EUGENE Ñ If anybody doubted what Onterrio Smith would do after his junior season, just know that the former University of Oregon running back signed with IMG Football hours after the Seattle Bowl on Dec. 30.
Ten days later, coach Mike Bellotti officially announced Smith's decision.
Now, with IMG firmly in his corner, some money in his pocket and another 16 pounds on his frame, Smith awaits the NFL draft, April 26-27.
The two-time 1,000-yard rusher has been working out at IMG's multimillion-dollar football facility in Bradenton, Fla., with 13 other rookies-to-be. Seven could be first-round picks, including Smith, although he won't count on it.
Smith did not work out at the NFL combine in Indianapolis two months ago, but he performed for several scouts here Tuesday. One from the AFC East emerged from the workout Ñ which included 40-yard dashes, agility runs and weight lifting Ñ and observed:
'He ran about as well as I thought he would ÑÊhis (40-yard dash) times were in the 4.4-4.5 range. He's an explosive guy, but he might be carrying too much weight right now. The big question with him around the league is his hands. And he answered a lot of questions today. He did a good job, he didn't drop too many balls. You're trying to gauge how he can catch the football, how he adjusts and if it's natural to him.'
The scout backed off predicting Smith will go in the first round, saying, 'There are still some concerns about his off-field behavior,' referring to transgressions involving marijuana, alcohol, driving and domestic issues.
Smith's agent, IMG's Darrell Wills, calls him the best running back in the draft, especially with Miami's Willis McGahee coming off knee surgery. The agency represents the top two backs taken the past two years, LaDainian Tomlinson and William Green.
The 5-11 Smith's combine weight of 220 pounds, up 16 from his 2002 playing weight, 'shocked' people, Wills says.
Smith thinks the added weight will be a plus in the NFL, adding that on Tuesday, 'I felt myself moving well on the routes, and I wasn't even running the routes full speed. I felt excellent with the shiftiness, the stop-and-gos on the three-cone drills, the 5-10-5 (yardage dashes) and with my 40, I felt blazing.'