After sitting out the first two games of the season after violating team rules, offensive tackle Phil Smith was back in action against Kansas starting at right tackle for the Jackets. Smith's first play of the season was throwing a block on a 95-yard touchdown run by Orwin Smith.
"It felt great coming back. I kind of had a feeling that first play would be coming my way and I didn't make a good block, but I got enough of him to get it done. Sometimes that is all you need and I heard the crowd roar and I knew [Orwin] was gone," Smith said. "I knew no one would be there to stop him because we knew how Kansas played on defense and I got up off the ground and started running down field and I bumped into another teammate and we laughed because we were exacting revenge just like we wanted to."
Smith watched the Tech offense light up opponents during the first two games and finally being a part of the offensive outbursts was something he had been dreaming about for months.
"I was so happy to be back. It was hard to practice as long as I did and not play in a game," he said. "It kind of felt like spring ball all over again. It was great to be out there with the team and with the Goon Squad and having some fun with my friends and teammates."
With Ray Beno and Tyler Kidney also battling for playing time, the Tech staff has used a three-man rotation using Smith at both left and right tackle, Beno at left tackle and right guard and Kidney at mostly right tackle. Smith says he doesn't have a preference with left or right tackle, but he does love playing alongside his longtime friend Omoregie Uzzi, the right guard.
"I came in with Uzzi and I feel like we have a great relationship," he said. "I've played with Uzzi for three years and we came into together and we have that gel together on the right side, but Will Jackson [at left guard] is just as easy to play with and they have different styles of play and we practice both sides, so it really doesn't make a difference for me."
Smith, Uzzi, Beno, Kidney, Jackson and center Jay Finch will have their work cut out for them this week as they face a talented North Carolina front seven.
"Their linebackers are fast and big. They remind me of the guys who played last year, Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant," Smith said. "If you look at the film from last year and this year you can just erase the numbers and names because they look exactly the same."