Scott Smith came a long way to play for Texas Tech.
The 6-foot-6, 256-pound defensive end from Kailua, Hawaii, transferred from Butler Community College and arrived in Lubbock last year.
He played in four games and had three sacks, four tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, recovered another and intercepted a pass.
Then Smith was suspended for a full calendar year for a violation of team rules. He returned Saturday against Texas A&M and plans to make up for lost time.
“Shoot, that game right there against A&M was only my fifth Division I football game in my life, and I’m already a fifth-year senior,” Smith said Tuesday. “I believe great things are going to happen to this team. We’re going to keep winning. I really believe that.”
Smith has been more of an observer than a player in his two seasons at Tech. His return to the depth chart adds strength to a defensive line that struggled to pass rush last season.
The Rivals recruiting service listed him as the top-rated junior college defensive end nationally and the fourth-rated player overall.
Even though Smith’s performance Saturday wasn’t stellar, he still recorded Tech’s lone sack, two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.
Coach Tommy Tuberville was glad to have him back and believes Smith’s play will improve after watching the game film.
“Sometimes you got to slow down,” Tuberville said. “You don’t play up the field as much as he played. Just little things. Having him back was great, but not a lot of production.”
Smith wouldn’t give himself an A-plus, either. He said he was anxious and let “the game go to my head.”
“The suspension and being out, it can do that to you.” he said. “It hurt not being able to play in the beginning. I’m not trying to make excuses. I was very anxious, very pumped. I wanted to come right back and start where I left off.”
Smith will try to help a unit that ranks 115th out of 120 FBS schools in rush defense. The Red Raiders also rank 84th with 1.60 sacks per game.
Tech has proven that it can stop the run, though, which it did in the second half against the 24th-ranked Aggies. After allowing 145 rushing yards in the first half, the Red Raiders allowed only 60 in the second of the 45-40 loss.
“When they’re running the ball like that, they have no respect for you,” Smith said. “They watch the film and they pull it up and they say: ‘We’re just going to run the ball. That’s all we got to do to win.’
“We’ve got to get mad. Get our respect back. Because nobody is respecting us right now.”
If the Red Raiders are able to do that, the defensive ends can begin applying pressure to quarterbacks.
And that’s the area where Smith knows he excels.
Middle linebacker Cqulin Hubert knows that, too.
“I love having Scott Smith back,” Hubert said. “He puts a lot more pressure on the quarterback and it makes my job easier.”
Saturday’s meeting with No. 17 Kansas State will give Smith and the defensive line a prime opportunity to show it can stop the run.
The Wildcats have run the ball 247 times against 107 passes. They’ve also outrushed opponents by nearly 600 yards during their 5-0 start.
Smith worked the cobwebs out Saturday and said he hopes to show what he can do during the next seven games.
“When you see the guys playing out there, performing, you want to be a part of it,” Smith said. “But I wasn’t. I paid my dues, and now and I’m back and looking forward to getting better.”
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■ Who: Texas Tech vs. Kansas State
■ When: 6 p.m. Saturday
■ Where: Jones AT&T Stadium
■ Records: Kansas State 5-0, 2-0 in Big 12 Conference; Texas Tech 4-1, 1-1
■ TV: FSN (Suddenlink Cable channel 20)
■ Last game: Kansas State 24, Missouri 17; Texas A&M 45, Texas Tech 40
■ Last meeting: Texas Tech 66, Kansas State 14 in 2009 in Lubbock.
■ Line: Tech by 31/2.