Most Important Buckeyes: No. 10
By Tony Gerdeman
Photo by Dan Harker
Devin Smith committed to Ohio State nearly a year before Jim Tressel would leave as its head coach. With an offense in flux in 2011, Smith wound up the most productive receiver on the team as a freshman, yet he hauled in just 14 receptions
Last season, he was a fair complement to Philly Brown, catching 30 passes for 618 yards. Had he held on to the passes that he should have, he would have been around 800 yards receiving, which is rare air for a sophomore at Ohio State.
Given the inconsistency early in his career, this is a very important season for Smith. He worked hard in the offseason to become more of a complete receiver. While he will remain the team's deep threat, he will also be utilized more in underneath routes.
Smith was impressive in the spring, and continues to be impressive during fall camp. He is catching everything that comes to him, and is still finding the endzone on a regular basis. Don't be surprised if he goes from complementary receiver to complete receiver this season.
What Makes Him Important
Urban Meyer's offense is predicated on putting stress on all parts of the field. He wants to extend a defense and stretch them out as much as he possibly can. The more stress on a defense, the more likely it is to break. His main course of accomplishing this is through speed.
The man who stretches the field more than any other Buckeye is Devin Smith. For his career, Smith is averaging 20.7 yards per catch, and is the most proven deep threat on the team. His 10 touchdown receptions the last two seasons is second on the team to the departed Jake Stoneburner.
And, in what may or may not be a coincidence, the Buckeyes are 7-0 the last two years when Smith catches a touchdown pass. When Smith finds the endzone, the Buckeyes find the win column.
The stress that Smith puts on the man opposite him is great. The threat of a streak route straight down the sideline is always there, and Smith runs that better than anybody on the team. Not every cornerback can turn and run with a guy like Smith.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
Smith's speed casts fear in defenders, which generally means cornerbacks will give him a cushion to work with. This season, expect him to do a lot of work with that cushion.
Smith should be targeted much more than he was last season. Because of this, however, we should expect his yards per catch to drop. His days of averaging over 20 yards per catch are probably over, unless he never drops another deep ball.
With Philly Brown joining Smith out wide, and a viable slot option included at H-back, the stress on the various secondaries is going to be tremendously visible. The field is going to be stretched so far that you'll be able to bounce a quarter off of the 50-yard line.
One mistake under that kind of stress means a huge play for the Buckeyes, and nobody in the receiving corps has made more plays that Smith. This should continue in 2013, as Smith is much better than he was a year ago, and he was still pretty good a year ago.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him
Ohio State is deeper at receiver than they've been for the past couple of years, but the loss of Smith would be a powerful one.
Evan Spencer would step right in for him, and the coaches have done nothing but rave about the offseason that Spencer has had. He's one of the top three wideouts right now, but if you move him up a spot, who then takes over for him?
Michael Thomas was impressive in the spring, but he is still working on some consistency issues. Corey Smith is an option, but even though he's a junior college transfer, he's still going to have a learning curve.
Freshman speedster James Clark could certainly replace Smith's speed in the lineup, but who could ever replace Smith's knack for the big play?
Playing without Devin Smith would be playing without a receiver who has made some of his team's biggest of catches at a time when they absolutely had to be made.
The Buckeye offense would still function, but there would be something noticeably missing.
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