Sure, Devin Smith's Usually Clutch, But Can He Be Consistent This Season?

By Patrick Maks on September 2, 2014 at 3:20p

For a moment, the world stops when Devin Smith stretches his arms out to catch a football.

“Whenever I run and I look back for the ball, it seems like everything's silent,” he said.

“It's just me and the ball and I'm focused on the ball: just catching and scoring."

The senior wide receiver’s 80-yard haul helped catapult Ohio State to a scrappy 34-17 win against Navy Saturday in Baltimore. And with redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett in need of as many effective supporting cast members as he can get, Smith’s strike bailed the Buckeyes’ previously anemic offense out. 

“I knew we got out to a shaky start, it kind of got slow. We really couldn't get a score or get a good drive in, so I know once he called my number I was gonna make a play. "

It’s not the first time. After all, Smith’s quite literally made a career out of making big plays. It’s borderline uncanny.

“It's all about trusting in my training and believing in the coaches and believing in me,” he said. 

But some of it’s just talent. Some of it’s just luck.

“I want to say one of the best deep all players we've ever had. He adjusts so well to the ball,” head coach Urban Meyer said Monday.

“He caught – someone said 18 or 19 touchdowns, average 40 yards per catch on a touchdown. That's unique. Extremely fast. Tracks the ball down very well."

There was that time when he brought down Braxton Miller’s desperate Hail Hary heave to beat Wisconsin, 33-29, in 2011. The next year, he plucked a long ball from the sky with one hand in the team’s season opener and first game with Meyer in 2012. A couple weeks later, another long play from Miller to Smith edged Michigan State in East Lansing. Last season, Smith scorched California for a 90-yard catch, the longest play from scrimmage in school history.

“You just gotta catch it and score, that's one thing that, whenever the ball's thrown to me, I just try and catch it and just run as fast as I can,” Smith said.

“Whenever the coaches need me, I'm gonna do my part to do everything I can to make that play for the football team.”

Indeed, Smith seems to always locate the deep ball when Ohio State needs it the most. Equally bizarre, however, is how a player of his caliber simply disappears sometimes.

It’s why the biggest knock on him has long been a lack of consistency, perhaps best exemplified when the Buckeyes lost back-to-back big time games against Michigan State and Clemson last year.

Smith, who caught 44 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, grabbed a combined total of three catches for 16 yards against the Spartans and Tigers. 

Sure, when Ohio State wants to strike deep, Smith has this freakish way of stepping up. But when the Buckeyes needed him the most last season, he was nowhere to be found.

It’s why Smith, who finds himself staving off younger talents like Michael Thomas and Corey Smith for playing time, worked on being more consistent during the offseason. The whole unit did. 

“That's one thing we did work on all summer, during practice and in the spring also. So it's just a matter of time just showing it,” he said. “I think now, from now on, each and every game is gonna be different so you get a chance to see different guys do different things.”

For Smith, it’s getting rid of a stigma.

Because, sure, he’s always been clutch. But can he be consistent?


Comments Show All Comments

SafetyGuy's picture

You've got to love a deep threat amongst all the speed in this WR group!  Keep it up Bucks!


flying-banana's picture

You need a 5 yard crossing route and a catch for a first down? Devin Smith is not your man.

You need a 90 yard diving backwards one handed flip catch, that's when you dial up number 9.

+7 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Maybe your right. Maybe Devin doesn't want to get his clock cleaned by some 250lb. linebacker streaking across the middle of the field?



VarsityClubMD's picture

If I could post it from my phone I'd show my age here and post a pic of Mike Lanese going across the middle and making a key possession catch despite getting crushed by a MLB because that was the play that was called and that's what the team needed. And then I'd tell you kidz to get off my lawn.

Dot this

+5 HS
Tater_Schroeder's picture

Smith is just the guy needed to stretch the field to open up shorter passes. Even without a catch, he demands attention from opposing teams DBs that opens things up closer to the line of scrimmage. 

With that said, nothing looks better than a heave from the QB as the camera pans to #9 streaking down the field.


+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

Can someone explain why this is his reputation?  Is it that he isn't call upon to run the short to intermediate routes, or he doesn't run them as well as the deep routes (so he isn't open underneath).

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

Vinsaniti's picture

It's probably a combination of both. In past years I have not seen him thrown to much unless it is down field, especially in the B1G championship last year.

buckeye phi's picture

It would be great to see him finally live up to all that potential on a consistent basis. He still could become a star player.

Perhaps, pairing up with J.T. Barrett will help him get there.  Last saturday may have been the beginning of something big.

Hopefully, the o-line will play well enough to allow that to happen

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. - Will Rogers

zeversole's picture

I know this may be a dumb question and I may be slightly out of the loop but what ever happened to Chris Carter's son? Did he transfer? I don't think I was alone in expecting great things out of him back when he was with the team.

J.Mo's picture

Cris Carter's son Duron Carter was on the team in 2009 and didn't come to Ohio State to play school so he transferred to a JuCo and then transferred to 'Bama and he didn't go to play school at 'Bama either. Now if Chris Carter has a son, he's probably too young to play since Chris Carter is still on the team.

+4 HS
bbb's picture

I think he's in the CFL now

+1 HS
BUCKfutter's picture

this is what made ginn so great (by college standards - notwithstanding his pro career). he was the consummate home run threat, but was also a key part of the possession passing game.

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

+2 HS
CC's picture

Ginn also caught 10 yard curls and turned them into 60 yard td's.  He was a different level.

+1 HS
Firedup's picture

So clutch is the ability to run down the field for a home run time and again??

I would much rather have my clutch receiver catching passes across the middle in 3rd and Long situations knowing a LB or DB is bearing down on him.  Not running a streak and hoping the defense makes a step. 

"Making the Great State of Ohio Proud!" UFM

robobuck's picture

But when you need it, you need it. He bailed us out against Cal at home two years ago by sneaking behind the d and getting absolutely wide open. He has a knack. But yes, some consistency on less dramatic plays would be nice and would basically cancel out the need for such heroics.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

MN Buckeye's picture

Devin is a decent downfield blocker, as well.

nickel beer's picture

Yes, he is.  He's very good.  In fact, that quality is one of the standout characteristics I'm seeing in Meyer's teams.  Once we get that O-line correct, the Buckeyes can consistently control the whole field of play.  When I've seen it happen during a play, even last Saturday, it's really impressive--scary if you're the opposing stafft.

No Sleep Till Blacksburg

UpIrons's picture

Being from Massillon myself... Much respect for him and his big plays indeed! Getting more of him would only be great for us so I do hope he has a chance to make even more of a difference even on "normal" plays.

M Man's picture

Devin's the best receiver in the B1G.

-2 HS
chinooker97's picture

Devin Smith is a great big play kinda guy, consistency is key though.  There were too many games last year where he'd disappear and Philly Brown would be the only receiver to get open.  I wanna see more versatility this year outta Smith, but I do love the straight line speed he has.

"Because we couldn't go for three."

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Good points 97 - I think Devin finally gets it going this year and helps lead the team with his contribution on and off the field. He can be a great leader.

Bucksfan70's picture

the real question is "can the quarterback be consistent."

“Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't.” - Jerry Rice

BuckInNashville's picture

What receiver didn't "disappear" when it was zone read right, zone read left" in Tom Herman's 5-34 offense last year ? Aside from a periodic shot down the middle to Heuerman , this offense was strictly 2 dimensional in tight games. The beauty of last Saturday was no crutches - it took first down passes, and getting players in space to score. 

+2 HS
NitroBuck's picture


Devin's role last year was to block or stretch the field vertically.  If the Safeties cheated up into the box one time too many, he was there to burn them.  The short, ball control routes were assigned to Philly and the H-back.  As a result, they were targeted far more often.  It seems to me that Devin was only targeted on 3rd and long, or in cases when they had the opportunity to burn the Safeties deep.

Ferio.  Tego.

MassiveAttack's picture

I also agree with this, and has been my retort every time someone said he disappeared.  But at the same time, if on film the opposition sees you are the big play guy, you get double covered.  Braxton threw very few interceptions because he would usually only throw to single covered guys.

Additionally, the commentators on the Navy game kept talking about OSU not taking a chance deep. But at least 3 times I saw JT Barrett drop back and look deep, but the O-line didn't provide the protection to make the throw.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

Hoody Wayes's picture

Braxton Miller to Devin Smith = Big Play

J.T. Barrett to Devin Smith = Big Play

Devin Smith = Big Playmaker