teams).