What Devonta Smith's Commitment Means for Ohio State’s 2021 Recruiting Class

By Zack Carpenter on March 16, 2020 at 11:50 am
Devonta Smith
Devonta Smith (Courtesy La Salle High School)

With the commitment of Cincinnati (Ohio) La Salle High School three-star cornerback Devonta Smith, the nation's No. 32-ranked cornerback and No. 428-ranked overall player in the 2021 class, the Buckeyes landed their 12th overall commitment in the class and seventh from the state of Ohio.

We take an extensive look at what Smith brings to Ohio State on and off the field.

On the field

When looking at recruiting rankings, it's easy to see why Smith's commitment won't feel as exciting as the commitment of Jakailin Johnson. But not if you ask Kerry Coombs or Ryan Day.

After getting a highly coveted offer from Ohio State on Thursday afternoon, it didn't take long for Smith to commit to the Buckeyes. He gave Coombs a call Friday night, and Coombs was his exuberant self. On Saturday morning, Day called Smith to detail his own excitement.

“He was saying I’m a steal for Ohio State because being ranked as a three-star, usually guys don’t get the offer or anything like that,” Smith told Eleven Warriors. “I know my worth, and I know I could produce at the highest level possible. He was just relaying that back to me, saying that to me. It was a real great moment for me to hear that out of one of the best head coaches in the country’s mouth so it was great.”

Smith and Jeff Hafley did not have much of a relationship and really didn't communicate. That changed when Coombs was hired, as the Cincinnati native (who is from Smith's same neighborhood on the west side) visited La Salle High School the day after he was hired by the Buckeyes for his second stint with the program.

During that time, Coombs told Smith he didn't feel comfortable offering him yet. That's because he wasn't familiar with Smith's film or character. That soon changed, and Coombs began to put his relationship with Smith on the fast track because he noticed what Smith says makes him an asset on the field.

“First off, on my film I look smaller than I am,” Smith said. “I don’t know why that is – I don’t know if it’s the camera or anything. It makes it look smaller than what I really am, but I’m a legit 6-foot and weight legitimately 185 pounds, and I’m a workhorse in the weight room. I throw up great numbers – numbers I’m pretty sure no other defensive back is doing in the country. I’ll just say that. I take a lot of pride in the weight room. Film-wise, I look smaller than what I really am. I can say that for sure. I’m bigger than what most think.”

Have to love that classic cornerback confidence if you're an Ohio State fan. As for what numbers he's talking about? He's not talking about his junior season stats (six interceptions, 72 tackles, six reception touchdowns on La Salle's Division II state championship team). 

He's talking about his numbers in the weight room on his core lifts: 500-pound squat, 315-pound bench press, 275-pound power clean and 525-pound deadlift.

And he's also talking about his time in the 40-yard dash, which Smith says was 4.4 seconds two years ago, but he hasn't ran an official 40 since then.

“I’m sure I got faster. I feel faster,” Smith said. “I’m just that explosive kind of guy. I’m pretty sure I’m a 4.3 guy right now, but 4.4 was my fastest 40 time. I’m a dog man. For sure.”

Off the field

You will want to come back to Eleven Warriors on Wednesday morning, as we will get into much further detail into Smith off the field and how impactful it was on his life to get an Ohio State offer because it's not often that we hear about the type of reaction that he had.

Smith was born in Cincinnati and, save for a brief time spent in Tennessee when he was about 3 or 4 years old, he has spent his entire life in the Queen City. Coombs went to Colerain High School, one of La Salle's rivals, but the two personalities of Smith and Coombs mesh very well.

“I love (his personality) because I’m that exact same kind of way. He’s just wild, and I feel like I’m wild too,” Smith said with a laugh. “But I know how to control it. But I’m that wild, very energetic guy. I love to dance and everything like that. I just wanna have fun and make everyone else around me have fun and get them laughing. I’m that humorous kind of guy so I feel like that’s how we equal out.

“And him being from Cincinnati, growing up in the same area and with him knowing my background and everything I’ve been through, I feel like that’s really a plus because he really knows how to coach me – given what he already knows. I feel like that’ll be great.”

The first time Coombs met Smith and Johnson was in January, when the three of them and La Salle head coach Pat McLaughlin had about an hour-and-a-half conversation in McLaughlin's office, and there was an instant connection between the Buckeye coach and his eventual pair of future DBs. 

“The first time we met him, it wasn’t even us being loud. He was just making us laugh a lot, which I really enjoyed and everything like that. It was just really great,” Smith said.

In the class

Coombs and the Buckeyes are gunning to land five defensive backs. That figures to be three cornerbacks, one safety and a hybrid safety/linebacker. They now already have 60 percent of that ready to sign their NLI with the commitments of Smith and Jakailin Johnson (two pure cornerbacks) and Jaylen Johnson (hybrid safety/linebacker), Smith's best friend and teammate at La Salle.

They will continue pressing their recruitment of the nation's No. 1-ranked corner, Tony Grimes, and they will look to flip Jordan Hancock, though that prospect doesn't seem the most realistic with Clemson holding a firm commitment from him.

Andre Turrentine and Hunter Washington are two more cornerback prospects the Buckeyes are looking to land, with Turrentine leading the way there, and the Nashville cornerback is set to announce some sort of news on Tuesday. Perhaps that's just a trimmed list, but with the momentum Coombs and the Buckeyes have right now, anything is possible.

The highest priority at defensive back, though, is safety Derrick Davis Jr., a player with massive potential to become a five-star recruit this summer or fall.

“(Coombs) said this is gonna be like when he had Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward and Gareon Conley all at one time.”– Ohio State Cornerback Commit Devonta Smith

Grimes or Davis would be a gigantic get for the Buckeyes. Right now, we don't believe the Buckeyes will land Grimes, but we believe they will eventually land Davis as one of class' crown jewels. 

Ohio State, Penn State, Clemson and Georgia are four of the schools in the best spot for Davis right now, but Coombs is looking to build something special and is setting his sights high, especially because there will be plenty of opportunities for an early impact considering the thinness of the Buckeyes' defensive backs room.

“(Coombs) said this is gonna be like when he had Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward and Gareon Conley all at one time,” Smith said. “It’s gonna be crazy. I’m looking forward to coming in and producing early and hopefully playing early. We were talking about the depth and that I’m gonna come in and get some time early as a freshman because he wants to develop me early and possibly mold me into one of the best.”

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