December 14, 2008

Rookie running back follows in veteran's path

MADISON, Wis. - Knowing he would be behind running backs P.J. Hill, John Clay and Zach Brown, Wisconsin freshman tailback Erik Smith knew a redshirt would most likely occur his first year on campus.

As the team prepares for its upcoming bowl match-up, caught up with the young back. The following is a question and answer with Smith:

Now that your first run through a season is winding down, how did it go for you?

Smith: It went pretty well, it was a hard working process and it was a good learning process too. I was able to sit behind some good backs this year, P.J., Clay and even Zach. I was able to study what they do to make themselves better and I was able to improve on my own things I felt I needed to get better at on the off-season being on scout team.

What do you think some of those things are that you need to improve on?

Smith: I need to be more decisive. I realize that I'm a quick back and I don't really understand how fast I am, but I feel as though I can actually slow down some and take my time more because I have the speed to be able to hit that next gear real quick and get back up to speed. If I take more time and be more decisive in my cuts, I'll get more yards.

How have you adjusted, just to the overall speed of the game moving from high school to the college game?

Smith: It didn't take a very long time, but it's a very big difference. You don't even feel yourself adjusting to the game, it kind of just happens. One minute you know everyone is kind of moving fast all of a sudden everything just kind of slows back down to like the normal speed that you saw in high school. But, I mean, when you come around these guys, they make you a better player and their speed kind of transfers over to you. So you end up just kind of moving faster just to stay up.

Do you feel like you have gotten a lot better from fall camp to where you are today?

Smith: Yes, a lot better. Fall camp I was kind of set behind a good week because I pulled my hamstring early in camp and it kind of hurt me while learning the playbook. I was kind of behind and that was the big thing that I wanted to work on this year was learning the playbook and being decisive in what I had to be doing in my position. You know, all the check downs and reads and making sure I was doing my job to help the team get better.

Have you bulked up at all?

Smith: I bulked up, I put on like 15 pounds. Just through strength and conditioning thanks to J.D. and everybody down there. I actually came in at 178 and now I'm up to 193. I building on it, I'm trying to be 205 by the time spring camp comes so we'll see how that goes.

Do you feel like you have gotten faster, or just stronger?

Smith: I feel like I've gotten faster, definitely feel like I've gotten faster. Strength wise, I feel like I got stronger. I put on weight, but I haven't really bulked, bulked. I haven't really hit that growth spurt, but I definitely feel like I'm a lot faster than I was in high school.

You hit on it a little bit, but playing behind the backs UW has, what have you learned specifically from those guys?

Smith: I've learned everything comes at a time. Clay had to redshirt his first year he came out, he had to an entire season. Zach, he didn't redshirt, but when he was called upon he went out there and did what we needed to do in order to win games. And P.J., even he redshirted his freshman year and when he got his chance, he shined. It's just patience. I'm a freshman, actually I'll be a redshirt freshman next year so it will take just a little bit of patience and I know I'll have my time. When I do get my chance, just take advantage of it.

Is it exciting to see some guys in front of you succeeding that went through the same thing that you are going through now with the redshirt?

Smith: It was really exciting, it just shows me that if I work at it and keep my head straight on, then I'll be able to be out there with some of those guys God willing.

Knowing you won't play during the bowl game, but just how exciting is it to go to Florida and play a team like Florida State?

Smith: It's nice because we didn't have the best season that we were hoping for but we get to redeem all that by making it to our seventh straight bowl game and going down there against a good Florida State team and playing good football.

Do you feel like you guys can prove something with the way the season went?

Smith: I feel like we just got to go out there and play Badger football. I don't feel like we have that much to prove, we just have to play our ball and it will just prove itself. Let our game speak for itself.

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