<
>

Junior expects to go in first round

1/4/2005 - Utah Utes

SALT LAKE CITY -- Heisman Trophy finalist Alex Smith will
announce Tuesday whether he's leaving Utah a year early for the NFL
draft.

Smith went 21-1 as Utah's starting quarterback and led the Utes
to a 12-0 season that culminated with his four passing touchdowns
in a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. He has said he'd enter
the NFL if he felt his draft status was good enough.

After this season, it's not likely to get any better.

A news conference with Smith and coach Kyle Whittingham was
scheduled for Tuesday morning. Both Smith and Whittingham did not
return repeated messages seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Two Salt Lake City news outlets reported Monday that Smith would
skip his senior season and make himself available for the April
draft.

Smith was Utah's first Heisman Trophy finalist, leading the Utes
to an 11-0 regular season and the Fiesta Bowl berth. Before
Saturday's win, he had completed two-thirds of his passes while
throwing for 28 touchdowns and four interceptions.

He capped the season by completing 29 of 37 passes for 328 yards
and four touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl.

"Can I improve myself that much? Can I get better over the
year? Can I help my stock? That's kind of what this is going to
come down to," Smith said last week. "Would it be better for me
to leave now? Those are the things that are going to have to get
weighed."

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Smith has a strong arm but may have to
answer skeptics who question whether his thin build can stand up to
the NFL.

Smith's departure would leave the Utes in the hands of Brian
Johnson, a freshman who's played very little as Smith's backup.

Steve Savoy, Utah's second-leading receiver with 60 catches for
891 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns, is also considering
leaving early.