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Buckeyes' Smith named AP Player of the Year

NEW YORK -- The old Troy Smith was at his best on the run.
The new and improved version can sit in the pocket all day and pick
apart defenses with his arm.

Smith's evolution from running quarterback to precise passer
made No. 1 Ohio State all but unstoppable this season -- and helped
him win The Associated Press Player of the Year honor announced
Tuesday.

"I am a quarterback," Smith said, "through and through."

There's no doubt about that anymore. In fact, he might be the
best to ever play at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes' senior won the AP award about as easily as he won
the Heisman Trophy, drawing 59 of 65 first-place votes.

Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden and Hawaii quarterback Colt
Brennan tied for a distant second, each receiving two votes from
the AP poll voters. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and West
Virginia tailback Steve Slaton each got one vote.

Smith will wrap up his college career against Florida on Jan. 8
in the Tostitos BCS National Championship. He'll try to lead Ohio State (12-0)
to its fifth title and first since 2002, the year he arrived on
campus in Columbus as part of a heralded recruiting class.

Smith was the last player signed by the Buckeyes that year,
recruited more for his speed and strength than his passing ability.
Coach Jim Tressel never promised him he'd play quarterback in
college.

But Smith was determined and now it's hard to believe there was
ever a doubt about whether he could consistently win games with his
passing.

"He's gone to work on understanding the game and working on his
feet and working on his set depth," Tressel said recently. "All
of those type of things -- pre-snap reads, post-snap reads. He's
just methodically gotten better every day that he's been here.
Watching him in practice today, he was working like a son of a gun
trying to get better today. It's fun to watch."

When Smith first got a chance to lead the Buckeyes in 2004, it
was his ability to improvise and turn a broken play into a positive
one that sparked the Ohio State offense.

In 2005, the Buckeyes implemented a lot of spread-option plays
to take advantage of Smith's elusiveness.

The past two seasons, Smith ran 218 times for 950 yards and 13
touchdowns, while completing a more-than-solid 60 percent of his
passes.

This season, Smith has run only 62 times for 233 yards and a TD,
while completing 67 percent of his throws.

Smith said it's all about preparation and trusting your
teammates.

"Everything would have to be credited to my offensive staff, my
offensive line, the trust in my offensive line, my receivers doing
a great job catching the ball and making plays after they catch the
ball, the tailbacks doing a great job in pass protection and then
when they get a chance to catch it, making things happen," Smith
said. "That's how I developed."

After throwing 24 touchdown passes and seven interceptions in
his first two seasons, he threw 30 TDs and only five picks in 2006.

"I hate throwing interceptions," he said. "That's my pet
peeve. The person who intercepts it, I want to hit them so hard
because I want the ball back.

"Then, once you watch it on film, you see something you could
have done better. You know when the play is coming and you rewind
it. Every time you watch it, you hope it turns out different."

Smith has one of the best set of receivers in the country at his
disposal with Ted Ginn Jr. as the top deep threat, Anthony Gonzalez
working the middle of the field and Brian Robiskie and Roy Hall
providing high-quality depth.

Tight ends Brian Hartline and Rory Nicol have also gotten into
the act, as Smith has masterfully spread the ball around and kept
opponents guessing where he will go next.

In his virtuoso performance against No. 2 Michigan to wrap up
Ohio State's perfect regular season, Smith passed for 316 yards and
four touchdowns, one to each wide receiver, in a 42-39 victory.

"We've got some guys, if we can get them the ball, are a little
faster than Troy," Tressel said. "We love it when he runs and all
that stuff, but we like it when Teddy runs with the ball and
[tailback] Antonio Pittman and Anthony Gonzalez and Brian Robiskie
and Brian Hartline and Rory Nicol, and [tailbacks] Mo Wells and
Chris Wells. And [Smith] does a nice job of distributing that ball
around to a lot of different people."

By learning to make everybody around him better, Smith made
himself the best.