We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 14th installment in 2018. Here, we profile L'Christian "Blue" Smith, a wide receiver from Dayton.
L'Christian "Blue" Smith
- Size: 6-6/205
- Position: WR
- Hometown: Dayton, OH
- School: Wayne
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 126
- Position Ranking: 5 (ATH)
- State Ranking: 4 (OH)
- The Opening Finals
- Polynesian Bowl
Smith could be playing Division 1 basketball or football this upcoming academic year. Kentucky reportedly even offered him to do both. However, Smith realized that committing to two sports at that level would be too taxing on his time and body and focused his attention on the gridiron. Kentucky was still a major player and even the team to beat for much of Smith's junior year. However, a renewed push from the Buckeyes was the difference to secure his commitment last August.
I retell this recruitment below. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report of a wide receiver prospect with a huge catch radius but some uncertainty if he's ultimately a wide receiver or a tight end. I conclude with a projection of a redshirt in 2018 and some junior-year highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of the feature.
It was clear early into Smith's sophomore year that he was going to be a player to watch statewide in the 2018 recruiting class. He was already around 6-5 and 200 pounds and the best weapon Wayne had on the roster. He was likely to be the starting quarterback as a sophomore if Messiah deWeaver, who signed with Michigan State in the 2016 cycle, hadn't transfered into the program. Further, he's a talented basketball player, which underscored interest in his potential on the gridiron and even as a two-sport athlete at the collegiate level.
More Blue Smith at 11W
There was never a question of if Ohio State was going to offer him. It was a matter of when, and that "when" finally came on April 2, 2016 when Ohio State extended him the opportunity to join its 2018 recruiting class. Smith expressed in an interview with a local FOX affiliate that it was surreal to hear Meyer talk to him over the phone to inform him of the offer and the plans the coaching staff had for him.
However, Smith was in no rush to choose the Buckeyes. He was not even in a rush to choose a sport on which he wanted to focus in college. A potential all-conference player no matter where he played college hoops, Smith held out hope for a basketball offer from North Carolina at this point in the process.
More offers came as he decided to play out the process. Kentucky reportedly offered him in both basketball and football. Alabama, Michigan State, and Tennessee also offered for football.
At this point, his recruitment began to narrow. He identified that playing two sports at the collegiate level would be too taxing on his time and body. He decided he had more potential on the gridiron than the hardwood and focused his attention on the football offers he had. Further, he largely whittled his choices to Kentucky or Ohio State, which would shape the bulk of his recruitment into his commitment date.
Kentucky may have had a sizable lead for his commitment during Smith's junior year. This may seem surprising that a prospect with a committable Ohio State offer would fancy Kentucky football over Ohio State football, but it's a testament to Mark Stoops making Ohio a priority when he arrived in Lexington in Nov. 2012. Stoops' hire of Vince Marrow from Nebraska, in particular, resulted in a long-run recruiting dividend in the Buckeye State. Smith had several friends in Kentucky's program and Southwest Ohio talent fills out Kentucky's roster right now. It ultimately made Kentucky a viable option for Blue Smith's signature.
Crystal ball projections favored Kentucky before a renewed push from Ohio State's coaches put the Buckeyes back in the lead in the early summer of 2017. Ohio State's wide receiver recruiting by this point had yet to gain much traction in the 2018 cycle, making Blue Smith a higher-profile target for coaches on the trail. He received a lot of attention from assistants Greg Studrawa and Zach Smith, as well as Meyer himself.
Urban Meyer and Zach Smith talking with Wayne four-star wide receiver L'Christian "Blue" Smith and his father: pic.twitter.com/TBGuECpu9J— Andrew Lind (@AndrewMLind) June 17, 2017
Thereafter, Smith started representing Ohio State's brand as often as he could, identifying Ohio State last June as "the place to be" and changing his profile pictures to fear him in an Ohio State shirt.
He returned to Ohio State later in the summer for a camp and Friday Night Lights before his Aug. 27 commitment date. There was no confusion to where he was headed.
L'Christian "Blue" Smith committed to Ohio State on Aug. 27, 2017 as the 14th member of what would become Ohio State's full 2018 recruiting class. He chose Ohio State over Kentucky among other competing offers from the likes of Alabama and Cincinnati.
Eleven Warriors had comprehensive coverage of his decision and the rationale for choosing Ohio State. Namely, Smith chose Ohio State for two reasons. One, Meyer has a proven legacy of matriculating the talent he recruits to the NFL. He also has a proven championship track record. Winning in college and moving to the NFL is ultimately what matters for the industry into which is Smith is selecting. There are few better options than Ohio State right now toward that end.
Further, Smith circled back to the fact his heart had always been with Ohio State. He may have gone the basketball route if North Carolina had offered. He also seriously weighed his options at Kentucky. Ultimately, he identified as an Ohio kid and most Ohio kids who play football aspire to play football at Ohio State. He couldn't pass up that opportunity.
That August decision effectively ended Smith's recruitment. He signed with Ohio State during the early signing period.
WHERE HE EXCELS
Look through the past three recruiting cycles and you can tell Ohio State is jonesing for some taller wide receivers. It was Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack in the 2016 class. Elijah Gardiner, the since-transferred Trevon Grimes, and Jaylen Harris from the 2017 class are respectively 6-3, 6-5, and 6-5. L'Christian "Blue" Smith will try to be that guy Ohio State has been wanting at wide receiver since Mike Thomas left the program.
Smith has a lot of good qualities toward that end. His size and D1 basketball athleticism gives him a huge catch radius. Binjimen Victor's 2017 season built on what he showed as a freshman in 2016 but Ohio State doesn't have a lot of proven depth at that kind of wide receiver right now. Smith's film shows plenty of potential for what Ohio State wants of him.
His soft hands magnify his already large catch radius. One recurring limitation of bigger wide receiver prospects is that they may be used to "bodying" smaller defensive backs and using their own bodies to make catches. Smith instead shows a great ability to extend his hands from his body and even make some catches above his head. That's a high skill level and great hand-eye coordination to boot.
MUST WORK ON
Smith has D1 basketball athleticism but should not be considered a burner. He won't use speed to separate from defensive backs. In fact, coaches will largely want him to move the chains or be a problem in the red zone. He's tailored well for that now but could conceivably develop into a better route runner at the position. That's always a priority for wide receivers, especially bigger wide receivers, as they transition to college football.
There is some residual misgiving if wide receiver is where he ultimately stays. This is a situation where Ohio State's coaches really want him to be a wide receiver given what they have signaled they want at the position in the past few recruiting cycles. However, he may outgrow that role. He's around 6-6 and 205 pounds now and it seems unlikely he stays in the wide receiver rotation if he grows to 230 pounds.
In other words, he could do well to be a great tight end but coaches may want him to focus on maintaining his speed, even at the expense of more size, to stay at wide receiver. It's where his ceiling might be the highest and it's where coaches want him.
I think Smith is talented enough to play in 2018 but the roster situation right now is a case where there's not a pressing need to get him involved if, at the most, he's playing in the fourth quarter of games earlier in the season. I expect this to be a redshirt year.
Here are junior-year highlights of L'Christian "Blue" Smith.