Cornerback who beat the odds now looks to beat UF


Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ohio State senior defensive back Antonio Smith knows stopping Florida's receivers in Monday's BCS title game will be a challenge.

But he isn't afraid of failure. Smith has overcome some pretty difficult obstacles in his Buckeyes career.

Smith's journey has taken him from a little known walk-on to a starting scholarship cornerback. All the while, Smith has maintained a 3.0 GPA in mechanical engineering.

"I love challenges," Smith said. "When it's all said and done, I can be successful in both areas."

There was some concern when Ohio State lost its entire starting secondary after last season. But Smith stepped in and has been a weapon in the Buckeyes secondary.

Smith, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound native of Columbus, Ohio, is second on the Buckeyes with 66 tackles.

"He is just the true, humble guy who does the job and doesn't need all the media attention," defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said.

Ohio State gets

taken to school

There has been a lot of talk about how a true playoff in college football would force players to miss too much school.

The decision to bump the BCS title game back to Jan. 8 contradicts that argument.

The Buckeyes will miss almost a week of classes while they are in Phoenix preparing for Monday's national title game.

Classes for Winter Quarter at Ohio State began Wednesday. Ohio State brought academic advisors to Phoenix to help the players keep up with the start of classes.

"Our kids have done a lot of e-mailing to professors for syllabi and so forth and whatnot," coach Jim Tressel said. "We're not going to come out here and have 18 hours of study hall a day and so forth. But we have an academic plan and I think it will be good."

Florida, meanwhile, is in a different situation. Classes at UF don't resume until Monday.

Are these Gators

the 2002 Buckeyes?

There are obvious similarities between this year's Florida team and the 2002 national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

Like the Gators, the Buckeyes entered the '02 title game against Miami as underdogs. The Buckeyes were guided by a second-year coach, as Florida is this season. The game was also played in Phoenix.

"I think there are a lot of similarities on the surface," Buckeyes offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "That's just facts you can draw up and have a conversation from. But football teams are individual football teams."

The Buckeyes went on to beat No. 1 Miami, 31-24, in double overtime.

Contact Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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