By Corey Long
APOPKA, Fla. — He’s the power guy in one of the most versatile offenses in Florida.
Running back Tom Smith would rather run through a defender than run around him, and luckily he’s skilled enough to do both.
“He can definitely be tough to handle,” South Lake coach Walter Banks said. “He’s a powerful runner, and the offense is so difficult to prepare for that all of them in the backfield can be tough to contain.”
Before the season started, Smith committed to the University of Tennessee over offers from Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Florida Atlantic and Northwestern. At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, he fits the mold of physical Tennessee running backs that run low to the ground. When you look down the line of Tennessee rushers like Reggie Cobb, Jamal Lewis, Shawn Bryson, Travis Henry and Arian Foster, it’s easy to see why Smith would prefer the Volunteers.
“The program has a great history of producing good running backs,” Smith said. “They are the types of running backs that can excel in college and at the next level.”
More than anything, Smith believes the program is headed in the right direction under new coach Derek Dooley and his staff.
“The coaches are great in dealing with the players,” Smith said. “You can see the close relationship there and I just loved everything about the school and the campus. Coach Dooley is bringing in top-notch players, and I can’t wait to join him.”
Smith probably won’t have an opportunity to visit Knoxville for any games this season, but he said he will take his official visit sometime in December.
He finished the game with 108 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries versus South Lake. He did most of his damage in the second half during which the Blue Darters scored 21 points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter to turn a one-point halftime lead into an easy victory.
“All of the credit goes to the offensive line because they make it happen,” Smith said. “I have a lot of faith in myself, Qua [Barnes] and Keon [Brooks], but without our boys up front it wouldn’t look so good.”
While Smith is headed to another 1,000-yard season with double-digit touchdowns, he is hoping for more in his senior year.
“We definitely want to make the playoffs and go a long way,” Smith said. “There are a lot of good teams in Class 6A, and it’s going to be a tough road. But this program has done it before under coach [Rick] Darlington, and we can do it again.”