Aug 31, 2013
Looking at the most successful programs in college football, all have one thing in common. Every team has a player or players who are able to make highlight-reel hits, eye-popping catches or complete tremendous feats of athleticism. To make a big play is not enough for these teams to be successful though; these players must take it a step further and embrace their role as playmakers.
"Being a playmaker means being there when your team needs you," Devin Smith said. "You have to be the guy everybody can count on to make a big-play."
During the Buckeyes' 2012 campaign, Smith, a junior wide receiver, certainly earned the label of playmaker after catching 30 passes for 618 yards and 10 touchdowns. Although at the beginning of the season, then-first-year head coach Urban Meyer did not believe Smith or any other member of the receiving corp. would earn the status of playmaker.
At the time, Meyer hinted the receivers did not work hard enough, they were not prepared and there were no big-play guys in the group. The criticism struck a chord with the Buckeye receivers, particularly Smith.
"We realized why he said it, he wanted to motivate us and make us feel like we needed to prove something every day," Smith said. "We worked extremely hard to become a productive unit."
Smith found it especially difficult to believe he was not considered a big-play guy. After all, Smith was on the receiving end of one of the biggest plays during the 2011 season when he caught a 40-yard touchdown heave from Braxton Miller with 20 seconds left in an upset of then- 15th-ranked Wisconsin.
"There are times when you just need a big play and for the guys to be able to look at me to get it done is something I take great pride in," Smith said. "I love to make big plays for my teammates because we've all worked so hard together and a big play just gets everyone hyped."
Smith's knack for making the big-play was evident throughout 2012 as he accrued a lion's share of the Ohio State receivers' big-plays. A native of Massillon, Ohio, he caught four touchdown passes of 50 or more yards, including a career-long of 72 yards vs. California. The catch, however, was not even the most memorable catch of the season. The honor is reserved for his one-handed touchdown grab in the first game of the season vs. Miami University, which earned Smith GEICO Play of the Year honors, a national award for the best play of the college football season.
In 2013, Smith will assume a leadership role of a productive receiving unit, primed to stand out amongst a high-powered offense. The offense returns 11 starters from 2012, including the top-three wide receivers.
Additionally, the learning curve for the new offense is gone. The team has a full year learning Coach Meyer's spread offense under their collective belts, which means they can operate even faster than they did in 2012. According to Smith, every facet of the Buckeye offense is moving at jet speed.
Now, Smith is excited to go full speed with all the other playmakers around him on offense. These additional playmakers are all guys who proved themselves in 2012.
"Braxton is a guy everybody is going to key on after the season he had, Corey Brown, Carlos Hyde and myself proved we had playmaker abilities last season," Smith said. "A guy nobody is taking notice of is Evan Spencer. He is really going to help us out this year too."
The beauty of the playmaker position is there is no limit to the number of guys who can earn this role. In fact, the more playmakers on a team, the better chances of winning. Ohio State will have the type of season everyone expects, if the playmakers like Smith and the Buckeyes do what they do best, make big plays.