Friday, January 11, 2013
Record resolutions: High bar for Smith
By Austin Ward
Ohio State hardly needs motivation thanks to the chip on its shoulder already firmly in place after sitting out the postseason with a perfect record. But just in case any players required any extra fuel heading into workouts or wanted a little help putting together some goals, BuckeyeNation is here to lend a hand with some records that could be in reach with another productive offseason.
What's next for wide receiver Devin Smith? His speed and hands led to a breakout sophomore season.
AVERAGE YARDS PER CATCH
Who owns it: What Cedric Anderson might have lacked in terms of total catches, he more than made up for by turning seemingly each and every one of them into huge gains for the Buckeyes. The big-play threat averaged a staggering 27.6 yards per reception in 1982, and that mark has rarely been seriously challenged in a category that requires at least 20 grabs just to qualify. Brian Hartline came closest with a productive season in 2008, but even his 22.8-yard average came up well short of taking over the top spot.
Who wants it: The bar is obviously set pretty high, but that's also exactly how the freakishly athletic Devin Smith likes it. He's put his ability to get behind coverage and rack up huge gains on display a handful of times already though two seasons with the Buckeyes, and he and quarterback Braxton Miller seem to have developed a lot of trust that has produced some massive plays in critical moments thanks to the unique talents both bring to the spread offense. Both of them, though, still have strides to be made that could lead to even bigger things down the road for the Ohio State passing attack.
Relevant number: Smith already broke into the single-season top-10 list with his breakout sophomore campaign, checking in at No. 6 in school history with his 20.6-yard average while helping the Buckeyes go undefeated. It was his knack for turning bombs into points that helped make him so invaluable to Miller, as the two hooked up four times for touchdowns that covered at least 46 yards -- three of them going for more than 60 as he established himself as a threat to find the end zone from anywhere on the field.
Offseason checklist: Consistency remains the top priority for Smith, and it wasn't difficult to see where he could improve heading into his junior campaign. While he turned heads with his ability to fill the highlight reels by coming down with some ridiculously difficult throws, at times he also caused them to drop for the Ohio State coaching staff when relatively easy completions would hit the turf. If Smith develops a more reliable set of hands over the offseason and continues to show improvement as a route-runner that's already been on display, more large numbers could be on the way as the passing attack tries to catch up with the powerful rushing game.
Attainable goal: There's a reason Anderson's record has stood so long and by such a wide margin, since passing attacks have evolved well beyond using the occasional deep bomb to complement a ground game and coverage schemes in the secondary have become increasingly more complex along the way to keep up. And if Smith becomes the more complete receiver the Buckeyes are expecting him to be, he figures to be running more short and intermediate routes as his game expands, something that was starting to happen by the end of his sophomore year. But one thing doesn't figure to change -- Smith can sneak behind a secondary at any moment, and he's not going to get caught if Miller can find his favorite deep threat down the field.