Consistency the Key for Buckeye Receiver Corey Smith
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Though they are separated by just 120 miles, the trip from Akron to Columbus can take some people a couple of years to make.
That was the case for redshirt junior receiver Corey Smith, who starred at Akron Buchtel before taking a detour to Grand Rapids Community College in 2011. Following the disbandment of the Grand Rapids football program after the 2011 season, Smith transferred to East Mississippi Community College, where he caught 51 passes for 733 yards in 2012.
Photo by Jim Davidson
It was after the 2012 season that the Buckeyes came calling, and Smith finally found himself headed for Columbus. The 2013 season saw Smith preparing to play every single week, but ultimately his first season as a Buckeye ended up in a redshirt.
Receivers coach Zach Smith said back in February that Smith improved as much as a player can without actually seeing the field. His improvement and potential were evident on the practice field early this spring when he was making tough catches no matter the defender.
Zach Smith wasn't the only coach to notice the improvement.
"Corey Smith, he's got a chance to be the best one of the whole group if he plays consistently," said offensive coordinator Tom Herman. "Super-talented kid that hopefully we can continue to pound home how talented, and what that talent can mean to himself and us as a team."
Potential is just one part of the equation, which Smith's coaches have stressed to him since his arrival. Herman cited the need for Smith to remain consistent, which would then allow the physical talent to take over.
Zach Smith isn't so quick to tout the talented junior in the same manner as Herman has, however. He watched him every day in the spring and he knows what the receiver still needs to work on.
"That's a gift and a curse," Smith said of Herman's comments.
"Saying that he might be the most physically gifted on the team doesn't mean he's the best receiver on the team. It doesn't mean that he's the guy that we're gonna count on to go be a great player, or get the football.
"He's gotta take a lot of steps into being a consistent receiver that we can count on every single day. So when he does that hopefully he will be that guy, but if he doesn't, he won't. And it won't be because of ability, it will be effort. It will be just commitment to the culture of this program."
The early returns this spring were positive. Over the first few practices, he was arguably the most-reliable outside receiver. A slight injury hampered him some after that, but he was consistently working back and forth between the first and second teams.
If he had closed the spring as well as he opened it, perhaps some of those consistency questions would have been answered. For now, however, there seems to be enough data to know that if Smith does what is asked of him, then the results should follow.
"He's gotten better from last year, he's just got to stay healthy," said receiver Devin Smith.
"Me personally, I've known Corey for a while being from the same city. He's a competitor. When his head is right and he's into the game, he's a good receiver."
The Buckeyes are looking for receivers to step up following the loss of Philly Brown and Chris Fields from a season ago. There are a lot of names being mentioned, and players are being put into various roles as Zach Smith looks for his very best options.
"It's a competitive group right now and I'm not gonna have my second-best wideout be the backup X because he's an X," Zach Smith explained.
"I'll move him because the best 11 are gonna be on the field. My best three or four are gonna be on the field. I've moved them around a little bit. Corey, I've moved all over the place. We'll see who the best three or four are and that's where they'll play."
If the spring was any indication, Smith will continue to move around, finding varying levels of success along the way. He may even find a spot all his own, and if he does, then maybe that roundabout trip from Akron to Columbus took exactly as long as it was supposed to.
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