We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 22nd installment in 2018. Here, we profile Tyreke Smith, a defensive end from Cleveland.
- Size: 6-4/255
- Position: DE
- Hometown: Cleveland, OH
- School: Cleveland Heights
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 34
- Position Ranking: 4 (WDE)
- State Ranking: 3 (OH)
- Under Armour All-American
- The Opening Finals
Tyreke Smith had a unique recruitment from beginning to end. It started in the summer before his junior year, before he had even played organized football in high school. It featured Smith making national headlines, while still on the recruiting trail, for a shirt he wore to an Ohio State football camp. It ended with Smith signing with Ohio State over Penn State on Dec. 22, 2017 before announcing his decision at the Under Armour All-American Game.
I retell this recruitment below. I offer a scouting report for a defensive end prospect whose athleticism propelled him to the recruiting spotlight despite playing only two total years of high school football. I suggest it's possible that the new redshirt rules may allow Smith to play sparingly in 2018 while still preserving his redshirt. I close with some senior-year highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of the feature.
Tyreke Smith had a unique recruitment in a lot of ways, both beginning to end. First, Smith's family had recently moved from Southern California to Cleveland for family reasons. While Ohio State has a strong pull among Cleveland prospects, Smith is not originally from the area and his family moved to Cleveland to take care of his dad's parents. Second, Ohio State started recruiting Smith before he had played a down of high school football. He had moved to Cleveland before he started high school, but played basketball exclusively since he arrived in Ohio.
More Tyreke Smith at 11W
However, Smith hit the camp circuit after his sophomore year when he internalized he had a greater shot at a college football scholarship than a college basketball scholarship. 6-4 and 240 pounds at the time, college programs already saw the potential at defensive end. Smith entered the summer of 2016 with more than 10 total scholarship offers, ranging from MAC programs like Akron and Ohio to Power Five programs like Iowa State, Rutgers, Syracuse, and even Michigan State.
Ohio State was one of those suitors. Smith visited Ohio State for a camp in June 2016 and he returned for another official visit that August. His interest in the program was genuine and it catapulted Ohio State to the top of the list of crystal ball projections through the fall.
Penn State emerged as the major competition for the Buckeyes at this time. For one, Ohio State had yet to offer Smith, notwithstanding its interest. Further, James Franklin is an ace recruiter with a personality that resonated with Smith. That relationship with Franklin, along with a couple of visits to Penn State in the fall, was enough for Penn State to supplant Ohio State at the top of the list of crystal ball projections for Smith's commitment.
This started to change when Ohio State finally extended an offer in late of January 2017. An offer in hand, Smith began to gravitate back to the Buckeyes through the spring. That is not to say Smith didn't get even more attention through early 2017. Michigan had offered six days earlier and Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas, among others, all offered in the month afterward. However, the Buckeyes regained their position as a team to beat.
GOD IS GREAT!!!! Beyond blessed to receive an offer from The Ohio State University O-H pic.twitter.com/2Tzu7Y9QVZ— Tyreke Smith (@T_23_baller) January 26, 2017
He began to formalize his recruitment that summer. He trimmed his list to a top five at The Opening Finals, formally putting Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, and USC as his top five. That list was alphabetical but the top two teams were really Ohio State and Penn State. While receiving the scholarship offer in January may have been enough to offset the ground that Penn State had gained in the fall of 2016, Smith was still no sure thing for Ohio State's recruiting class, even with the early signing day approaching.
Brenton Cox's decommitment put a greater urgency on Ohio State's recruitment of Tyreke Smith, especially as edge players were lacking in this class. It motivated the late interest and offer to Alex Williams and it led the coaching staff to intensify its pitch to Smith about the program. Penn State helped the Buckeyes' case with what was reportedly a poorly executed official visit to State College in early December.
Thereafter, Ohio State's top coaches—Urban Meyer, Greg Schiano, Tony Alford, and Larry Johnson—traveled to Cleveland to see Tyreke Smith play a basketball game. They followed it with an in-home visit, which was sufficient to get Tyreke Smith to pledge to the program. He signed with the program on Dec. 22 but only revealed his decision during the Under Armour All-American Game.
Tyreke Smith publicly committed to Ohio State on Jan. 4, 2018 as the 22nd member of what would become its full 2018 recruiting class. He chose Ohio State over a host of other offers, but prominently conference foe Penn State.
Proud to be a buckeye!!! pic.twitter.com/EOpaKkfwML— Tyreke Smith (@T_23_baller) January 4, 2018
Smith told Eleven Warriors that Ohio State was the best option for him to succeed on and off the field.
“Ohio State feels like a family setting,” Smith told Eleven Warriors. “Also, they have my major [business] and good academics. The biggest thing that stuck out and put them ahead is that I feel that coach [Larry] Johnson and the rest of the Ohio State staff can develop me the best out of all the schools.”
“Coach Johnson is a great mentor and person to be around,” Smith said. “He pushes you and coaches you to be the best and that's what I need. Our relationship has grown over time, and I have the utmost respect for him and he gives me respect, as well.”
Smith's recruitment ended there and he enrolled in June.
The LandThe Bus— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) February 7, 2018
Excited to keep this baller in-state! @T_23_baller is ready to be a part of the Rushmen!#GoBucks #Supreme18 #NSD18 pic.twitter.com/FNEIqs8F7d
WHERE HE EXCELS
Tyreke Smith went from not playing football to choosing among programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, and USC in a two-year window because of his athleticism. It's the first thing that jumps out from his highlight film.
His film shows a defensive end too fast and too strong to be blocked one-on-one at the high school level. It shows a prospect capable of getting to the backfield almost immediately after the ball is snapped. It even shows him fighting off a double-team to make plays in the backfield.
You'll even see his athleticism at the tight end position, which Smith also played at Cleveland Heights.
Athleticism is clearly his biggest superlative for a prospect with only two years of high school football experience. He has the ideal frame for a weakside defensive end and elite athleticism for the position.
MUST WORK ON
A prospect with just two years of high school football under his belt is going to be high on athleticism and short on technique. It shows in Smith's film in several ways.
The most obvious limitation you'll see right now is how Smith uses his hands. He doesn't have many "get off" moves. It's all bull rush. His hand fighting needs improvement for him to thrive at a program like Ohio State.
The technique concerns manifest elsewhere. For one, a blocker that makes first contact with Smith can almost immediately stand him up. He can lose leverage almost immediately. There are still cases in his film where he makes plays anyway, but that won't happen at the college level.
These are all correctable/teachable things, but it'll be the focus areas for Smith as he develops.
This is a close call. Ohio State has sure things at defensive end in guys like Nick Bosa and Chase Young. The depth behind them (e.g. Jonathon Cooper, Jason Cornell) are solid as well. However, the new redshirt rules could conceivably allow Ohio State to play Smith sparingly in 2018 while still preserving his eligibility. I'm leaning more toward redshirt, but the new rules may allow Ohio State fans to see at least a little of Smith in some blowout contests in a way that gets him some reps but preserves his eligibility.
Here is a senior-year highlight film of Tyreke Smith.