In the last four years, senior wide receiver Devin Smith has made his mark on Ohio State football history.
From the game-winning catch against Wisconsin in 2011, to his 80-yard, go-ahead score Saturday against Navy, Smith seems to have a knack for making things happen.
His score against Navy put the Buckeyes up for the remainder of the game, something he said he believes helped electrify the offense.
“We had a slow start, and we were just trying to find ourselves,” Smith said Monday. “We had a few good plays leading up to that … Coach (Urban) Meyer took the shot and we executed very well.”
Meyer, who named Smith as one of the OSU offensive champions of the week, said the wide receiver is one of the most explosive players he has ever coached.
“I want to say one of the best (deep) ball players we’ve ever had. He adjusts so well to the ball,” Meyer said Monday. “He caught someone said 18 or 19 touchdowns, average (more than) 40 yards per catch on a touchdown. That’s unique. Extremely fast. Tracks the ball down very well.”
Wide receivers coach Zach Smith said he thinks Devin Smith’s ability to beat defenses deep is a luxury, especially when the offense is able to run the football.
“At some point, they (opposing defenses) have to decide what they are going to be weak at. Whether they are going to play softer and give you the underneath routes, or if they are going to tighten down to stop the slow, painful death and now they are susceptible to the deep shot,” Zach Smith said. “They have to pick their poison on a kid like that.”
Zach Smith said Devin Smith’s speed isn’t the only thing that makes the senior wide receiver a threat.
“Obviously he has elite speed which is probably the first skill you need, but he has an uncanny ability to track a football and he has really good ball skills on the deep ball,” Zach Smith said.
Devin Smith — who has scored go-ahead or game-winning touchdowns against Wisconsin (2011,2013), Michigan State (2012), Iowa (2013) and now Navy, and holds the record for longest play from the line of scrimmage in school history with a 90-yard scoring catch against California (2013) — said he is just doing what he’s told to do to be successful.
“Whenever coaches need me, I’m going to do my part and do everything I can to make that play for the football team,” Devin Smith said. “It is all about just trusting in my training and believing in the coaches and them believing in me.”
Devin Smith entered his senior season with 1,572 career receiving yards and 18 touchdowns before adding 94 yards and a score against Navy. In comparison, former Buckeye speedster and current Arizona Cardinal Ted Ginn, Jr., totaled 1,943 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns during his three years in Columbus.
Although Devin Smith excels at the long ball, coach Smith said the Massillon, Ohio, native could improve in other areas, particularly being more productive in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
“That is one of the things that he was really committed to in the spring and in training camp when he was out there is becoming a more complete receiver,” coach Smith said. “That is a battle that everyone is fighting, and he has done a good job of that.”
Devin Smith said the distinctive defense that Navy ran prevented him and the OSU offense from opening up the playbook, but added that when the Buckeyes dive into the offense deeper, people will see what he and the offense can do.
“That is one thing we worked on all summer during practice and in the spring also,” he said. “It is a matter of time of just showing it. I think from now on, each and every game is going to be different, so you will get a chance to see different guys do different things.”
While the Buckeyes are without senior quarterback Braxton Miller for the 2014 season after he tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder in late August, Meyer said the offense has to improve around redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett in order for the coaches to open up the playbook.
“I think Barrett’s part of it. The offensive line is a big part of it. What can those guys do and what can they do well?” Meyer said. “We’re expecting them in next couple of weeks to be able to do it all well. It’s not just J.T. When we say expand the playbook, it’s for J.T. and it’s for the offensive line.”
Devin Smith said that despite Barrett’s relative inexperience, he is confident the offense and Barrett will continue to produce.
“He is very mature. He acts like he is a starter,” Devin Smith said of Barrett. “I know how hungry he is, you can see it every day when he practices. I think with how hard he works, he is going to do everything he can to help this football team.”
Devin Smith and the rest of the Buckeyes are set to take on Virginia Tech on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.