[This is the 12th in a series where The-Ozone looks back on each member of the 2018 signing class and the impact they had this past season, as well as the impact they could have this coming season.]
Tyreke Smith came to Ohio State from Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio. He was ranked the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the nation and the No. 34 player in the 2018 class. Smith was ranked the No. 3 player in the state and signed with Ohio State over offers from Alabama, Penn State, USC, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Akron, and many others.
Tyreke Smith found playing time almost immediately in Ohio State’s Rushmen package as an inside rusher on passing downs. It was an impressive feat to win the job, even if there wasn’t much to show for it in the box scores.
Smith played in 13 games last season, missing just the contest against Maryland. He finished with nine tackles.
Smith was in the two-deep at defensive end from the outset, but wasn’t really part of the rotation until later in the season. And even then, it wasn’t quite the rotation that it had been in previous years with a more veteran-based defensive end group.
Still, he proved himself to be a valuable and versatile member of the Ohio State defensive line, earning comparisons to former Buckeye — and former Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year — Tyquan Lewis.
So Now What
With starting defensive ends Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper returning, Smith will be allowed to ease into a larger role, but he will still be counted on in a significant way this season.
Last year, he was part of the rotation, but was often just a step away from making a play. This season he will need to make those plays.
This will be his second year in the system, but he is just now going through his first offseason. Winter and spring and then another fall camp will have him ready to not just contribute, but also to take some snaps from Young and Cooper, allowing them to remain fresh.
It is defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s preference to rotate as much as possible so that the level of pass rush doesn’t wane later in the game. Last season, losing Nick Bosa hampered those desires. This year, with the likes of Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, Jashon Cornell, and others bringing depth and experience, the depth at defensive end is better than it was a year ago.
If Smith once again earns a spot in the Rushmen package, the snaps that he doesn’t get at defensive end will be made up for in the snaps he gets rushing from a defensive tackle spot. Larry Johnson is very high on Smith and last year was more about making him comfortable. This year, it’s about being uncomfortable — for the opposing quarterbacks.