HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Southern Miss senior running back Ito Smith has gained recognition on the preseason watchlist for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the top player in college football.
The Mobile, Ala., native finished fourth in C-USA last season with 112.2 rush yards per game. His 2016 campaign began with the biggest game of his career, a 36-carry, 173-yard onslaught that helped Southern Miss to a major comeback and 44-35 win at Kentucky.
The following week, Smith bolted for a career-long 86-yard touchdown run against Savannah State that broke the M.M. Roberts Stadium record. He also added a 70-yard score in the rain the next week versus Troy to help him to his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game. That pattern remained true in the final three games of the season, as Smith upped his rushing output in each game (113 at North Texas, 127 vs. LA Tech, 138 vs. ULL).
Smith finished the season three touchdowns shy of the Southern Miss single-season record (Sammy Winder's 20 in 1980) and No. 3 in all-time purpose yards (4,629). He has scored either by ground or air in 17 of his last 18 games.
The Golden Eagles kick off the 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Kentucky at 3 p.m. Season tickets can be purchased by visiting SouthernMissTickets.com, the Pat Ferlise Center on campus during normal business hours, or calling 1-800-844-TICK.