As the Virginia football team's first five-star recruit in eight years, running back Taquan 'Smoke' Mizzell was surrounded by high expectations in his freshman season. He played in 10 games, but finished with just 184 yards on 45 carries.
"After my freshman year, it didn't go as I wanted it to or planned it to go due to injuries and other stuff," Mizzell said. "Right after my freshman year, I decided I want to get better now. Track season was happening now so I just thought it would be a great idea."
"That says a lot about him as a young man," UVa track coach Bryan Fezter says of Mizzell's decision to join the Cavaliers' track team. "He could just be going through a regular offseason of football. Not only is he going through a regular offseason of football, but he's also going through track practice."
Mizzell ran track in his senior year of high school, and when the opportunity came to join the UVa team, he saw a chance to improve his technique and get faster.
"I had to work on just about everything, between my arms, my legs, just about everything," he says.
"He's really learning how to accelerate, which should transfer over from how he gets from his stance to the hole and in the open field," added Fetzer.
The start of football season is still more than six months away, but when he takes the field, Smoke expects to be more elusive and harder to tackle than ever before.
"Well I got better so I'm going to say it's going to be pretty hard, because I've been working. I'm not the same person as I was in high school, I'm not the same person I was my freshman year. I feel faster, I feel quicker, I feel stronger. Everything just feels better all the way around the board."