September 17, 2012

Ithaca QB on the Spartan radar

One of the most successful football programs in Michigan the past few seasons has been the Ithaca Yellowjackets. One of the reasons has been the outstanding quarterback play. Travis Smith is carrying on that tradition and looking to take his talents to the next level.

Under teh direction of Head Coach Terry Hessbrook the Ithaca Yellowjackets have now won 31 straight football games dating back to 2009. They are the two time defending state champions in Division 6 and hope to make it a three in a row this fall. So far this season they are 4-0 and have outscored the opposition 211-20.

Last fall Smith, in his first year as a starter, threw for 2378-yards and 23 TD's and only 3 INT's. He also rushed for 969-yards and 25 touchdowns. On the season he had over 3300 total yards and accounted for 49 touchdowns. He was an All-League, All-State and LSJ Dream Team selection.

Smith took over the quarterback duties for Central Michigan commitment Alex Niznak, and the offense has not missed a beat. We asked Smith how his season is going so far and his current height and weight.

"I am 6-foot-2 and 200-pounds," he said. "I am pretty sure I have around 800 yards passing and 300 yards rushing. I have a total of 18 touchdowns."

Smith has been at both Spartan home games this fall and he was also at the Central Michigan game in Mt. Pleasant. We asked him about his recruitment so far.

"The school that is giving me the most attention right now is Central Michigan," Smith said. "I have talked to Coach Warner from Michigan State a few times this summer and fall. I have gotten letters from Northwestern, Tennessee, Syracuse, Cincinnati, and a few other MAC schools about visiting there campus and going to their games."

Smith is an extremely athletic quarterback, but he does not want to be viewed as simply as a runner or a product of a system. For that reason, he has been working hard on improving his passing skills. He has done that with several people that Spartans fans know well.

"I train with Ryan Van Dyke who was a former quarterback at Michigan State," Smith said. "I have also worked out with Drew Stanton and Jeff Smoker. Alex Niznak is a friend at Central Michigan. I have talked to Andrew Maxwell about working out, but we have never got to because of his busy schedule."

One of the nice things about in-state quarterbacks is that many of them have trained with each other. Smith learned a lot from working with Alex Niznak during his freshmen season. Niznak was able to train and learn from former Spartan Kirk Cousins. Smith does not have far to look to pass his knowledge on as his younger brother is a freshmen quarterback at Ithaca this year.

It is still early in the recruiting process for Smith and he is one of about half a dozen quarterbacks that the Michigan State staff is taking a close look at for the class of 2014. One of the things he has going for him is that the Spartan coaches do not have to travel far to see him in action. A short ride up 127 is all it takes to see him in action. will be sure to follow Smith's recruitment as it progresses over the coming months. Take: followed Alex Niznak's recruitment very closely, and at this point in time we like Smith's throwing motion much better than Niznak's. What Niznak had going for him is he was a legit 6-foot-3, 227-pounds with 4.6 speed. We saw Niznak as a low risk recruit for Michigan State due to the fact that if quarterback did not workout he could easily transition to fullback, tight end or even linebacker.

Smith does not have the size or power of Niznak, but he has a quicker release and he is very savvy in the pocket. The best comparison we can think of at this point is he reminds us of a Dan Persa type. It will be interesting to see how much Northwestern get involved.

Michigan State seems intent on improving the athleticism at the quarterback position as well and that may bode well for Smith as far as moving up the Spartan recruiting board.

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