Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Triple threats: Devin Smith
By Austin Ward
Everybody is chasing the elite recruits, and championships aren't usually won unless there's a pretty impressive constellation of four- and five-star athletes on a roster.
But those guys also aren't typically solely responsible for taking a program to the next level, and it can often come down to which coaching staffs properly identify and develop the players without as much buzz coming out of high school -- or the ones intent on proving those doubts wrong at the next level.
BuckeyeNation is looking at five of those players on the Ohio State roster who will be key to making a title run, all of them capable of outplaying that three-star label.
Wide receiver Devin Smith was a three-star recruit who is playing at a higher level.
Who: What he might have lacked in terms of consistency as a sophomore, Smith definitely made up for with his explosiveness and some timely production when Ohio State needed it most. The speedy, bouncy wide receiver put several more plays on a highlight reel that is swelling, starting with his jaw-dropping, one-handed snatch out of the air in the season opener and continuing with a couple more game-winning grabs from Braxton Miller that built on the early success the pair had as freshmen. Smith still might not be a finished product, but he's the best deep threat on the roster and has tremendous upside thanks to his natural athleticism.
Then: There was plenty to like as Smith prepared to make the jump from Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, as his physical tools have always been pretty tough to miss. There were even hints in his scouting report back then about his "sneaky second gear" that allowed him to pull away from defenders on balls thrown deep down the field, and to this point that's effectively become his calling card thanks to great timing and chemistry with Miller when the Buckeyes attack vertically in the passing game. He definitely hasn't disappointed Ohio State so far as he continues to build on the experience from his first two seasons, and it's clear there's more potential waiting for him to tap.
They said it: "Smith is a prospect that really grows on you the more you watch him and you begin to realize that he is a hybrid possession/big-play receiver that is deceptively fast and possesses very good measurables. ... Smith is still a bit green as a short and intermediate route-runner, but when he catches the ball he shows deceptive quickness and top-end speed. We are not saying he is a burner, but he does play fast for his size. Smith is a quality prospect with size and redeeming qualities as a pass catcher." -- RecruitingNation in 2011
Now: Smith doesn't exactly have to be the No. 1 target and pile up receptions for the offense to keep lighting up the scoreboard the way it did a year ago, particularly with the majority of pieces from a relentless rushing attack returning and senior Corey "Philly" Brown back after leading the team in receptions. But there's little doubt that if Smith can make an already high-powered attack more dangerous if he takes another step forward heading into next season. At the top of the list of things to work on as he made the adjustment to the next level was developing his route-running skills on short and intermediate routes, and just as when he signed with the program, that figures to be the area where he can make the biggest strides and become a truly dangerous threat in the spread offense.