For Preston Smith the countdown has long been underway. The 2011 Mississippi State signee and Stone Mountain, Ga., native is anxiously awaiting his arrival in Starkville this summer and it can't get here quick enough for the defensive end prospect.
"I am starting to get real anxious to get down there," said Smith. "I am just staying on top of my grades and working with our strength and conditioning coach. I am making sure I am in great shape because I don't want to be in the back when I start running at Mississippi State."
The 6-foot-6 and 235-pound Smith is also staying in touch with his future coaches in Starkville. And this weekend, Smith plans to take another trip to Starkville to see his future teammates in action.
"I talk to their coaches and they check in with me to make sure I am preparing to get there," said Smith. "They make sure I am staying on top of my grades and I am pretty close to reaching everything I need to do. I just have to finish up well and I only lack a point on the ACT. And I am looking to take the ACT this weekend at State so I can also be down there for their spring game. Just two more months now and I will be working with the Bulldogs and I can't wait."
During his school work and weight room sessions, Smith is also preparing his game for the next level and focusing on his improvements on the edge of the D-line.
"Late in the basketball season, I got a tooth knocked out and I didn't play after that," said Smith, who had 68 tackles with 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks last year for Stephenson High School. "Since then I have just been focused on footballl. I am 235 pounds right now but I am trying to get to 240 before I get to Mississippi State. I want to add that weight but also make sure I still move good.
"And I believe my speed and lateral quickness have both gotten better. I am also working on my hand techniques and my bull rush and making sure my punch off the line is good."
As far as his first year at the collegiate level, Smith owns high expectations and wants to aid the Bulldog defense in the fall.
"I just expect to come in and work hard," said Smith. "That's what I have to do to earn some playing time. I know everyone wants to come in right away and start. But my first step is to come in and get a good feel of the program and get in the playbook. Sure I want to start next year and I won't let anything stand in the way of that. But I know I have to get caught up with the speed of the game and learn everything first.
"My other goal is to make sure my teammates are working hard. I know they will push me and I want to push them, too. They won't let me slack off and not play to the best of my ability and I know I will do the same for them."