University of Tulsa junior quarterback Paul Smith has been very impressive in his young career with the Golden Hurricane. After making crunch-time plays as a true freshman and leading TU to the Liberty Bowl as a red-shirt sophomore, the Owasso High School product is hoping for a repeat performance of the 2005 season, which would mean another Conference USA championship run.
"As imagined, I'd love a repeat," Smith said in a late July interview. "I hope to get better personally and as a team."
Last year, the 6-foot-2 and 193-pound field general completed 62-percent of his passes for 2,847 yards, 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He ranked second in Conference USA and 24th nationally in passing efficiency, which is one area that Smith is focused on for the upcoming season.
"One goal that I've kind of set for myself -- and hopefully I can achieve it, as I've always been one to aim big -- is that I truly believe that every game that I don't turn the ball over, we will win," he explained. "We can have some turnovers as an offense, that's going to come throughout the season. But every game that I don't fumble myself or throw an interception, we'll win. That's the pressure I'm putting on myself."
And Smith knows all about pressure. During a critical Western Athletic Conference game at San Jose State as a true freshman, he played three quarters for the injured James Kilian, completing 10-of-17 passes for 166 yards. Smith led Tulsa to four scores and a win that propelled them toward their first bowl game in 12 years.
That type of poise in the pocket is what helps Smith keep his confidence after making mistakes.
"If I do throw a pick on the first play of the first game, I'm not going to turn it all in," he described. "But, I truly believe our defense is good enough, and we have enough athletes on offense, that if I -- to use the old cliché -- just get the ball in the hands of the playmakers, we'll have a great chance of winning every game we play."
Bright things are ahead for the Hurricane's offensive leader, who ranked 37th in the nation for points responsible for and 40th in total offense last year. He enters the 2006 season needing just 320 yards to move into 10th place on the school's career passing chart, and he was named to the Blue Ribbon College Yearbook first-team all-conference squad and was also picked as their C-USA Offensive Player of the Year.
"Paul is very consistent in his leadership, first of all," said TU Recruiting Coordinator Matt Wells, who recruited Smith. "He is a hard worker, he studies the game, and he is a solid Christian. He's a tough kid -- our team, the defense included, respects that about him tremendously."
Smith earned the respect of his opponents, as well, last season, and expect him to do the same in 2006.
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