Devin Smith: Not Just An Acrobatic Wide Receiver

By Kyle Rowland on June 16, 2013 at 6:00a
19 Comments
The catch of the year.

He’s played just two seasons, neither in what one would consider a pass-happy offense. Still, Devin Smith has managed to become a household name to Buckeye fans with receptions at the most opportune times.

During his freshman year, he etched his name into Buckeye lore with a game-winning 40-yard reception on a desperation heave from then-freshman Braxton Miller to stun Wisconsin in the closing seconds. In the 2013 season opener, the red carpet – or scarlet – was rolled out for Urban Meyer’s first game as head coach. But it was Smith who grabbed the headlines – and the football. His acrobatic one-handed touchdown catch – the Buckeyes’ first of season – would win play of the year honors.

Weeks later, Ohio State was shell-shocked after a second-half onslaught from California, when Smith again stepped up. This time it was a 72-yard touchdown reception from Miller. In the Big Ten opener at Michigan State the Buckeyes would need Smith’s heroics once more for a game-winning touchdown.

The picture is clear, and the finished produce reveals big-game Devin. But with a lack of consistency, Smith hasn’t been able to truly establish himself as Ohio State’s top target.

In 2012, he caught only 14 passes and did not eclipse the 300-yard barrier. Thirty receptions for more than 600 yards and six touchdowns represented an improvement during his sophomore season, but Smith – and Meyer, Tom Herman and Zach Smith – is expecting more production.

“Last season was a taste of how this offense is supposed to run,” he said. “All I have to do is take the great coaching here and the sky’s the limit.”

If he reaches the heights he’s set out for, Smith won’t have to worry about any lingering anonymity. Critics have voiced their frustration about the inability to depend on Smith every game. He’s prone to disappearing, they say.

To some, he might literally disappear this season if they’re looking for No. 15. Reverting to his high school days, Smith will wear No. 9. But with Philly Brown, Chris Fields, Jordan Hall, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall all likely to share the field with Smith, one and two reception games could become a thing of the past.

Ohio State’s wide receivers have been on an uphill climb the past two seasons, and more upward movement is expected in 2013. Quantity and quality have each seen an upgrade. 

“We’re a lot better than we were last year at this time,” Meyer said in the spring. “I couldn’t tell you, first of all, probably who they were a year ago, because we were not very good.”

Meyer became aware of who Devin Smith was and the potential in his game. So did Zach Smith, who coaches wide receivers.

“You’re not going to find a more talented guy than Devin Smith,” said Zach Smith. “He’s got to take his game to the next level, and I’ve got to take his game to the next level. That’s what we’re expecting out of him. You can see the growth, but he’s not where we expect him.”

Meyer said he believed Smith would be “pretty good” this season. Motivating is one of the coach’s greatest assets, and it’s a quality that has rubbed off on his staff. Last season, Meyer famously referred to the offense as a “clown show.” It spurred them to vast improvements from the spring to the fall.

“I want to be the guy everyone can count on. I don’t want to be the guy everyone remembers as the one-handed catch.”

Comments from players on that side of the ball revealed Meyer’s antics worked, just like they did in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game against Ohio State.

“In the spring, with (Meyer) on me a lot, I couldn’t stand it,” Smith said. “I knew I had to make a change and I worked very hard in the summer working on my speed and my strength, and getting the timing down. It carried over to camp and we had a great camp.”

During this offseason, the extra oomph has come from dropped passes. Smith allowed multiple passes to deflect off his hands a season ago, several which hit him in the numbers. To improve the 105th passing offense, letting catchable balls drop to the ground is a no-no.

The team isn’t focusing on offensive numbers to improve. The only number they have in their crosshairs is one, as in the No. 1 ranking. But Smith and his fellow offensive players understand where they stand in the pecking order of importance – high.

“We’ve gotten a lot better at everything,” he said. “But there’s still room for improvement. Everyone has their role and knows what they need to do to get better.”

Said Zach Smith: “Our offense is built around the receivers and the throw game. We rely heavily on them. They didn't know how significant the expectation was last year. Now they know.”

Football is one of the ultimate team games in all of sports. Another is track. Without total contribution from all facets, team-wide success is in peril. But that allows the individual aspect of the sports to creep in. Smith has lived it on both fields of play. As an honorable mention track All-American, Smith knows what flawless and botched relays can do to a team performance. Miraculous catches and indefensible drops have a similar impact on a football game.

With that in mind, Smith wants to be in the limelight because he knows if he can excel, team accomplishments will follow.

“I want to make more plays this year,” he said. “I want to be the guy everyone can count on. I don’t want to be the guy everyone remembers as the one-handed catch.

“The one thing I’m really focusing on is I want to be an All-American. I want people to know that I’m a great player.”

Another series of game-winning touchdowns in an undefeated season – this time culminating in a national championship – would cement Smith’s status on the list of all-time Buckeye greats.

19 Comments

Comments

b_pbucksfans's picture

Great write up! I really hope Devin steps his game up this year. With his size and speed on the outside of this offense, He has a chance to have a special season. 50-60 catches for 900-1000 yds. and 10 TDs would be nice!

zbd's picture

OSU ranked 105th in passing yards last year (2012-2013). One word for Devin Smith....inconsistent.  You can keep the miracle catch and give me the boring ones.  They have a lot of improvement to do.

Jugdish's picture

I don't believe you can lay the blame on the receivers as being inconsistent. I believe it was the sophomore QB who had a little trouble reading defenses and looking for the open receiver. Since Braxton will be a junior, his passing will get better. Braxton has really tried by getting the off season help. If Brax becomes the QB that can find the open receivers, this will be a very high powered offense that will not have to rely on Braxton's legs.

Remember to get your wolverine spade or neutered. TBDBITL

Triv's picture

The other receivers may be able to blame Braxton, but Devin Smith dropped almost as many balls as he caught last year. Against IU he had 2 catches for 2 TDs, and if he caught every ball that hit him in the hands he would've had 4 catches for 4 TDs. He's gotta be more consistent catching the ball

Sorry Urban, Woody is still my favorite

OSUs12-OH's picture

ZBD: That was last year....let's see how much passing OSU does this year. My favorite saying fits this situation perfectly; "Live in the present and not in the past." Is your inconsistent comment spot on...yes indeed. For last year that is....let's give OSU a break. They did manage to go 12-0 even with mistakes on offense and defense. This year's going to be special for the offense and the wrs (including Devin) will be much better than last year.

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Air Braxton will be fun to watch this year!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

warosu's picture

His long catching his great,but needs to work on catching the short to medium routes

Hovenaut's picture

Really hope to see Devin consistently produce this year, he's clearly a talent.

"Success - it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

He's definitely got great potential.  I think this year he will make huge strides and we will see him starting to develop into that full time All American receiver that he can be.  Last year at times I felt like the only other real threat we had was Corey Brown.  I think the threats will be multiple.   Now that we have some additional talent coming in at WR the defenses will not be able to focus two guys on him like we saw sometimes last year.  If they do then I think they will find out really quick who Jalin Marshall, James Clark, Corey Smith are - not to mention Elliot, Wilson and Dunn with pass catching ability coming out of the backfield.  I think we will start to see this year where the offense can go.
Go Bucks!!
 

pjtobin's picture

I really like this kid. I think we will see much improvement this year. I'm sure he remembers every dropped ball. I can't wait to see him shine this year. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

captain obvious's picture

This will be his breakout season with the new receivers pushing him for playing time.

I'm a friend of thunder is it any wonder lightning strikes me

You can't spell chump without UM's picture

Devin will do fine, hopefully he'll be more consistent and I believe that he will

Brady Hoke ate my comment

OSUs12-OH's picture

Great article on Devin, who was a helluva basketball player in HS too. I'm sure handling the ball like he used to helped with that catch (not to mention his hands a huge for a smaller guy). Love that pic too...looks like he's looking at you;-)

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

zbd's picture

Now four star Cincinnati LaSalle receiver Derek Kief committed to Alabama.  He must have been a catholic insulted by Gee. 

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Then why would he go to the devil?

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Max Power's picture

Saban must have had sweet home alabama blaring during his entire visit...in case you didnt know if you.play the song backwards it is full of subliminal messages and anti osu propoghanda...I knew I couldnt stand Lynyrd Skynyrd for a reason. Roll ths tide in the dance bucks...ill puke if i hear that song after the bcs game again

unholy bucknut's picture

I'm  sold on this kid he has all the tools. I think all these new weapons we signed are going to motivate him into taking the next step, his experience and leadership is going to be paramount this year. I look forward to seeing #9 on sportscenter top plays.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

"I don’t want to be the guy everyone remembers as the one-handed catch."

 
I love this quote. This proves that Devin is more about the team, and not all about himself.