Buckeyes not giving up on Smith

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Last updated: 10/16/2012 4:39 AM

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Football
Buckeyes Not Giving Up on Rod Smith
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has a simple solution for how to handle Rod Smith this week after he coughed up the football against Indiana in the third quarter of Ohio State’s 52-49 win in Bloomington.

Rod Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Rod Smith

“Keep coaching him hard,” Meyer said Monday during his weekly press luncheon.

“He also had a bad penalty on a punt return – bad penalty – but he's going as hard as he can and we can coach through that.”

In other words, they are not giving up on the 6-3, 228-pound back out Fort Wayne, Ind., despite the fact he still can’t find a way to keep that football pressed against his chest after nearly three years in the program.

That was a non-contact fumble. It’s just a matter of him securing the ball after the mesh,” OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton said Monday.

“He got his eyes real big because he saw something opening up and got excited because he was about to hit it, but you can’t hit it without the football.”

Therein lies the paradox facing Drayton and the Ohio State coaching staff when it comes to Smith, who is starting to look like one of he more explosive offensive weapons Meyer has at his disposal on this current OSU football team.

There were a couple times in the game Saturday, before he put the ball on the ground in the second half, where it looked like Smith was going to pop through and take one the distance.

Rod Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Rod Smith

The Indiana native averaged nearly seven yards per carry against the Hoosiers and also had a 33-yard kick return that set up Braxton Miller’s immediate 67-yard touchdown sprint on the ensuing play.

“He’s got good confidence going on right now. He’s improved a lot,” said Drayton, who moved over from coaching the receivers last season back to the running backs, where he was under Meyer at Florida.

“He’s a physical runner, he has great vision and feet. He’s a very talented running back and I think he’s in the right place right now. He’s having success on special teams and the last thing you want to do is diminish the confidence he’s developed to this point.”

That’s the risk this coaching staff runs if they decide to teach Smith a lesson about ball-security. It’s a huge part of Meyer’s ‘Plan to Win,’ but so is giving a relentless effort every time you’re on the field.

“We say 4 to 6 seconds,” Meyer said, quoting one of his favorite slogans. 

“If you go 4 to 6, that is the coaches job to get his wrist above the elbow and be tighter with the ball. But if you're giving us everything you've got, which Rod Smith is right now.

“It's the ones that don't go hard. I don't know what to say to you. We don't say go harder.  You should have learned that by now.”

It certainly took Smith long enough to figure it out. Even with the foot injury to Jordan Hall early in the season, Smith was third on the depth chart at running back behind Carlos Hyde and true freshman Bri’onte Dunn.

Hyde is clearly the bell cow of the OSU rushing attack right now, at least when the ball isn’t in the hands of the quarterback – who also happened to be the guy who recovered Rod Smith’s fumble on Saturday.

With Hall now sidelined by a knee injury, Hyde has racked up over 320 yards of offense and six touchdowns the last two weeks.

“Jordan is jogging now, but he's not healing well,” Meyer said Monday.

“But Carlos won't be removed from tailback.”

Hyde has 52 carries the last two weeks, compared to just eight for Smith, but the backup has racked up nearly 80 yards and a touchdown in his limited role since Hall was injured in the game against Michigan State.

It seems like Smith is their best option at kick return after watching him the last two games, but there is a high-risk, high-reward factor to giving him the football. Smith has carried the ball a total of 49 times in his OSU career, and he has coughed it up four times, including twice this season and twice last year.

“It’s just a matter of him focusing on those finite detail things,” Drayton added.

“It’s just a matter of him fundamentally becoming more disciplined.”

If he can do that, Smith could be looking at a huge opportunity to prove what he can do heading into the final two years of his collegiate career.

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