Erick Smith Brings Punishing Style to Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on June 18, 2014 at 8:30a

Urban Meyer couldn’t help himself. During spring practice, he kept mentioning freshmen by name. After the defense faltered in 2013, the onus was on coaches to recruit impact players. Meyer is of the belief that they did exactly that.

So it didn’t come as a surprise that Raekwon McMillan, a coveted linebacker from Georgia, was on Meyer’s mind. McMillan enrolled early, taking part in spring drills and turning heads immediately. What was unexpected was Meyer’s unprovoked name-dropping of Erick Smith, which happened multiple times in a three-month span.

It began on National Signing Day.

“Erick Smith, he’s a guy I'm really excited to get here,” Meyer said. He played corner in the [U.S. Army All-American Bowl], but we plan on putting him at safety. And, once again, immediately [on the depth chart].”

Four months later, Smith has finally arrived at Ohio State, enrolling over the weekend after playing in the inaugural Ohio-Michigan Border Classic. It was in Findlay where Smith got a glimpse of the competition he would face in the Big Ten. He competed against future rivals and endured his first taste of losing to Michigan.

The 27-14 defeat didn’t sit well with Smith, who wasn’t interested in making excuses but pointed out the obvious: most of Ohio’s top players were far from Donnell Stadium. If anything, Smith will use the loss as motivation when he sees two teams in the month of November representing the state of Michigan. 

“Oh, yeah, for sure. I’m not going to forget this,” he said.

Meyer and others likely won’t forget Smith if he lives up to the immense hype surrounding him. He joins two fellow Glenville recruits – Marcelys Jones and Marshon Lattimore – in a long line of former Tarblooders who have suited up in scarlet and gray. And Smith reminds spectators of one in particular.

During a three-year career, Donte Whitner developed a reputation for being one of the hardest hitters in college football. He was named first-team all-Big Ten as a junior, before being a top-10 draft pick the next spring. Whitner took the same punishing style to the NFL, where he’s been a two-time Pro Bowler.

Ted Ginn, Sr.’s seen them all. His son, Troy Smith, Whitner, and now, the current crop of Buckeyes. He views Erick Smith is the same light as Whitner and believes the versatile defensive back could be among his best players.

“No question [he’s one of the best],” Ginn said. “Erick is a football player. He’s a grown man playing this game. He’s going to continue to get better. He’s going to hit you, he’s a striker. He’s going to knock your head off.

“With all these teams playing the spread, you don’t lose anything with Erick by playing him at safety. You gain something because he’s a safety who can play corner. You can play him in the box, on the hash and you can line him outside and he can man up.”

The words Meyer spoke on signing day – playing Smith at safety – should stick, considering the Buckeyes have established depth at cornerback. As Ginn alluded to, Smith’s athleticism is an asset when a safety can rove the field with speed and power. That’s what made him a four-star recruit, top-50 player nationally and a U.S. Army All-American.

In the biggest games, Smith delivered masterful performances. He returned an interception for a touchdown in a state semifinal win last season and followed it up with 10 tackles and a forced fumble in the state championship game. This past week, he went up against Lattimore, who suited up as a wide receiver. The friends and teammates enjoyed the competition.

“He’s a great player,” Lattimore said. “I gave him my all. He’ll make me better and I'll make him better.”

The duo made recruiting visits together, but Smith admitted they were not a package deal. Each had their own individual thoughts and they differed on various schools. But when the recruiting process neared its conclusion, Smith and Lattimore were both high on Ohio State and favored the idea of continuing their careers with each other.

For over a year, the point man on Smith’s recruitment was Everett Withers. It sent shockwaves back to Glenville when Withers left for James Madison. With Chris Ash aboard, he and Smith developed a quick rapport, which never put his commitment to Ohio State in danger.

“He's cool. He's real cool,” Smith said. “For him to come in late, we established a nice relationship.”

Recruits are advised to pick a school based on the university and football program, not coaches – they can be fired or take another job at any time. Smith heeded that advice, saying he fell in love with Ohio State football and then grew fond of the people involved with the program.

Of course, Smith also had the advantage of watching his Glenville heroes play for the Buckeyes during his childhood. Their work ethic and resulting success impacted Smith. He’s kept those lessons with him over the years.

Surveying the landscape, Smith now wishes he had enrolled early. If you listen to Meyer’s comments, though, it doesn’t sound like he’ll have considerable ground to make up. Smith is eager for the challenge and embracing all that comes with playing for Ohio State. 

"I want to make the best of my opportunities,” he said. “I’m not going to back down because I'm a freshman. Proving people wrong is used as motivation. I’m fearless. I've been playing football too long to be scared. I'm ready to step out there. I just have to remain patient. I love competition.”

Said Ginn: “When he’s in position, he can use his hat. When you have a guy who can play corner and you play him at safety, that’s a hell of a guy.”


Comments Show All Comments

dubjayfootball90's picture

Oh boy... The future of Buckeye Football looks very bright!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+2 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

I miss the days of a truly punishing safety. Need to play smart (not get targeting penalties) but man I want to see some crushing hits from the secondary.

+3 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Amen to that.

Heard and read about the great Jack Tatum...there is nothing like having a safety who zeroes in on the ball, or ball carrier.

Pretty stoked to see what Smith can bring to the secondary.

+4 HS
Boom777's picture

One of my favorite things to watch are Jack Tatum highlights on YouTube. Some of the best hits in football!

Wherever you are, there you be!

+2 HS
iamcbs's picture


Let's not blaspheme, Jack Tatum was one of a kind and his like will not be soon seen again. I'm glad everyone is really high on Erik Smith. But before we start with Tatum talk, let's let him play a game or two. Jack Tatum was the best player on the best defense in Buckeye History and the most feared player in football, College and Pro. That's a tall task to live up to!!

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion~Alexander the Great

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Iamcbs - No way I meant to directly compare Erick Smith to Jack Tatum. I love what a force at the position can do...and Tatum obviously deserves mention by any Buckeye fan when discussing defensive backs.

I hope Erick Smith blazes his own trail, leaves his own mark in OSU history. Time will tell, and it sure looks like the young man can flat out play.

+2 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

I doubt if Jack Tatum would last a quarter in today's college football. All the refs would have to see is one of "the Assassin's" ferocious, violent de-cleater's and they'd flag him. Sad thing is, it would have been textbook legal!

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Roby against Iowa?

Shudder to think at Tatum playing in today's game...

+1 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

Great analogy... And shuddering would be happening - as my blood pressure spiked to stratospheric levels at bs, potentially game-changing calls like that.

+1 HS
BierStube's picture

Edit:  as The bad owl pointed out I had attached the wrong clip, my bad.

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+16 HS
BroJim's picture


I season my simple food with hunger

TheBadOwl's picture

That's not Erick Smith blocking the field goal, he was in the Army game, not the UA game. Still, he's gonna be a beast.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

+1 HS
BierStube's picture

Good catch .. I trusted Google for the last time!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

holtzy's picture

I think you meant ~~He competed against future rivals and endured his first last taste of losing to Michigan.

+20 HS
DannyBeane's picture

Literally stole my post

+5 HS
BTBuckeye's picture

Glenville Pipeline'd

+5 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

With all of the great recruiting news lately, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that most of the class from last year are just now beginning their college careers, and all will be going through their first training camp. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the freshmen grow and develop.

+5 HS
trigg03's picture

When OSU had great seasons they also had outstanding depth at each level on D. I really like how the pieces are falling in place to once again have that Silver Bullet style of Defense to rely on. What seperates this years squad from previous years though is that hopefully both the offense & the defense will be elite which is a dream come true for me.

+3 HS
steveoz49's picture

Pair him with Bell and that's one hell of a safety duo!  Add Burrows to the mix and the excitement meter pegs out (as if it wasn't already)

+4 HS
Codeezy's picture

Don't forget this guy

who is going to be a sophomore eligibility wise. 

Future is bright on the back end that's for sure. 

USMCBUCKEYE82's picture

The chicks face in the background is great! The first expression of the loss. Or she just looks that dumb.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Don't get me wrong, I'm super excited to have Jones and Lattimore playing for Ohio State, but it seemed like Smith was kind of the third wheel throughout the recruiting process. But seeing clips of him play and watching him in the Army All American game, I got a taste for how good he is and can be in the future. He's the real deal. 

+2 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

At the end of the recruiting process when the rankings are more accurate E.Smith had passed Lattimore and Jones. I think he ended up a top 50 National recruit. He was anything but a 3rd wheel. 

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+3 HS

“Erick is a football player. He’s a grown man playing this game. He’s going to continue to get better. He’s going to hit you, he’s a striker. He’s going to knock your head off.

Oh man did this just get me fired up!

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+2 HS
Athens BuckCat's picture

Watched him play in the Army All-American Game and was very impressed, has a knack for making plays and can lay the wood!

+1 HS
Jbucks's picture

He is definitely some I overlooked when it came to him and lattimore but the I watched videos of this kid after he comitted and I was amazed!!!! I can't wait to see a backfield of Bell, Smith, Lattimore, and Webb!! Maybe as soon as next year? SILVER BULLETS ON THE COMEBACK
Smith the Sniper!!!

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

+2 HS
Bags5150's picture

I had an opportunity to meet him and spend some time with him this past week at the Border Classic.  He is a great kid and is truly excited to be a Buckeye (Lattimore is as well).  He practiced hard and had in my opinion the biggest hit in the Border Classic.  He is very likeable and I wish him all the best!

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+4 HS
otrain2416's picture

So far seems like our safeties will be 2 of Burrows, Bell, and Powell. The rumor going around is Reeves is moving to the nickel-back/ STAR position this year and Conley/ Apple, Webb, and Lattimore will be battling for the corner spot opposite of Grant. I could see Smith coming in and pushing Reeves for the starting nickel/ STAR job this year. 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

jamesrbrown322's picture

The first thing I thought of when I saw the title - 


"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

BuckeyeJAK's picture

Chris Ash has a wealth of tools and talent to put on the field. I look forward too seeing it


Mark May is a mental midget

+1 HS
buckeyeotaku's picture

the only really interesting thing about being at the boarder classic was watching Smith, most of the game they treated his side of the field like a black hole and then when they threw his way it looked like he killed the reciever for a second. you can count me in with Meyer i'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do.

We don't give a damn for the whole state of Bichigan

chirobuck's picture

It will be interesting to see how he is used early in his career, there is no way he red shirts, but I don't know how much time he gets outside of special teams.....we have two very exciting young safties in Bell and Powell, not to mention Burrows.....even for the nickel or dime there is Conley and Apple that will want those roles, either way I love his upside and after watching him play I think he looks way more natural out there than Lattimore, he was always my favorite of the Glenville trio


^ best post ever ^