A return this fall wasn't a sure thing for Smoker. New coach John L. Smith had listed him third on the depth chart in the spring and didn't name him the starter until 12 days before Michigan State's season opener.
Smoker has responded by throwing for 1,150 yards and eight touchdowns in leading No. 25 Michigan State to a 4-1 start. "There was a time I wasn't sure what I was going to do," says Smoker. "I love football, but I know I'm not going to be able to play forever. I was lucky to get a second chance."
TCU Leaps to 4-0
Horned Frogs Get Defensive
When it comes to defense, TCU coach Gary Patterson is admittedly obsessed. Last summer Patterson helped organize a summit in Arizona at which a handful of coaches who love the 4-2-5 defense spent hours analyzing film and debating strategies. And throughout the season the coach experiments relentlessly with player combinations and coverage schemes until he finds what works best. "The philosophy is simple: Offenses can't win if they can't score," says Patterson, TCU's defensive coordinator for three seasons before getting promoted for the 2001 season.
Under Patterson the Horned Frogs were No. 1 in total defense in 2000 and again last season, when TCU went 10-2. This year the defense is the main reason why the Horned Frogs are 4-0 after last Saturday's 13-10 overtime win over Arizona. The senior-stacked unit is led by 6'5", 268-pound end Bo Schobel, who has 23 tackles, including nine for loss. TCU also has nine interceptions.
Patterson says he's pleased with his players' opportunism, but he thinks they can cut down their foes' passing yardage by playing smarter. In the meantime he will continue to tweak his defense with each matchup. "I'm the underdog coach with some underdog players," says Patterson. "So what we try to do is put together a game plan that's going to shut teams down."