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September 17, 2013

Smith wants to be 'everyday' player

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The plane ride from Oakland back to Columbus was when it all seemed to hit Devin Smith.

Following Ohio State's 52-34 win against California Saturday, he'd been told his 90-yard touchdown haul from backup quarterback Kenny Guiton was the longest play from scrimmage in program history.

And now, with a some four-hour trip back to Ohio approaching, the junior wide receiver -- finally -- had time to think about what it all meant.

"I was just going through my head -- the touchdown that I had -- and I just couldn't believe it just being in the record books here at Ohio State," Smith, who finished the day with 149 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions, said. "It's unreal."

Unreal? Maybe. But then again, it might not be all that surprising -- big plays seem to just follow Smith around.

There was the game-winning catch against Wisconsin in 2011; the acrobatic, one-handed grab against Miami (Ohio) in last year's season opener; the 72-yard touchdown that helped the Buckeyes dispatch the Golden Bears in 2012; the 63-yard strike against Michigan State that ultimately edged the Spartans in East Lansing.

It's not an exhaustive list either.

Smith, though, downplayed his unusually effective knack for finding the football in what seem to often be the most-crucial moments of games.

"I would just say (I'm) a guy just loving playing football and going out there and making plays for his team whenever they need me, whenever my number's called," Smith said. "I'm just making sure I'm gonna be there to make a play."

More than not, Smith delivers. But that forte might be a blessing and a curse.

While Smith certainly isn't deficient in ability -- or even in general production -- he seems to lack the steadiness expected of a player of such giftedness.

"Oh, boy, (he's a) pretty talented guy and remember he had a good game against Cal a year ago and then disappeared for a while. With Devin, it's consistency, certainly not talent," said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. "(He's a) very talented guy, wonderful young guy to be around -- just every week showing up with that eye of the tiger. And when he does, he's a really good player."

It feels like it's been a stigma attached to him for the better part of his career: all over the field one Saturday and a ghost the next.

And if anyone's tuned into that notion, it's Smith. Of course, he wants to debunk it.

"If I go into the next game and not play as well, you know, (the coaches are) going to jump on me about that but you know I know that myself," he said.

It's not to say that Smith's play has been wildly erratic. That's hardly the case.

Rather, last season, Smith totaled 618 yards and six touchdown on 30 catches. Those figures -- while not overwhelming -- sat at or near the top among the team's wide receivers in 2012. Since coming to Columbus, he's amassed 912 and ten scores on 44 receptions.

At a place like Ohio State and under a coach like Meyer, such numbers appear to be regarded as average.

Three games into this season and his production is noticeably improved.

Smith already has 256 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches. Whether or not that pace continues is a sentiment that seems to still linger. In an offense that seems to always demand more, though, Smith might not have a choice but to follow suit.

"I don't ever want to have one game good and the next game not be as well," he said. "Coach (Tom) Herman always talk about being an everyday guy and that's what I'm trying to do. I've worked my tail off all summer to be that guy."

Smith has nine chances (and maybe a couple more) to prove that.



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