Smith Earning Myer's Trust

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Last updated: 09/24/2012 2:50 AM

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Once a Can’t-Miss Prospect, Rod Smith Slowly Earning Meyer’s Trust

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn’t one specific carry or even a fancy run. Nobody broke a tackle, stiff-armed a defender into the turf or dove over a pile for a game-winning touchdown.

Rod Smith
Photo by Dan Harker
Rod Smith

In fact, Rod Smith’s defining moment may not have happened on the offensive side of the ball.  

“Rod’s doing a good job. Rod is going to start on punt-block,” Meyer said last week.  

“You don’t just all of a sudden say, ‘Go play tailback.’ That doesn’t happen. You can be on punt block and then we can have a chat about running the football.”

If it was based on past performance, that chat would be brief and extremely one-sided. Smith has always looked like Tarzan – as even running backs coach Stan Drayton pointed out – but he has never lived up to his billing as one of the most talented young running backs to come through the program.

Until now, apparently.

After passing freshman Bri’onte Dunn on the depth chart this past week – which in and of itself says a lot about Smith’s standing with the Buckeyes in his third year in the program – Smith got a chance to carry the rock Saturday against UAB.

“I was proud to see – I can't tell you how he played.  Off the top of my head I can't remember,” Meyer said.

“I think he ran hard and scored on one of them. The other ones were short‑yarders.”

Rod Smith
Photo by Dan Harker
Rod Smith

Smith – a 6-3, 228-pound back from Fort Wayne, Ind. – carried the ball six times for 24 yards and a touchdown in Ohio State’s 29-15 win over the weekend. One of his runs was a shifty run that started inside and bounced outside down near the goal line.

He stiff-armed UAB corner Vashon Landers

He scored from one yard out and nearly piled in for a second touchdown but was brought down just shy of the goal line. He’s got to get across the goal line if he wants to stay in the rotation at running back, but these weren’t charity carries just because Carlos Hyde was missing from the lineup.

“He's earned it,” Meyer said after the game.

“That was not a hit-or-miss and boy I hope this works out. He's done it in practice. And he's earned that right. So there's no reluctance at all to put him there.”

That’s a profound statement considering Smith has fumbled the ball the last couple times he was called on to carry it at an important moment in the game. The most recent came as Ohio State was attempting to run out the clock against UCF two weeks ago, but he also put the ball on the ground early last year when Ohio State was trying to close out Toledo in week two.

He struggled to learn the offense in the spring, but it was his appearance on the punt block team in practice two weeks ago that made Meyer feel like he could trust Smith to handle the ball with Hyde still ailing.

“After you get to know our program a little bit, that’s gigantic,” Meyer said.

“That means everything is starting to get in order. When you start on a special team, the next thing is you start playing (on offense).”

Hyde Expected Back

Smith’s role as the change-up to Jordan Hall might be short-lived. Hall is still returning to form from the foot injury he suffered over the summer, but the Buckeyes are also hoping to have Hyde back for their trip to Michigan State this week.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

“I think we'll get Carlos Hyde back,” Meyer said after the UAB game.

“As you can see, we're trying to continue to grow our package of offense. And we're still in that process. But trying to grow is over. Now it's trying to perform.”

Hyde hasn’t played since injuring his knee in the first half of Ohio State’s 31-16 victory over UCF back in week two. He had seven carries for 27 yards in that game before spraining his MCL before halftime.

He had 82 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against Miami, and seemed to be on his way to a big junior season as the focal point of Ohio State’s running game; along with quarterback Braxton Miller.

Hyde had two 100-yard games a year, including 104 yards against Nebraska. He also ran for 105 yards against Indiana in week nine, but he carried the ball only 13 times the rest o the season.

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