Devin Smith Striving for the Consistency His Coaches Demand
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After an offseason where his new head football coach called the offense a “clown show,” Devin Smith went out week one to quickly dispel that notion.
Two minutes into the second quarter of Ohio State’s opener against Miami University, Braxton Miller found Smith in the end zone for the first touchdown of the year, but it was the nature of the catch that excited most watching.
The extraordinary one-handed grab set the bar high for what would be a season of big plays for the then sophomore. He averaged 20.6 yards per reception and had a long grab of 72 yards on the year.
Photo by Dan Harker
After announcing himself to the world on national television the year before with a long touchdown catch on a broken play to win the game against Wisconsin, Smith was developing a reputation as a big-play guy, yet there is more to his game than that.
Now as a junior, and his second year in offensive coordinator Tom Herman’s offense, Smith will look to break out of this mold and attempt to become a more reliable receiver in all areas of the passing game.
“Consistency, that’s what I’m expecting out of him,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said of Devin. “He made plays that would make you think he could be the best receiver in the country, then he made plays and you said ‘wow, that’s not the same kid.’”
With the experience Smith brings to the table at this point in his career, he understands that the expectations on him are raised and what the coaches expect from him.
“I need to be more consistent,” Smith said, echoing his position coach. “The big difference between going into last season and now is being more consistent.”
Consistency includes being reliable in all aspects of the passing game, running good routes, and making plays after the catch. So far, Smith has only done some of those things, as he has suffered from dropped balls and not getting open on his shorter routes.
Those improvements only come with time and hard work.
“Anything in life, when you first do it, you're learning the delicate intricacies day in and day out,” Coach Smith said. “You don't become an expert until time permits. A guy like Devin doesn't have to learn how to get in a stance or how to catch the ball. He's now able to learn that ‘Football 201’ as opposed to ‘Football 101‘, remedial football.”
It is apparent that he has put the time in to get to the next level.
“I worked my tail off all summer and it's paying off and I'm glad that it's happening,” Smith recently told reporters.
Last season, Smith had 30 catches for 618 yards, numbers that should be improved upon if he can bring the consistency he has been striving for. That is what Coach Smith wants to see from Devin heading into this season.
“I think it’s just production, understanding the offense, but ultimately it comes back to production,” Smith said.
Consistency will lead to that production and the production leads to better numbers on the field.
Increasing his statistics, along with doing the little things, will be more important for Smith this year because of the talent behind him on the roster.
Not only is there the much-heralded freshman class, featuring wide receivers Jalin Marshall and James Clark, but the more experienced players have gotten better as well.
Evan Spencer, Chris Fields, and Michael Thomas have all impressed the coaching staff during the offseason, and would be ready and willing to step in if Smith is not producing. The other newcomers, including JUCO transfer Corey Smith, are also chomping at the bit to get on to the field.
“I mean there’s other guys that are talented, there’s other guys that we’re going to rely on,” Zach Smith said of the guys behind Smith and Corey Brown on the depth chart.
The need to hold on to your position only makes the Buckeyes better, as the players further down push the starters to be the best they can.
Smith’s improvement in consistency and production will make him more effective during the 2013 season, but he’s not ready to shake the big-play label entirely.
“Hopefully it's me,” Smith said when asked who would be the homerun hitter this year. “We have a lot of guys on this team with speed, and that's what he wants is guys who can stretch the field. We certainly have that.”
With all the weapons Ohio State should have this season, Smith will need to do all he can to stand out like he has the previous two seasons. His receiving skills will have to take the next step to contribute all over the field.
When the Buckeyes need a big play though, number nine will likely still be the guy they find open down the field.