- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Wearing a plain white T-shirt, a Dodgers cap tilted high, some shorts and a pair of Nike running shoes, Tyron Smith certainly didn’t look like a golfer when he took the course Wednesday.
But the 21-year-old sure looks like a prototypical left tackle with a chiseled 6-foot-5, 311-pound frame that features long arms and paws that look like catcher’s mitts.
Smith will get the chance to prove he can perform at the most important position on the offensive line in his second NFL season. He is spending the offseason preparing to flip sides with Doug Free and play left tackle, something he hasn’t done on a regular basis since high school.
“I’ve always prepared for it, switching sides, working on both stances every day,” Smith said at the Cowboys’ annual golf outing. “It’s just all about knowing what’s happening on the other side and knowing what you have to do.”
It isn’t as if right tackle is an easy position in the NFL, especially in the NFC East. Smith matched up with some pretty good pass-rushers as a rookie, including the Eagles’ Jason Babin, the Giants’ Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, and the Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan. However, the premier pass-rushers tend to come from the quarterback’s blind side.
That’s why the Cowboys essentially gave Smith a promotion after he was their best offensive lineman as a rookie who was too young to buy beer.
“Of course they have high expectations for me,” said Smith, the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft. “I have to do my best not to let my team down.”
The coaches anticipate the step up in competition will be a challenge. They also understand Smith will be learning the intricacies of a new position on the fly. But the standards are high due to Smith’s mixture of freakish talent and terrific work ethic.
“The stance is different. Just the angles of things will be a little bit different for him, but he’s a very good athlete,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a serious, conscientious guy, so he works very hard at it. He’s one of those young guys who go about it the right way, he has the right approach and he has ability, so you see him grow really on a daily basis. It’s fun to see him out on the practice field now.”
Smith fits in much better on the practice field than the golf course.