February 2, 2013 11:04:53 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University is one step closer to getting another year out of veteran offensive lineman Tobias Smith.
MSU football spokesperson Joe Galbraith confirmed on Twitter that the NCAA Enforcement staff in December granted a sixth year of eligibility to Smith, a Columbus native, before MSU took the field against Northwestern University for the 2013 Gator Bowl on New Year's Day in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Tobias Smith was granted a sixth year by the NCAA back in December," Galbraith tweeted on his @joestate account. "He has not made a final decision about playing next year."
Smith told The Dispatch he would apply for a sixth year of eligibility via a medical waiver after a 28-10 victory against Auburn University last September.
Smith has had at least four surgeries in his career with injuries ranging from his shoulder, ankles, and knee.
Smith played in 10 games (nine starts) at right guard in 2012, but he split time with redshirt freshman Justin Malone. Smith was still recovering from rehabilitation from a knee injury he suffered in a 19-6 home loss to LSU on Sept. 15, 2011, in Starkville. The injury included partial tears of the anterior, medial, and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.
"I wish I had another opportunity to play," Smith said Dec. 30 at the Gator Bowl media conference. "I just might, so we'll see what happens."
When Smith gave that quote, it is presumed by Friday's confirmation that he knew of the NCAA's decision, but neither party made the announcement official until ESPN.com reporter Chris Low reported Friday the NCAA had granted Smith a sixth year.
If Smith returns, MSU would have every offensive lineman back who started a game last season.
The issue for Smith is whether he wants to put his body through another season after playing in only 28 of 51 games in his career (13 starts). Smith was ranked as the No. 34 offensive guard prospect in the country by Rivals.com while at Columbus High School. He could be one of two players left on the roster (punter Baker Swedenburg) recruited by former MSU coach Sylvester Croom
"I haven't even really thought about it yet," Smith said Dec. 29, 2012, of his decision to return to MSU. "It hasn't even hit me yet I'm a senior and I've graduated. There's a lot going on."