Rod Smith Almost Out of Chances to Make His Mark as a Buckeye

By Michael Citro on May 1, 2014 at 1:00p

Kirk Irwin Photography

52 Comments

This fall, Rod Smith will be a fifth-year senior running back.

In some respects, Smith seems like the wily veteran who’s been around forever. But he’s also seemingly been the young guy just one step removed from the starting job.

Forever.

He is just one season away from becoming one of the all-time never-wases in OSU history. And he seemed so full of promise that it’s hard to believe it never happened for him.

Smith is a huge, muscular, athletic power back. At 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, the Fort Wayne, Ind., product seemed like a prototypical Ohio State ball carrier. But it hasn’t worked out for the man who famously once nearly became a full-time linebacker.

The question is, will it ever work out for Smith? Wasn’t he always going to be the next great Buckeye running back?

He’s certainly had one of the more tumultuous careers a backup player has ever had at Ohio State. As a redshirt freshman, he missed the team flight and didn’t show up in Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl. Last year, he was suspended for the season opener. And, of course, he recently missed spring ball due to academic issues.

On the field, Smith has shown flashes of becoming as beastly with the football as Carlos Hyde, albeit with far more ball security issues. But he hasn’t been able to garner any sustained playing time, even though coaches have raved at times about his turnaround in maturity since the initial days of Urban Meyer’s tenure. In fact, he was talked about a lot last spring.

Now he’s got only one more year to get it done.

As someone not embedded with the team on a daily basis, I have no idea what’s up with Smith. I mean, you can definitely count me among those who expected him to have gone full beast mode (on a regular basis, that is) by now.

His (redshirt) freshman season wasn’t atypical for someone who might one day become the top running back at Ohio State. He played in 11 games and rushed 29 times for 116 yards (4.0 YPA) and a touchdown. Smith also caught a couple of passes for 15 yards. The world was his oyster.

Smith had fewer Rushing yards and fewer yards per carry than three of the team's quarterbacks in 2013.

But during his sophomore season, Smith didn’t get much more playing time. He carried 32 times for 215 yards (6.7 YPA) with a pair of scores, and tallied two receptions for 55 yards and another touchdown — including a beautiful 51-yard wheel route(1:40 mark, trust me.)

It seemed like things were on the rise for Smith as he became an upperclassman. But then 2013 came along and an influx of Meyer-recruited young talent started to sap Smith’s touches and playing time.

Just the team’s eighth leading rusher last year, Smith carried 22 times for 117 yards (5.3 YPA) and one touchdown. He had fewer total rushing yards and fewer yards per carry than three of the team’s quarterbacks. In addition, Smith caught only four passes for 16 yards last season, with 12 of those yards coming on one play.

Freshmen Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson both saw the field more and got more touches than Smith. In fact, Elliott became Meyer’s first choice off the bench to spell Hyde by season’s end.

That doesn’t bode well for 2014.

Smith certainly has a lot left to prove. It’s hard to imagine him passing Elliott and other younger Buckeyes like Elliott, Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball, but stranger things have happened and fall camp isn’t even here yet.

He’s got one final season to put his best foot forward or become just another footnote.

52 Comments

Comments

OSUpawn's picture

Smith might be the 12th best running back in the country, but when your team has a top 5 running back......
 

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

+5 HS
BassDropper's picture

Smith might be the 12th best running back in the country, but when your team has the best running back in the country......

Fixed it for you.

 

 

 

DIRECTIONER

+3 HS
OSUpawn's picture

 

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

+5 HS
osubuck57's picture

Better make a BIG impression this summer and during fall practices, or he could be a career splinter puller. Personally, I hope he comes on strong. Only benefits our backfield if he brings "it". If not, Zeke,Dunn, and Ball pick up the slack.

SCOTTC.

+1 HS
BassDropper's picture

Just passing on something I saw on bucknuts....apparently a senior was recently kicked off the team, and speculation is that it is Rod. The guy who posted it doesn't seem to be trolling.

DIRECTIONER

+1 HS
Humbuck's picture

With the addition of the Bama OL transfer, someone had to go in order to get to 82. 

Rod had his chances and his troubles.  Hate to think it might be him. 

-1 HS
buckskin's picture

Reminds me of Clarrett a little bit in regards to wasted talent, although Maurice had one good year.  I have been one of his biggest supporters from day one, but his fumbling issues his freshman year seemed to have started him on an uphill battle for playing time throughout his whole OSU career. I love Zeke, but I'm hoping he gets over 200 yards and 3 TDs against Navy and locks up the position for 2014, finishing with 1500 yards and 15 TDs and finally shows us his true ability.  He would be a great testimony to hard work, perseverance, commitment and dedication.

Jeremypreemo81's picture

I sure hope it wasnt Rod, so much potential

+1 HS
johnny11's picture

Yah it's definitely a weird case with Smith. Its hard to believe all that talent has never rised to the surface. Come On Rod. lol

+1 HS
Bradyhokescholesterol's picture

The Curious Case of Rod Smith by U. Frank Fitz-Meyer bums me out. He had all the makings of Eddie's second-coming. C'est la vie. Hopefully he can put on a show in fall ball and earn some touches then explode once the season starts in earnest. I really like tall powerful backs with an upright running style à la Eddie and Adrian Peterson.

+3 HS
BucksFan2000's picture

Just because someone has the "look" of great talent, doesn't mean they actually are.  I'm not knocking Rod at all, but visually I think he reminds us all of Eddie, so that's what we're hoping for.  Unfortunately, it's just not the case.

Elliott on the other hand, looks like a star on and off the field.  Again, no offense to Rod, but I don't see him being a factor for this team.

+3 HS
D-Day0043's picture

I have been a fan of EZE since I watched his college announcement. He seems like a great kid from a great family.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+3 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

I disagree. He's had issues with fumbling just as Eddie had. But Rod has had some of the best runs over the last few years. I have no doubt that had he been given enough touches he would have produced. But, like anything in life, it's about opportunity. For some reason, obviously we aren't close enough to the program to know, three different coaches went in a different direction. I can't help but wonder if he didn't suffer the most from the loss of Tressel. Ultimately my point is that I DO think the talent is there. Clearly, in fact. 

+3 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Coaches see him every day in practice.... for a few yrs now... 

Its  just too bad missed opportunity ( he could have shined more when Hyde was out as well someone had to step up... who wanted it?).  I have to believe he had more chances than most to make an impact, it just didn't happen.  If he isn't in the two deep he should transfer and get a chance to start somewhere.  He has the tools maybe a year off getting hungry could help?  Would be nice to see him reach his potential.

+2 HS
D-Day0043's picture

I don't know what's going on with him. His dad posts on Ozone sometimes and he commented on one of my posts basically saying the same thing this article says, and he assured me he was going to be fine. It's all very strange indeed, but his dad doesn't seem to have any worries.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+2 HS
buckeyedexter's picture

He needed to have a great spring, but instead had academic issues causing him to miss it; there is to much talent in that backfield for that.  I think the ship has sailed on him.

+4 HS
tussey's picture

Growing up in Fort Wayne, playing against Rod my senior year (his sophomore year) and hearing that he was coming to tOSU, I have been in his corner from the beginning.  It has been sad, frustrating, disappointing etc. to watch his career unfold here.  Academics have never been his strong suit, but can you blame him?  His high school was shut down by the state a year or so after he graduated for poor academic performance.  I almost wonder if Rod's career would have taken a different path if Tress was still coaching here.  Urban was much more in your face and I'm not sure if that is the style of coaching that Rod responds best too.  Tress was much more of a nurturing type of coach and think with Rod might have responded better to that style of coaching.  (If you feel that my speculation is out of line then go ahead and give me that DV)

+6 HS
johnny11's picture

From Indiana. Watched him play in high school and thought he really was going to be awesome. I did not know they shut Harding down. Makes sense his brother went to luers then.

tussey's picture

Yeah most of the kids got split between New Haven and Woodland.  However, some were offered scholarships to go to Luers.  

johnny11's picture

Makes sense why Luers has been so dominant the past few years then. I can't remember exactly, but they have won state quit a few times in their class the past 5 years.

tussey's picture

Harding was in the same division as Luers (2A) and for a while it seemed like whoever won the Sectional between Harding and Luers was basically a lock to win state.  

Looked it up:  Harding won in '06; Luers won in '07, '09, '10, '11, '12

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Leo has also greatly benefitted from the Harding shutdown. Leo used to be such a tiny school, now they are on the verge of becoming a city school. Harding North is what I hear it called now.  I'm originally from NW Ohio, but live in NE Indiana now. I work with a group of guys who were co-workers with Rod's dad. I've been getting tidbits on Rod for some time now. Like someone mentioned above academics have always been his weakness. I have also heard his work ethic lacks badly. He is basically pure raw talent. Jaylon has a different mother and in many respects is a different kid. Hard worker and has a good head on his shoulders. I've heard there is a younger brother who is supposed to be better physically than them both fwiw of course.  Sucks if he is gone, but I have felt like he really has had his chances.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

+2 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

Tussey, Pretty funny. I hadn't read your post but thought the same thing (see my post). Smith has all the makings of a Tressel star. 

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I too, had high hopes for RS going into the spring sessions.

Life after football...I hope he gets on solid ground academically and gets his degree.

Still hopeful he contributes this fall, still think he has a big moment or two somewhere. The stable is just too stacked...

Hate Week runneth over

+1 HS
whobdis's picture

The guy is a physical freak..but I'm not enamored with his running back skills as others are. His vision and balance are so so. He does run very hard and can run over people. Someone mentioned Eddie and you need to have certain skills if your a tall upright kind of runner. Eddie had knack for finding small holes and gliding through. I think he'll get some yards in mop-up roles but not much more. Just to much other talent. Frankly Ball is almost as big and has a much better skillset imo.

+2 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

Wow, two people can look at the same thing and come to completely opposite conclusions.  I don't think Ball is even close to as talented as RS. Not even in the same universe. In fact, I think Eze and Dunn are way better too. But, just my opinion. 

+1 HS
lsjSnail's picture

I agree with you. I don't know where people are seeing this greatness from Ball.

+1 HS
IH8UOFM's picture

I wonder if he is this year's "Zach Boren"

-1 HS
BuckeyeSki's picture

Who is Rod SMITH?!?!

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

+6 HS
Phoenix824's picture

I think Mowins would really be wondering how Robert Smith still has eligibility.  

Qujo's picture

"Not the optimal way to start his last chance at proving himself as a Buckeye back". 

 

True-dat but neither was a 3 game suspension for El Guapo, many who had kicked him out of school for almost bitch slapping some dumb girl in a bar. 

 

I have faith he can be very good based on the performances I did see from him. Who knows, but I hope he breaks out and Eazy, Dunn, Ball all compliment the crap out of him. That is my ideal scenario.

 

"Tough times don't last, tough people do" - Gregory Peck

+1 HS
Crumb's picture

In some respects, Smith seems like the wily veteran who’s been around forever. But he’s also seemingly been the young guy just one step removed from the starting job.
Forever.

Yeah that about sums it up for Rod but I still got faith in ya Roddy, I hope he has an awesome Senior year. That wheel route against Illinois in 2012 was one of the best receiving plays out of the backfield I've ever seen. Just beautiful.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+2 HS
Nutbuck1959's picture

I know Smith's high school coach has made some noise about him not playing, but when you come to OSU, you're not necessarily the BMOC anymore. He hasn't consistently earned it when he has had his chances, both on (fumbles) and off (missing plane?) the field. Sorry dude.

+1 HS
bsodders's picture

He doesn't give off the impression he hits the books real hard on his Social Media.  I hope it's not him that got the boot and I don't think it was as there's nothing indicating as such.  Hopefully he gets his attitude right and puts in the work for a monster senior season.

+1 HS
Crimson's picture

I don't think it was as there's nothing indicating as such.

But Bassdropper just said . . .

bsodders's picture

I haven't heard anything supporting his views (twitter, Instagram, etc.). Usually if something major happens the player will go AWOL on social media. I followed El Guapo and when he was in trouble he was silent.

-2 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

3 step plan for Rod Smith's breakout season:

1. Play Rod

2. Give Rod the damn ball

3. Sing Carmen Ohio 15 times

+5 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Hopefully Rod knows the words to Carmen Ohio by now.

 

 

+5 HS
Brandon26841's picture

Honestly, besides that beastly run against Nebraska and the wheel-route catch... what else has he really shown that makes people so enamored with him? It's just his size, right? I mean... it's pretty fun to watch 6-3 240 pound backs run the ball and the idea of it is nice... but did he ever really offer that much more than any of the other backs that played instead of him?

 

If he would have gotten the ball he would have produced, sure, but if he was this other-worldly talent like some people act like he would have seen the field a whole lot more. I'd say his height is probably a detriment; backs are hardly ever over 6'2. 

brandonbauer87's picture

I think his best trait is his vision. He doesn't make the necessary cut as quickly as he needs to, but I think that has a lot to do with reps. Some have said he lacks the ability to find small creases and I disagree 100% with that. I think he's slightly worse than Hyde at reaching the second level, but better once he  gets past the line. I honestly think he could be better than Hyde if he gets the opportunity. 

Michael Citro's picture

Honestly, besides that beastly run against Nebraska and the wheel-route catch... what else has he really shown that makes people so enamored with him? 

For me, it's his yards per attempt. These hint at an underlying ability that doesn't have time to come out in spot duty.

brandonbauer87's picture

Another good point. 

GVerrilli92's picture

I'm a member of camp "If you can do it once.."

 

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

+1 HS
IH8UOFM's picture

Might have been my favorite play from that entire game. Was so glad to see him in the endzone.

73buckeye's picture

Maybe Rod Smith is misplaced in a couple ways. He might have been a beastly linebacker. He certainly has the physical tools. Too bad he didn't get a shot there last year when we were so short handed. The other possibility is that maybe he just isn't cut out for college. Not everyone is, there's  no shame in that. Maybe some team at the next level will give him a shot so he can concentrate on football without the other distractions. 

ernie

+1 HS
nikolajz1's picture

I think he is just way too tall and awkward at running to be a RB. 

johnny11's picture

Yah I have a feeling he might be one of those guys that goes pro and really comes into his own. At that point its only about football nothing else. Some people excel better in that environment.

pdan46's picture

I will be very upset for Smith and OSU if he never gets a chance to show just how good he can be.  That run in the Nebraska Game was very Hyde-esque! Just hope that he gets it all together right now!

+1 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

The best way to utilize Rod Smith is as a fullback in the queen or king formation like in the 2012 season.

 

One idea is to have him play a FB/TB/TE hybrid kind of like Rod Bernstein or Keith Byars (in the NFL) back in the day. I think taking Wilson out and putting Rod Smith at fullback in short yardage situations is a good idea.  Motioning Smith up to give the Buckeyes a two tight end look is another wrinkle you can put into the playbook.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

NCAA Football 14 would agree with you.
 

Class of 2010.

+1 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

I got the idea from what they did in the 2012 season, not XBOX

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

It is kind of odd.  He had the fumbling issues in 2011...he had some flashes of brilliance in 2012 even if Hyde was the primary option at that position...and then he was just kind of...there last season.  If he just plays better in even years, then this season should be good.

This team is pretty deep at RB.  Who knows...he could possibly go to about 80% of other schools in the FBS and be the starting RB.  But here...hard to think he'll do more than get about 5 carries a game this season unless he steps it up and beats out EZE flat out for the job. 

Class of 2010.