Smith ready to carry load at Oklahoma State
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)
Jeremy Smith's freakishly large arms have become a topic of conversation at Oklahoma State, with the school's athletic department recently posting a photograph of the running back flexing one of his softball-sized biceps on Twitter.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has even admitted that he has had a running joke with Smith for the last two years about his muscular physique.
''I always tease him when I see him in the offseason that if I looked like him, I'd just move to (Los Angeles) and just walk around in swim trunks all day,'' Gundy said.
Smith would rather show off his 5-foot-10, 208-pound frame in another way this season.
The fifth-year senior will finally have his chance to be Oklahoma State's featured back, thanks to Joseph Randle's decision to leave the Cowboys after his junior season and enter the NFL draft.
While Smith has averaged 6.2 yards per carry during his career - which trails only Barry Sanders' school record of 6.8 - he has never entered a season as the focal point of Oklahoma State's running game.
At least not until now.
''Pretty much I wake up every day and I tell myself I can't get this day back, so I have to go out with just the mindset that I'm that guy,'' Smith said. ''So I have to work harder than any running back out there right now, because they believe in me and I have to believe in myself also.''
While Gundy has held off on naming a starting quarterback, he has made no secret that he expects Smith to get the bulk of the carries this season. The only question is which of Oklahoma State's other tailbacks will pick up the rest.
Smith admitted he's excited about opportunity, and while the Tulsa native didn't want to predict how many yards he might rush for this season, he told a group of reporters at media day that they should expect a big season ''because there will be one.''
''Just be looking for (us) staying No. 1 in the Big 12 in rushing,'' Smith said. ''We're not going to drop off anywhere near that.''
Smith has shown at times over the last four years that he can be more than just a backup who brings a change of pace to Oklahoma State's high-powered offense. He scored at least one touchdown in the first six games of the 2011 season, and he embarrassed Texas by rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries as a sophomore.
Injuries, however, have hampered Smith and he had the misfortune of playing behind a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Randle and Kendall Hunter.
Smith hasn't gained more than 646 yards in a season, but his 25 career rushing touchdowns rank ninth in Oklahoma State history. He plans to add to that now that he's the starter.
''He's definitely more focused and more into it, not that he wasn't before, but he's got a different mentality,'' Oklahoma State offensive lineman Jake Jenkins said. ''He's just more head-on if that makes sense. He's really ready to go.''
Despite rooting for the Cowboys as a kid, Smith admitted he had reservations not long after he arrived on campus in 2009. He had doubts about whether Oklahoma State was the right place for him, and leaving school seemed like a good option.
''If you're a freshman and you come in and you don't ever think like that, something is wrong,'' Smith said. ''I mean, I don't care how much you love the game. Those thoughts will come across your mind just because it's totally different from high school.''
Smith said his mindset changed after he had a talk with his younger brother. He realized he didn't want to let his brother and the rest of his family down by leaving Oklahoma State.
He decided to stay, and four years later, he's thankful he did.
''There was a time when he wasn't sure that college football was for him, but he made that choice and I'm sure he's glad now,'' Gundy said. ''In fact, I know he is and he's done really well for our team. So now it's time for him to carry the load.''