Ohio State's 2015 senior class has a chance to win its 50th game over a four-year period New Year's Day in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. Before kickoff in their final collegiate game, Eleven Warriors will take a brief look back at each player's time in Columbus.
WHERE HE'S FROM
Corey Smith hails from Akron, Ohio, but the unheralded 2011 Akron Buchtel product took a detour en route to Columbus.
Smith started his collegiate career at Grand Rapids Community College. He posted 28 receptions, 438 yards, and two touchdowns in what turned out to be the last season for the Raiders in their 80-year history.
Smith headed south in 2012, where he recorded 51 receptions, 733 yards and nine touchdowns for Buddy Stephens' East Mississippi Community College. For his efforts, 247 named Smith a four-star talent as the No. 9 overall JUCO prospect and No. 3 wide receiver.
The production caught the eye of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who needed wide receiver depth. Smith signed with Ohio State in 2013, becoming the first JUCO player to sign with the Buckeyes since linebacker Larry Grant in 2006.
Despite the two-year detour, the extra first-team reps did little to prepare Smith for the vault to a nationally elite program.
Smith, like fellow journeyman import Michael Thomas, spent the 2013 season wearing the wrong kind of red in Columbus. Smith's redshirt junior season started with one catch in his first two games against FBS competition (Navy and Virginia Tech).
Smith never lacked the talent, but after failing to make a mark on the first half of 2014, something switched for Smith after he missed the Illinois game.
Where Smith's light went on, he turned off others:
Look at the scoreline: 21-21 against Michigan, late in the third quarter, and there's an "195-pound" wide receiver demolishing a man 12 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Those are the plays that earn wide receivers playing time at Ohio State. Smith carried the chip into the next game too before being ejected for this non-targeting smackdown on Wisconsin All-American linebacker Joe Schobert:
Smith went on to lead Ohio State wide receivers with 76 yards in the national title win over Oregon.
OVERARCHING CONTRIBUTION TO THE PROGRAM
Many players attempt a career path like Smith's—it's the stuff on which sports movies are built—but few make it to Smith's position.
He should inspire highly-recruited freshmen that are disgruntled with playing time. A bench role and practice with some of the country's best footballers are better teachers than community college bus rides.
I would do anything to be out there with my brothers today, I know yall boys got it, I will be back stronger than ever— Corey Smith Jr (@dreamchaser_cj5) September 7, 2015
Though he never lit a stat sheet on fire, there are five-star talents who made less of an impact than the former no-star.
WHERE HE'S HEADED
Smith broke his leg against Indiana and didn't walk with Ohio State's seniors on senior day. According to Ohio State spokesperson Jerry Emig, there's "hope" Smith could be retained in 2016 on a medical redshirt.
If the NCAA doesn't side with Smith, he'll undoubtedly take his shot at the NFL, though it will be as a camp invitee. Smith lacks ideal size and speed, so if he's to make it in the NFL it will be as a slot receiver or perhaps at defensive back, a position he played during his community college days. If that fails, Smith has the talent to play in Canada.