The No. 9 player on this list fought his way into the Rushmen Package as a true freshman, and this year expects to be in the defensive end rotation for the Buckeyes.
No. 9 — Tyreke Smith, Soph Defensive End
Tyreke Smith came to Ohio State as the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the nation.
Even before his arrival he was receiving comparisons to former Buckeye defensive end Tyquan Lewis, who was the 2016 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Despite not enrolling early, Smith did well enough in camp as a true freshman to work his way into the Buckeyes’ Rushmen Package as an inside rusher.
There were no tackles for loss last year as a rookie, but the experience was a very good one.
Smith played in 13 games for the Buckeyes last year, securing nine tackles.
What He Does Well
Coaches and teammates have called Tyreke Smith “twitchy,” meaning that he is quick off the ball and able to adjust on the fly.
Smith got some good experience pass rushing on the inside, but his ability to rush the passer against a tackle one-on-one is where he excels. He didn’t get to do it a lot in 2018, but he has put in the hours to be ready for it in 2019.
Smith is a compact defender who was strong enough as true freshman to play inside. He has a powerful frame, but brings speed and athleticism. He is a talented basketball player, and his agility is apparent, even if the production has not yet been there.
Of course, when you’re playing on a defensive line with Chase Young and Dre’Mont Jones, quarterbacks aren’t going to hold the ball as long as they normally would.
Tyreke Smith in 2019
The Buckeyes return starting defensive ends Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper this season, but they will again want to rotate at least four defensive ends on a routine basis. Smith will be one of those defensive ends rotating.
He will likely also be in the Rushmen Package again, which means that he will see plenty of action in 2019.
As a piece of the rotation, Smith can probably expect 40% of the regular snaps, and then you add in the snaps on passing downs when four defensive ends are on the field together, and that number rises to well over 50% of the snaps.
The production wasn’t necessarily there last year, but it will need to happen this season.
With Smith’s power and quickness, he should have some one-on-one opportunities inside on passing downs. That will give him a quicker line toward the quarterback.
Smith has spent hours and hours working on his feet and his hands. He has been able to get this far based on his athleticism and strength, but now his production will come down loading up his tool box.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson likes where Smith is right now because it has him on a good pace as the Buckeyes head into their 2019 season opener next month.
What They Are Saying
“I think Tyreke has improved a lot. Especially, first of all, Coach J wanted to fix his stance, and he fixed it right away. Then with his get-off and stuff, he’s already been incredible with his hands. So I think you’re going to see a lot of him this fall.” — Sophomore defensive tackle Tommy Togiai on Tyreke Smith.
“He’s got really great ability. He’s really twitchy. He can run. He’s got great conditioning. He’s starting to learn how to play football and that’s the biggest key. Now he’s getting all of these reps in spring ball. By the time we get to August, he should be ready to go. I’m really pleased with him so far.” — Larry Johnson on what is next for Tyreke Smith.
“Year one is the learning process. Trying to figure out how to play the game fast. Year two, spring ball, where we’re at, now he understands the game. Now his talent and technique should take over, and that’s what we’re starting to see.” — Larry Johnson on what they were trying to get out of Tyreke Smith in the spring.