September 18, 2009 7:38:00 AM
Zach Smith knows about the potential of Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith.
The Mississippi State junior safety became familiar with Larry Smith during preparation for the Alabama High School Athletic Association All-Star Game in 2005. They also spent time together attending high school football camps in Alabama and became friends.
Zach played at Susan Moore High School in Altoona, Ala., while Larry Smith prepped at Prattville (Ala.) High.
The two Smiths, who are not related, will meet again when the Bulldogs play the Commodores at 6 p.m. Saturday (FOX SportsNet South) in Nashville, Tenn.
Larry Smith has accounted for 301 yards total offense (241 passing, 60 rushing) for Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference).
Zach can see why Larry is putting up good numbers early in the season and said MSU (1-1, 0-1 SEC) must be prepared to defend him.
"He''s a good kid and a real good quarterback," Zach said. "You can see on film he''s a good runner and could probably play wide receiver just as easily as quarterback. He has a good arm, but sometimes people forget that. We''ll have to control him in the pocket and keep a spy on him."
Larry was a three-year starter at quarterback at Prattville, where he directed the first undefeated season (15-0) in school history and a Class 6A state championship in 2006.
Like former Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson, Smith is a former Mr. Alabama football recipient. He was also a two-time All-State selection.
MSU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush is surprised Smith was allowed to get out of the state of Alabama.
"Vanderbilt got a steal on this one," Torbush said. "He''s one Alabama and Auburn would have been battling for. They didn''t feel like they needed a quarterback and probably wanted him at a different position. Vanderbilt did a good job of recruiting him because he''s a fine football player."
Smith redshirted with the Commodores in 2007 and only played two games last season.
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson likes what he has seen from Smith, but knows his quarterback and his teammates must improve.
Smith will be a running and passing threat in the Commodores'' spread offense.
That offense will test a defense that MSU coach Dan Mullen said needs to improve after it allowed 390 yards rushing and 589 yards last week in a 49-24 loss to Auburn.
"(Auburn) did a couple of things and got us out of position," Mullen said. "As a coaching staff, we can''t allow that to happen our players. We''ve got to have guys there supporting the defense, setting the edge, and making sure we''re playing great against the run."
Johnson said Vanderbilt must be aware of the Bulldogs'' rushing attack, especially against quarterbacks Tyson Lee, of Columbus, and Chris Relf.
Relf leads the Bulldogs with 134 yards on 19 carries, but Johnson also respects Lee''s abilities.
"Tyson Lee killed us by pulling the ball down and running last year (nine carries, 29 yards) and did a good job of keeping drives alive," Johnson said. "We saw Chris Relf run against Auburn last week and did a great job, so I think both of those guys fit in very well with what they try to do."
Smith expected to play
Mullen said Thursday night he expects redshirt freshman offensive guard Tobias Smith, of Columbus, to play Saturday.
Smith, who has been out with torn ligaments in his ankle, didn''t travel to Auburn, but will travel to Vanderbilt.
"He''s fighting back and ready to play a little bit," Mullen said. "He''s got to build his way back into game shape, so I don''t know how much he''ll play, but we expect him to get back on the field."
Mullen said several players are battling cold and flu symptoms, but doesn''t think it will keep any of them from playing.
The MSU Alumni Association and the MSU Foundation and Bulldog Club will play host to a tailgate party and pep rally Saturday in Nashville.
The party will run from 3-5 p.m. at the Cumberland Transit Parking Lot at 2807 West End Ave. The pep rally is scheduled for 4:30.
Sandwiches, chips, and drinks will be sold for $5, while supplies last.