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The Suburbanite
  • Ohio State coaches pushing Devin Smith to the limit

  • Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith is learning that good isn’t good enough if he wants to be great.

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  • There are times when Devin Smith reads what his head coach says about him and he shakes his head. Just earlier this week Urban Meyer said Devin Smith is having an up-and-down spring.
    “But he’s doing pretty good,” Meyer added. That was a  week removed from Meyer telling people in Stark County at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club that Smith was having a heckuva spring.
    Which is it?
    Smith looks himself in the mirror everyday and knows the answer.
    It’s both.
    “He’s had an up-and-down spring,” Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith said Thursday after the Buckeyes’ spring practice. “He’s doing things now I didn’t see in 12 months, but he needs to do those every day, every rep. Bradley Roby is one of the best corners in the country and he goes against him every day. I get that.
    “Those two have a great competition because Roby knows Devin could be a great player, too.”
    Those are good words for Devin Smith to hear. He is getting better, but he needs to be consistently great.
    Like last year when Smith had the catch of the season. In the second quarter of the first game, Smith went up with his right hand and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller. The play made highlights around the country.
    Suddenly, everyone in the nation knew that Smith could make big plays.
    There was a blessing and a curse to that, though. Smith finished with 30 catches for 618 yards and six touchdowns. His 20.6 per-catch average was by far the best on the team.
    But the Massillon graduate doesn’t want to be known just as the kid with the one-handed catch.
    “I want to make more plays this year,” said Smith, who has 44 receptions for 912 yards and 10 TDs in his two seasons in Columbus. “I want to be the guy everyone can county on. I don’t want to be the guy everyone remembers as the one-handed catch.”
    Smith admitted when he reads Meyer’s lukewarm praise, he has been annoyed in the past.
    He also knows Meyer has a reputation for developing star receivers for the next level and he’s playing at a university that has produced seven first-round NFL draft picks at the position since 1995.
    “Last season was a taste of how this offense is supposed to run,” Smith said. “I felt, personally, that I played like an All-American at times, and at times I played like I wasn’t. The one thing I’m really focusing on is I want to be an All-American. I want people to know that I’m a great player.”
    Smith has grown used to getting little praise and much criticism in practice. At first, it was a bit of culture shock.
    Page 2 of 2 - Meyer’s coaching staff conducts a different practice than former head coach Jim Tressel.
    Meyer could point out one thing Smith does right on a given play, and four more he didn’t.
    “He acknowledges the good things I do ... some times,” Smith said. “A lot of times he won’t because he expects that from me.”
    Ohio State returns maybe the best receiving tandem in the conference with Smith and Corey Brown. Together, they caught 90 of Braxton Miller’s 148 completions.
    But Meyer’s offense is built around receivers, especially great ones, not just good ones.
    A year ago Meyer referred to them as a clown show.
    “It’s not a clown show, but we’re not the most dynamic wide receiver group in the country and we have the ability and the potential to be that,” said Zach Smith, in his second year as a full-time assistant with Meyer. “That’s probably the most awful thing you can say about a group. If we can get (Corey) Brown to turn those 60 catches into 2,000 yards and more than three touchdowns, that will help us.
    “Our offense is built around the receivers and the throw game. We rely heavily on them. ... They didn’t know how significant the expectation was last year. Now they know.”
    Smith, the coach, seems to have a solid relationship with his players. Several times Devin Smith and Brown made the coach laugh during a group interview.
    Zach Smith knows he doesn’t have to push Devin Smith much.
    “No one is harder on Devin Smith than he is on himself,” Zach Smith said. “He knows the potential of what he could achieve. ... He knows the expectation now.”
    There are times when Meyer puts his arm around Devin Smith in practice, away from the cameras and media types, away from fans.
    He tells him how good he can be.
    “He tells me I can play at the next level and compete with anybody,” Devin Smith said. “All I have to do is take the great coaching here and the sky’s the limit.”