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Troy Smith
STEWART MANDEL
August 21, 2006
What a difference a year makes. The Buckeyes' signal-caller has gone from suspended and shamed platoon player to the toast of Columbus
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August 21, 2006

Troy Smith

What a difference a year makes. The Buckeyes' signal-caller has gone from suspended and shamed platoon player to the toast of Columbus

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That would happen soon enough. On Oct. 8 against Penn State's ferocious defense, Smith had one of his least productive games (154 total yards) in a 17-10 loss. But a week later against Michigan State he looked like a different quarterback. In a 35-24 win over the Spartans, Smith completed touchdown bombs of 57 yards to Ginn and 51 and 46 yards to Santonio Holmes. He closed his season with the first 300-yard passing days of his career, against Michigan (300) and Notre Dame (342).

While most Ohio State fans figured the notoriously conservative Tressel had finally opened up his playbook, Daniels says the change was more Smith's doing. "It was a confidence thing," says Daniels. "Before, if the Number 1 receiver on the progression wasn't open, he might have peeked at Number 2, but he knew what he could do with his legs. He'd take off. Once the confidence and understanding came around, he started using that athletic ability to buy time and make plays with his arm." Says Smith, "With [the coaches] asserting their trust in me, I knew I had to be in the meeting room after everyone's gone home, studying film. I'm sure that's why things started to open up."

This off-season Smith spent more time watching film than Roger Ebert-15 to 20 hours a week by his estimation. He showed up for morning conditioning drills 90 minutes early. In less than a year he has gone from a platoon player to the undisputed leader of SI's preseason No. 1 team. "Troy has a humble swagger," says Tressel. "He has a lot of confidence, but he's also humble."

Humility comes in handy when you're getting ego boosts on a regular basis. Before running errands, Smith stood in the office of Ohio State sports information director Steve Snapp and listened as Snapp rattled off a lengthy list of upcoming photo shoots. In Cleveland, Smith's picture was plastered on billboards as part of the municipal school district's Stay in School campaign. (In June, Smith earned a degree in communication.)

His errands complete, Smith retreated to the quiet suburb of Gahanna, about 10 miles northeast of campus, and pulled into the garage of his two-bedroom town-house-style apartment. Inside, it's not unlike a typical 22-year-old's accommodations. There's one noticeable difference, though: On his living room coffee table is an array of college football preview magazines, nearly every one of them featuring his picture on the cover.

"I thought it was a clich� when Ginn Sr. told me this, but when you're the quarterback at Ohio State, it's pretty much like you're the governor of the state," says Smith. "Everybody's watching, and everybody has something to say."

This summer, unlike last, the talk has been nothing but positive.

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