Devin Smith Hoping He Saved His Best for Last
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There will be a few lasting images throughout Devin Smith's career that people will never forget. Be it the game-winning touchdown against Wisconsin as a freshman, or streaking down the sideline from 63 yards out for the win against Michigan State as a sophomore.
Of course, nobody will ever forget his one-handed touchdown grab against Miami (OH) to kickoff the perfect 2012 season. That catch still gets talked about today, and that's not going to go away any time soon.
But while Smith has had some very spectacular moments at Ohio State, it has been the constant and consistent which has evaded him. The Buckeyes want more from Smith in his senior season, and that's what his coach has set out to accomplish.
"The biggest thing that we've had to do and I've had to do is present adversity to him," receivers coach Zach Smith explained this spring.
by Dan Harker
"I had to move him positions and move him around and create those situations because he's great when things are great, and when things get hard, that's when he needs to shine. He's been inconsistent in that, so so far, so good. We're a long way from the season, but he's making strides to get there this fall, which is the ultimate goal."
Smith isn't unaccustomed to difficult situations, but his coach is trying to get him accustomed to producing in them. In his first nine games last season, Smith averaged 4.2 receptions per game. In his final four Big Ten games, however, he totaled just four catches overall.
The lack of production of the receivers to close out the season last year is a bit of a chicken and egg discussion for many, with the receivers being the egg and Braxton Miller's accuracy being the chicken. That debate may never be settled, but everybody associated with the Buckeyes is hoping that it can soon be forgotten.
"Devin is slowly building the confidence and mentality to be a great player," Zach Smith explained.
"He needs to take this step for when he plays a great player across from him, he's got to win that matchup. When adversity strikes and it's hard, he can't lose. We played a lot of games where he was faster than the guy he lined up across from. That's a gift and a curse. If you can just run by a guy over and over again, and then you eventually play against a guy that you can't run by, then it kind of exposes your flaws.
"So that's what we've harped on since the season ended. He's got to prepare every day to play the best corner in the country, so that when he does, he's ready. So that's what we're working on right now."
Smith's importance is evidenced by the fact that Ohio State is 14-0 in his career when he catches a touchdown. Yet in the Buckeyes' two losses last season Smith had a total of three catches for just 16 yards. That's not the type of production that a team can afford from a #1 receiver, and it's not usually acceptable for a #2 receiver either.
If Ohio State is going to be the complete team that Urban Meyer and Tom Herman want them to be, they will need Devin Smith to handle the adversity that would sometimes get the better of him in the past.
With one season left, Smith has a lot to look back on, but it's what he is looking forward to that could be the difference for this team.
"I've enjoyed it," Smith said of his time at Ohio State so far.
"Not a lot of people get a chance to do what we do, so I do embrace it. But one thing is that it has gone so fast, and I can't believe this is my last year. I look back with some of the plays that I've made, I have made some plays that people will remember forever, but inside me I still feel like there's more that I need to give, and I'm hoping that I can do that in my last year."
And in doing so, maybe he can create a few more of those lasting images that he has become known for.
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