Rod Smith's Defining Moment

By Chad Peltier on July 5, 2012 at 6:00p
43 Comments
Rod is swaggin' hard hereHolding the ball high, but not exactly tight

Out of all of the running backs in Ohio State’s stable, Rod Smith certainly has the most intrigue.

Carlos Hyde is undoubtedly the beneficiary of Jordan Hall's unfortunate injury, immediatetly assuming the starting spot and getting an audition to be Meyer’s rare feature back.

Rod Smith’s position, on the other hand, is far more volatile. While it looks like he'll just step up one slot on the depth chart, it may not be that straightforward. 

Rod is sandwiched inbetween Hyde and Dunn on the depth chart and it's unclear exactly what his place is. While Hyde (6'0" 235) fits the mold as the big (Scout had him as the #1 fullback recruit) back, Dunn (6'1" 215) brings a powerback, between-the-tackles running style, and incoming freshman Warren Ball (6'2" 205) has better elusiveness and balance than either, Smith's role isn't as clear. 

Smith unfortunately breaks our string of 4-letter last-named running backs (seriously - Hall, Hyde, Dunn, Ball?) and has over an inch on any of the other backs.

Out of high school, scouts had him pegged as a 4*, sixth-ranked back in the country. They praised his vision, speed, and frame while also noting that he needed to gain lower-body strength in order to turn in to a true power back. 

At a long and lean 6'3" and 230, and with a fluid but upright running style, Rivals even noted that 

He should remind most Big Ten fans of a young Eddie George, and hopefully have a similar impact.

Rod is now a redshirt sophomore and has yet to live up to that comparison. 

It's fairly easily to divide Hyde and Dunn on the power back side, and Hall and Ball on the shiftier-back side, where do we put Rod? Our initial thought, especially with comparisons to Eddie, is that he has the best of both worlds, plus an extra inch or two. Fluid and athletic, with good cuts and vision to complement his frame, there was talk during bowl practice that Smith was in fact the bast back on the roster. 

Most people explain his lack of playing time by his fumbling early in the year. To some, this even furthers the comparisons with Eddie. 

What's clear now is that this fall is a critical juncture for Rod, and I see one of four scenarios realistically happening:

1. Shares time as 2nd string with dunn, ball

This is probably the most common prediction for Rod's next year: do well enough to keep a hold on the second string initially, then become 2A to Dunn's 2B. 

Haha! Take that, Zips! Big frame and a fluid runner - who does that sound like? 

In this scenario there's a couple of possibilities. Either 1. Hyde has established himself as the feature back so the other backs on the roster get the scraps, or 2. There's a true tailback by committee approach, where the depth chart is fairly meaningless because every back gets some carries throughout the game. Time is divided and no one dominates individually. This is all the more likely once (if) Hall comes back from injury. 

2. transfers

If Rod finds himself either: 1. Demoted to third string on the depth chart in fall camp or 2. Splitting carries with Dunn as 2B for the majority of the regular season, then I think he will be inclined to transfer. It's clear that Rod has the physical talents to be a dominating running back at the college level - whether he is forced to transfer is largely dependent on if he can "put it all together" and find a unique role for himself in this offense. 

3. gets a new position 

If Rod quickly falls behind the other backs on the roster and transfer rumors run rampant, I wouldn't be surprised if Meyer attempts to flip him once and for all to a new position. Rod is long, lean, and fast and honestly would make a heck of player at multiple positions. Based on his brother Jaylon's ability at linebacker (not to mention his brief time there last year), a permanent move back there wouldn't necessarily shock me. 

4. established 2nd string, challenging hyde for first

One thing we've kind of missed, so far, is that Rod is a surprisingly adept receiver out of the backfield.

Take a look at this film: 


A couple of things are readily apparent to me. First, he hits the hole hard, then explodes to the outside quickly. He has no problem fluidly running through defenders initially, then cutting to the outside. This is complimented by his decent ability to run sweeps and outside runs. Second, half of the highlight video is him running untouched in open field and no one within ten yards.

Third, and most importantly, Rod is adept at catching screen passes, lining up as a wildcat quarterback, and blocking. I'm not willing to say that Rod is an ideal pivot player or that he'll be in the slot this season, but he does have soft hands and is fluid at catching passes out of the backfield. This is crucial for his success this next season: if Rod can find a way to differentiate himself from Hyde and Dunn specifically, it's possible that he can claim second string (or more) based on these talents alone. 

By differentiate, I do not mean that he must force himself to be a player he's not simply to adapt in to what many wrongly think Meyer's offense is (i.e. 5'7" speedbacks), but that he must prove he brings something to the table that the other backs don't. While that might be based on his receiving ability, it might instead just be that he combines the best qualities of the big backs and the speed backs - it's up to him to carve out his place. 

This is not to take away from his running ability, which is clearly elite as well. Instead, he might be prized for his versatility in addition to his rushing. 

43 Comments

Comments

William's picture

If he has a decent set of hands, I could see him bulking up a bit and becoming an awesome H-back.
 

FortMeyer's picture

Urban should really try to recruit that Smith guy. No one can touch him! If we get him we will win the National Championship for sure......Can't help but to think of how many thought that when watching Rod's film before we signed him. Shows just how recruiting can be. Not saying he didn't or will not live up to the hype, just no guarantees that a player will come in and contribute in a big way immediately.

buck-I.8's picture

Doubtful that any OSU fans thought that, seeing as Urban wasn't our coach.

Poison nuts's picture

The video is insane how much he really does compare to Eddie...I hope there is a spot for him somewhere somehow - I'd hate to see him elsewhere & think he needs some opportunities to prove he can hold onto the ball. If any of us saw that video for this years recruits - we'd be clamoring about how we has to be a Buckeye!

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

William's picture

I remember watching that video when he was coming out of high school and just thinking "Dear God, he'll win a Heisman." It's ridiculous how we can hype up high school players so much.

millertime2011's picture

It's never too late. Remember a certain recent heisman winner? He didn't come on strong until halfway through his career. 

buckeye76BHop's picture

"He should remind most Big Ten fans of a young Eddie George, and hopefully have a similar impact."
^^^^This was exactly what I thought when I saw Smith in an OSU uniform for his future.  However, his fumbling in the red zone and in general, must improve (not to mention these fumbles weren't against great talented defenses either).  He's a great talent with great size & speed for a RB.  I just hope that fumbling problem is cleaned up like Beanie and Eddie did better with in their Sophomore years.  Otherwise, with what's coming and what's there at RB...his time will be numbered if he doesn't produce and hold onto the ball.  I'd like to see him be the second coming of Eddie personally.  Not sure if it's something that can be replicated but would like to see him try.
He'd make a MONSTER of a WR if he can catch the ball well if it doesn't work out at RB.  I tend to think it will if he puts forth 100% 

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

45buckshot's picture

i'd like to see the 2nd coming of Eddie too (posted here before: possible my favorite tOSU player of all time), but i think the circumstances are different: Eddie didn't have to compete against much, so even after the fumbles he got another chance. i don't know that that's going to happen for Smith--if he fumbles, they'll replace him with Dunn, who also looks very talented. 
so unfortunately, i think for him it might be better if he transfered to a school where the coaches believe in him and will give him a chance; he is too talented to just ride the pine. And i've never really seen the switch from RB to LB or WR work out at tOSU. 
but he'll get another chance while Hall is out, so maybe he can make the most of it.
but imho i think he'll fumble and they'll replace him, and we'll never see him get another chance at tOSU. 
conversely, i haven't seen enought to know for sure, but i think Ball is the back UM3's looking for: enough power to run up the middle but can also play the slot. I'd like to see Hall have a good year, then i think the future is up to Ball...
go bucks. 

Veni, vidi, vici

UM3

ohst8buxCP's picture

I agree with everything you jut said but I'm not as high on Ball. Saw him play a few times in High School and wasn't overly impressed. Definitley a solid player but i dont know if he has the kind of elite athleticism UFM is looking for.

cplunk's picture

I know this wil put about 90pct of fans on full monkey tilt, but I think Rod Smith is more talented than Hyde. So is Dunn. It would not surprise me at all if the stats among those three are basically equal at the end of the year.
I'm not denigrating Hyde. He's shown more than Smith. It's a question of if Smith lives up to his talent. His ceiling is higher than Hyde's. 
I'm super high on Dunn too, but haven't seen enough of Ball to comment.

buckeye76BHop's picture

CPLUNK...I agree with you.  I've always thought out of the two, Smith is better.  However, I'm not sure who's going into the season with as much,well, playing like your hair's on fire kind of mentality UFM is looking for.  Who ever does that, Dunn, Hyde, or Smith is yet to be seen.  I say I'm with you CP, if Smitty holds onto the pig skin, then he'll be the guy.  If not, Dunn may take over the spot if Hyde doesn't play like aforementioned ;-) All I know about Ball was what I saw in the PA vs Ohio game.  He got lit up on time behind the line by a LB who's going to Penn State.  But he did "ok"in the game stats wise (13 carries for 41 yards and 2 catches for 15).  Not spectacular but we'll see on Ball.  He was pretty good for DeSales in Columbus his Sr. year (1200+yards and 29 tds).  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

TheBuckeyeBoard's picture

Yes, don't write him off yet. He stumbled early then was moved to LB for depth, so he never had a chance to redeem himself.  Remember, Beenie had early issues but finally made a big, or HUGE, play in the UM game. That was the turning point of his career at OSU.  Smith didn't get that opportunity...yet.  With freshman talents chomping at his heels, we'll see how he deals with pressure early this year; but he certainly has the physical tools to be a force with the ball.  He just has to prove himself.

"I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn't win." -Coach Urban Meyer

ShadyBuckeye's picture

I know this is supposed to be about rod smith but I dont think anyone can supplant Hyde, that dude reminds me of Rashard Mendenhall. He doesnt get nearly as much credit as he should. hes good at everything, just not great at any one thing in particular. I think hes a complete back. I remember him speaking out about how he shoulda got more carries last year and for some reason I liked when he said that (and agreed with him.) Anything we get out of Smith will be a bonus. He's still so young, he'll have his time (unless of course we get Derrick Green and then the backfield will be CROWDED)

Poison nuts's picture

Hydes good - no doubt. Showed flashes of brilliance last year. Here's to hoping there's enough offense happening that all the talent at OSU (& it is loaded) has a chance to shine.
*end fairy tale - back to reality*

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

Keith's picture

I don't worry too much about Smith's fumbling issues.  My main concern with him last year was he developed, very early, a nasty uncontrolled stutter-step problem right at hand off.  I don't know if it crept into his subconsious because he's unsure of the play, unsure of the blocking or what.   He didn't do it once on the hightlight video above.
If he can get this worked out, I can see him because a contributor in the RB rotation.

Chad Peltier's picture

Definitely agree - it's hard to understand why he didn't get more playtime, so people fall back on fumbling. You're right - looks like he's a little uncertain/tense

DJ Byrnes's picture

I once saw an eight yard run at a practice last year where about 6 defenders bounced off Smith as if he were made out of teflon. The way he absorbed blows and kept his balance was crazy. I am a huge Rod Smith guy and I think he will get it figured out.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Guys...he fumbled three times and two were in the red zone in two games.  One of those fumbles I can't believe you can't remember because it almost cost OSU the game against Toledo. They drove right down the field from about 90 some yards away, but the D stopped them (besides horrible play at QB by Bauserman, which is what's probably clouding your two's memory btw;-)  After that, he saw little time besides some carries against Colorado which I got to see first hand in the shoe (and he almost fumbled in that game but recovered it himself).  Hall and Hyde got the nod from then on after Colorado.  Smith is a beast, but he must work on getting up field quicker and staying on his feet making the defense bring him down, as well as hold onto the ball IMO.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Irricoir's picture

I may have missed it up above but if Smith had shown something to UFM then why wasn't he put on the white team as a starter to try and earn that starting role from Hyde? As it was, Dunn was the starter for white. Disclosure time: I have no proof nor am I intending to start a rumor but I believe that Dunn was guaranteed some type of legit opportunity to compete for the starting position in UFM's offense. Dunn started out Tress' / Fick's recruit but signed when Meyer aggressively pursued him. Something had to swing Dunn's mind. I am not sure that Smith has a future here as a running back.
 I have not watched any of these men practice so my ideas are just speculation. I just came to this theory based off specific circumstances. Smith was reported to be the best back in our backfield before going to a bowl game a year or two ago. What has happened since then to make him fall to third string? Is Dunn that much better that he can arrive on campus for a few months and surpass Smith, whom has been competing against college caliber athletes for three years? I understand that every running back on the team is new to UFM's system but it just seems strange. I admit Dunn didn't look bad at all during the spring game. 
I am doused in gasoline, go ahead and light.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

The Vest-er's picture

That's the dumbest thing I've ever read. Nah just kidding, Meik use to comment on this site.

Fundamentals are a crutch for the talentless.

Irricoir's picture

Substitute Gray for White please. Watched Smith during the spring game again after typing this. He looked solid. I did notice a little bit of hesitation on his part at the hand off. I wonder if that hasn't been conditioned due to the penetration our offensive line has been allowing these last couple years. He has more wiggle than Hyde, that is for sure. I was really impressed with the power he showed on that touchdown in the third quarter. He drove through multiple defenders for the score.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

The Vest-er's picture

My response was sarcastic. I think smith has a high ceiling that unfortunately, will not be fulfilled. For some, the light will turn on. Others, not so much.

Fundamentals are a crutch for the talentless.

Alhan's picture

One reason, perhaps, that he didnt suit up for gray is that neither team was supposed to be all first string if i recall correctly.  They had a mix of starters and backups for each team for the spring game.

You can kill a fly with your slipper or a cannon. Either way, the fly dies. -Ramzy

scottynoshotty's picture

i think you hit it right on the head in that he needs to find a way to seperate himself from the other backs.. right now there seems to be a lot of good talent at the position..just noone who seems ready to be great..i think any of the 5 would be steady producers as the "feature" back but they are all so even that its hard to see any separation between them. gotta believe that halls absence in the first game or two may turn out to be a blessing as it will give these guys some game time to show their skills and earn time. at the end of the day in this offense you cant complain about having 5 talented backs as im sure UFM will find ways to get them all on the field if they show they deserve it.

Well i like college and i like football...and im gunna keep doin em both cause they make me feel good!!!

Irricoir's picture

Oh, secondly I want to post that I am not a big fan of, what's the term, running back committee? I have seen it fail more times than succeed. I know that it takes carries to build rhythm. We saw that between Herron and Saine. The less carries Saine had the better Herron became. I know it worked at Alabama and Clemson but still, I am not a fan of it.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Buckeyejason's picture

I've been saying forever that I think he transfers eventually, unless he wants to just ride it out at OSU. I just don't think he'll be as good as advertised..the studder step, running high, poor ball carriering(fumbling). I think Ball and Dunn are just better prospects and have higher ceilings. Smith missing the trip to the bowl game didn't help either..shows immaturity. Hopefully he can really turn it on and be a beast like we all expected..but I'm not holding my breath.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Nitz25's picture

I love reading this board, I really do... but sometimes it's very hard to understand how so many people can have such unbridled optimism for a guy who has never shown much of anything on a game field.  In big game situations he not only failed to make any big plays to separate himself from the competition (Boom, Hall, Hyde), but he gave the coaches a reason to doubt his reliability by turning the ball over. 
I realize his recruiting film makes him look like a sick athlete, but he's clearly the fastest guy on the field in that video and doesn't have to get many yards after contact because no one can touch him.  As evidenced by last years first couple of games, at the FBS level he is no longer the fastest guy on the field and he seems to struggle in traffic.  Hyde is a good back with lots of potential who has proven that he can get yards AFTER CONTACT.  That's a very important quality among FBS backs, because unless you're Noel Devine or Tedd Ginn, the odds of you being faster than every defender on the opposing team is absolutely zilch.  Just cause a guy has the Eddie's body-type does not mean he can run like Eddie.  I remain unconvinced that Smith is ready to start for the Bucks.... I guess I'm the only one

Buckeyejason's picture

Read my post above, you're not the only one. I said the same thing about Jamal Berry when he was getting passed up by Hall in 09 fall camp. A lot of hype and nothing shown when on the field.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Nitz25's picture

Thank god.  I guess you can't blame people, though... Even SI fell into that trap, putting Jamal Berry on the cover of their Ohio regional preseason issue last year.  Everyone is always looking for the next Heisman candidate but in the process they overlook or marginalize the steady eddie's out there like a Boom Herron because they realize he isn't a hightlight reel player who can dazzle voters.  It's the solid backs who can consistently grind out 4-5 yards a carry and hang onto the ball that give a team the confidence to build a solid offense around.  Hyde has the potential to be that kind of back, but everyone will always overlook him in favor of someone like Dunn or Ball that they think have the potential to be the next Heisman Hopeful... I'll take Hyde all day long next season.

cplunk's picture

It isn't optimism- it is talent evaluation. Rod Smith is a more talented back than Carlos Hyde in a skill for skill comparison- but Hyde is a MUCH more productive back in games. The hope is that Smith can translate his gifts into production. If he does, he has a higher ceiling than Hyde. Right now, though, Hyde already IS translating his gifts into production. This is not to minimize Hyde's skillset- he is a skilled back.
My biggest complaint with most football fans is that they are unable to separate evaluating talent and skills from game stats and game performance. Guys succeed in games for all sorts of reason- better fit in the system, more opportunity in situations which fit their specific skillset (I'm looking at you, Jordan Hall this year), system which inflates certain stats, better game-time focus and mentality (I'm looking at you, Boom), etc, etc. Game performance is not the same as skill level and talent. This is why guys that blow away the college world often just don't have the talent or skills to succeed at the next level.
What excites us about Smith is that the talent and skill level is fantastic. Hoping he can put it together in games isn't optimism- it's hope.

buckeyedude's picture

I agree with you Nitz. You ain't alone, bro.
I've been on the Hyde bandwagon since early on. It doesn't seem to me like this dude gets much love from Buckeyeland. He may not be shifty, but he's fast, big, and he always seems to fall forward(towards the correct end zone).

 

 

johnblairgobucks's picture

OSU has a crowded backfield, loaded with potential filled players, reminds me of the early 90's, when OSU had to sort out the roster of running backs: Scottie Graham, Jeff Cothran, Robert Smith, Raymont Harris, and Butler Bynote. Back then Robert Smith had the most hype, Raymont Harris was the work horse, but I loved watching Scottie Graham carry the ball.  Have to rely on coaches finding the player they feel most comfortable with, and hope the cream rises to the top.
We'll find out soon enough.  2 months till game time.  Go Bucks!
FWIW:  Brionte Dunn looked superb for a true freshman in our Spring Game.

Buckeyejason's picture

I agree, Dunn looked great from what I watched. Ran hard, quick, showed he can catch the ball and get yards. Dunn coming in is the worst thing that could happen to Rod Smith.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Buckeyejason's picture

By the way if Ball is only 205 lbs then he's the thickest 6'2" 205 lber I've ever seen. He's got to be at least 215 the way he looks.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Irricoir's picture

I was thinking heavier Jason.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

schooey's picture

I would like to see someone get enough carries to establish rythm and show that they can take the beating and carry the team when necessary, like Herron. I am thinking Hyde. But, with Hall's status not fully knowable some running back by committee will probably be necessary. No? With the bowl ban, might as well do it this year in order sort them out for the the next. 

Irricoir's picture

I get what everyone is saying about this year and setting up for a championship run next year. I don't like it though. This is exactly the thing that is going to be the most challenging for Urban to overcome on this team, their mindset. I, as a fan, don't want to watch an entire season of guys going through the motions, sorting out the pieces. I know we need to find these players that are best for each position but I hope it is figured out before the season begins. Bowl game or not, I am not willing to give any other team in our conference or division any confidence or momentum, ever. Case and point Wisconsin and to a greater extent, Ichigan. I am not trying to be contrary. I do see your point.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

gravey's picture

I can see from his HS film why he's had trouble hanging on the ball at Ohio State.  Apparently nobody was allowed to tackle him in high school.  He'll catch on this year.
 

BenArazi4's picture

Holy Jesus this guy was fast as hell, we HAVE to try him at receiver, even if its just the slot!  Plz Urban, Plz!!!!!

 
 
 

buckeyedude's picture

Didn't we lose a couple of TE's? uh...Fragel and Hayes? Why not try Smith at TE?  He's plenty big, IMO.

 

 

johnny11's picture

I'm telling you right now if he fixes the fumbling problem he is the best in game back we have. When you put pads on this kid he is fun to watch. I watched him play up in fort wayne one game against their rival luers which his brother jaylon plays for. He dominated. I know Indiana is not known as a football state, but up in fort wayne they do play some good football. Hyde is a bull and so is Dunn. I'm not knocking them because they are very talented backs and I would take them anyday. I just think the talent that Smith has can really do some damage as long as he fixes the fumbling problem.

Buckeyejason's picture

Sorry but Smith is not the best game back we have, even if e does fix the fumbling problem. Hyde/Hall are the best...followed by Dunn/Smith/Ball.

BUCKEYES BABY!

buckeye76BHop's picture

The more I read about this...here and elsewhere...it sounds like he may transfer if this season doesn't work out the way he wants.  IMO I think that's why Jaylon chose ND...if his brother was playing more...then he probably would have came to OSU bc Rod would be trying to get him to come there...just an opinion. 
 
I love Irricoir's Online Arguement starter...opinions are like assholes everyone.  It's not a big deal but boy oh boy do so many opinions get morphed into a big deal.  I bet what I said above will get torn apart but oh well. 

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987