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May 7, 2009
Mississippi State's offensive line was dealt a blow before the 2008 season even began when true freshman offensive guard Tobias Smith was lost for the year in the team's first scrimmage.
Smith suffered a severe ankle sprain that required season-ending surgery but was back on the practice field and even running with the first unit at left guard this spring.
"I had to knock off a little bit of rust," Smith said. "It was hard at first but as spring went on I became back to normal. It wasn't until February when I started feeling like I was fully healed. It took a long time for me to heal, I don't know what was the reason. It took me a while to get back to where I can be a football player again."
The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder thought he would be able to come back last season when x-rays on his injured ankle came back negative. But once the swelling went down and further tests were performed, it was determined that he would not see action during his freshman campaign.
"I was thinking I would be able to come back and play," Smith said. "They told me at first that I would be able to come back and play by the LSU game, the fifth game of the season. But they told me after that I was going to have season-ending surgery and I was kind of down after that."
But his spirits soon improved once he was given the OK to begin rehabbing and was ready to go when the Bulldogs began spring practice.
"Rehabbing is a very important part of football," Smith said. "Even if you are not hurt, you should do something to keep yourself in top condition."
Conditioning has been a concern at times for Smith, who ballooned up to 328 pounds before last season. But thanks to the new strength and conditioning program headed up by Matt Balis and also a healthy diet, Smith had dropped 18 pounds entering spring practice despite being out more than seven months.
"When I came here I was a little heavy still," Smith said. "But since these coaches have been here I've been working and eating right. We've got a good nutrition program now and it's helped me. I can move better now and it aided me in being part of the offense."
Smith did not participate in many practices with former head coach Sylvester Croom's staff, but he could tell a difference when Dan Mullen took over at the helm this spring.
"It's more energy and enthusiasm," Smith said. "It's a different approach to the game."
Croom was never high on praising underclassmen, especially freshmen. But Smith was the exception last season earning high praise from Croom during fall camp.
"It definitely boosted my confidence to come in as a true freshman and get that high praise from a coach," Smith said. "That's always good to know that you can be trusted by coach being such a young guy."
The former three-star signee out of Columbus, Miss., is hoping to build on last year's experience and turn it into a starting role during the upcoming season. He already has several portions of his game he plans on improving during the offseason.
"I'm going to be working on getting faster lateral movement," Smith said. "I want to learn how to play low and play with better leverage."
Smith was rated 34th best guard in the country in the class of 2008 and was the No. 9 prospect in the state of Mississippi. He was also selected to participate in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic following his senior year with the Falcons.