COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Toledo's Smith leads defense into Swamp


Published: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.

Much of the talk about Toledo heading into its season-opening matchup at Florida has centered around its high-powered offense.

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Toledo defensive end Christian Smith, right, celebrates after a teammate made an interception against Ball State last season. Smith only played in five games in 2012. (The Associated Press)

But senior defensive end Christian Smith is eager to prove the Rockets can play a little defense as well. Smith will try to lead a young defense with eight new starters this afternoon when the Rockets face the Gators at The Swamp.

Smith, who played five games last season before a season-ending knee injury, used the spring and summer to get some of the new starters on defense under his wing.

“I’ve been a student of the game,” Smith said. “I just tried to help them out as much as I could and be a coach to them throughout the summer when our coaches couldn’t be here. I just tried to continue that into fall camp.”

In 31 games (14 starts), Smith has recorded three career sacks and 10 career tackles for loss. Smith said the key to Toledo’s success on defense will be finding a way to contain Florida starting quarterback Jeff Driskel.

“We have to contain him,” Smith said. “He’s a great athlete, a great quarterback, pretty explosive out of the pocket so we just have to try to keep him in the pocket, make him throw the ball, just get a little bit of pressure on him.”

Smith said he feels confident that Toledo won’t be awestruck by the crowd or UF’s offense. He thinks facing Toledo’s offense, led by all-MAC quarterback candidate Terrance Owens, speedy slot receiver Bernard Reedy (from Lakewood High in St. Petersburg) and standout senior running back David Fluellen, has served as a good enough tuneup for Saturday’s opener.

“Towards the end of camp, we get tired of going against our offense every day but our offense is a great offense, one of the best in the country,” Smith said. “So I feel like going against them helps us prepare for any team.

“I think we have a lot of people that can compete at a high level, just like Florida.”

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