Much Improved: Smith part of new-look Trojan backfield in 2018

Published 7:27 pm Monday, August 13, 2018

BJ Smith entered his sophomore season a year ago third on the depth chart behind staples Jordan Chunn and Josh Anderson.

With Chunn now in the NFL and Anderson having graduated, Smith is tasked as being one of the go-to backs in Troy’s new-look offense.

Chunn and Anderson rushed for a total of 1,218 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2017, but with those two backs now gone, Smith feels like it’s his turn.

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“They got the load last year,” Smith said. “We are still finding our new back this year. We are not going to have that same leading rusher from last year; we know that. The coaches do a good job of putting the good player out there.”

Smith got into 12 of the 13 games last season. He was fifth on the team in rushing with 101 yards on 27 carries, good enough for a 3.7-yard average. He also rushed for two touchdowns.

Smith came into spring practice as the number one running back on the depth chart ahead of backs Jabir Daughtry-Frye and Jamarius Henderson.

By the end of camp, Smith was looked at as one of the most improved players on the roster according to head coach Neal Brown. His production from the spring carried over to Troy’s scrimmage on Saturday.

“BJ Smith may be our most improved football player from spring practice until now,” Brown said. “We gave him a couple carries today (Saturday). One was a really nice run on a third down play, he made a guy miss and got vertical. He is a guy that I trust. He is consistent in every aspect of his life; in football and outside of football. I know what we are going to get out of him. He has gotten more explosive over the last four or five months.”

Brown’s compliment is a testament to how much work Smith has put into his craft. It’s hard work that each running back strives for every day in practice.

“Every day we are out there working with each other and against each other,” Smith said. “We are working to make each other better. At the end of the day, we are pulling the rope in the same direction.”

The attention will be on Smith, Frye and Henderson this season, but Smith believes redshirt freshman DK Billingsley will be someone to keep an eye on.

“In my eyes, he really has made some great strides since the spring,” Smith said. “We have a lot of guys that have great potential. We just have to put it all together. I think once we do, we will be pretty good.”

Smith and his fellow running backs are gearing up for the season opener against Boise State on September 1 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. It will be a rematch of last year’s season opener that Troy lost 24-13 in Boise.

“At the end of the day we just have to compete,” Smith said. “Once we compete, then we can work on the things that running backs have to do like picking up blocks. We just have to go out there and compete.”