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December 6, 2006

No escaping Heisman praise for Smith

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Troy Smith is approaching the upcoming Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony like he would the old Statue of Liberty play.

You know, fake a pass to set up a handoff.

Although the Ohio State quarterback figures to be a runaway winner when college football's highest individual honor is awarded on Saturday, Smith passed on the suggestion that the trophy will definitely be handed off to him at Saturday's ceremony.

"I can't talk about success as a Heisman winner because I might not win it," Smith said. "There are great players up for it. There is always a chance I might not win it."

No there isn't.

Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Michigan running back Mike Hart are all deserving candidates, but not as deserving as Smith.

Smith has everything needed to win the Heisman. He has the statistics, having completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,507 yards and 30 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

He has the signature highlight play when he sidestepped the rush and spotted Brian Robiskie for a 37-yard touchdown pass in the rain against Penn State.

He has the leadership of quarterbacking the 12-0 and top-ranked Buckeyes into the national championship game.

He even has the lineage. He will join Les Horvath, Vic Janowicz, Howard Cassady, Archie Griffin and Eddie George as Heisman recipients from Ohio State, and he has received sage advice from George and Griffin - the only two-time winner.

"When I've talked with both those guys nowhere along the way was it about the Heisman," Smith said. "It's always team, team, team and win the next game. They said if you worry about the team everything else will fall into place and I bought into that."

Smith seems to have everything, except a big-man-on-campus ego.

"I've tried to give my teammates all the credit and the glory," Smith said. "I think they deserve it. In the simplest terms, I throw the ball to them and watch them work miracles."

Some would suggest it's something of a minor miracle that Smith is in this position.

That's not a question of his considerable talent that was never in doubt. He had to overcome a difficult childhood in which his mother, Tracy, was working through personal issues. Smith lived with his youth football coach, Irvin White, for four years.

He admitted he was immature when he first arrived at Ohio State and was involved in a fight his freshman year. He accepted $500 from a booster his sophomore season, which resulted in a suspension.

But he has grown and his maturity seems to have caught up with his athletic ability.

He said he's looking forward to the trip to New York where the Heisman is presented.

"I want to see my mother's face," he said. "She's never been to New York, and I've never been to New York. When I have my family around me I'll definitely think about some things I've been through."

Trivia question
Which Heisman Trophy recipient won by the largest margin? (Answer at the end of the column.)

Quick hitters
The record reads 10-2, but Rutgers has another huge win that doesn't appear in the standings. Keeping coach Greg Schiano, who apparently turned down Miami, is even bigger than that victory over Louisville. However, it figures to come with a cost. Schiano's base salary is $875,000 and is scheduled to reach $1.1 million at the end of his contract. His success will likely expedite that increase. Athletic Director Robert E. Mulcahy III said he "expects to be fair and do the right thing." That would seem to be renegotiating Schiano's contract.

Georgia backup quarterback Blake Barnes, a sophomore who was fourth on the Bulldogs' depth chart last season, has not contacted any schools and apparently does not plan to transfer.

Ole Miss linebacker Rory Johnson has announced his intentions of foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. A junior college transfer, Johnson was second on the team with 94 tackles.

UCLA Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker's profile has been raised considerably since the Bruins shut down USC's offense in a 13-9 victory that cost the Trojans a shot at the national championship. Walker's name has since surfaced in connection with the vacant head coaching position at Stanford. He has also been mentioned for some coordinator positions in the NFL. Walker is in his first year at UCLA and has revamped a defense which ranked 113th nationally in total defense in 2005 and 106th in 2004.

Texas-El Paso offensive coordinator Eric Price, son of UTEP head coach Mike Price, confirmed he has talked with Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson about the head coaching position there. Clemson assistant coach Tommy West, a former Tulane coach, has also expressed interest in that position.

Cincinnati knows who its coach is for next season, and now it knows who will coach it's next game. New head coach Brian Kelly, recently hired away from Central Michigan to replace Mark Dantonio (now at Michigan State), will coach the Bearcats against Western Michigan in the International Bowl on Jan. 6.

Trivia answer
In 1968, USC star O.J. Simpson beat Purdue's Leroy Keyes by 1,750 points.

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com.

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