Moment of Impact
Meyer Hoping Catch will Propel Smith to Greatness
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — "I stuck my hand up there. Saw the ball. Then squeezed it in really tight."
That’s all there was to it, according to Ohio State wideout Devin Smith, who should have been wearing No. 2 on Saturday instead of 15 if he was going to channel his inner Cris Carter.
The sophomore out of Massillon made one of the great catches in school history when he snagged a Braxton Miller pass that was on a direct path for the South stands, or worse yet for the hands of a Redhawks corner in the back of the end zone.
“He needed that,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said.
Photo by Dan Harker
“We needed that, but I’m just happy for him. Every great athlete at some point has that moment where he (goes from) average to good, good to much better than that.”
There is no guarantee this catch will be the one that changes the course of Smith’s career at Ohio State anymore than his game-winning touchdown catch against Wisconsin last season.
Smith only had four catches the rest of the year after hauling in a 40-yard bomb from Miller to beat the Badgers in the final seconds last October. Part of that was a lack of playing time, but certainly not all of it.
“I don’t know if Devin has been saving that but I’ve not seen him do that,” said Meyer, who has been openly critical of Ohio State’s young wide receivers since he took over the program back in January.
“So now that I know he can, I expect him to do that quite (often). He’s actually been playing pretty good for us. But that was a ‘wow’ moment and that was a moment that ignited the stadium. The stadium got quiet, our sideline got quiet and we were waiting for a play to happen and he went up and made a play.
Meyer was a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce back in 1986, so this was hardly the first time he’s seen a catch of that magnitude. His head was probably spinning in his first year of coaching in any capacity at the college level, but time stood still whenever Carter would make a big play in practice.
“I remember when Cris caught a backhanded pass when it was 10 degrees outside,” Meyer said of the former OSU All-American receiver.
“I remember thinking, ‘what the heck was that.’ I’ve seen Devin make some good plays, but I finally saw some still shots (of the one-handed catch) and thought that was as good a catch as I’ve ever seen.”
That’s a lot of praise for a young kid, but Meyer made sure to wait until after he had seen it on tape to let him Smith know exactly what he thought of the catch – which gave the Buckeyes their first points of the 2012 football season.
“(He had) a big smile on his face and he just keeps walking by me waiting for me to say great catch,” Meyer said Monday.
“And I just won't do it, I won't do it. I'm not going to do that.”
Meyer wants his young wideouts to play with confidence, but not false confidence. Despite the miraculous grab on Saturday, Smith still has a long way to go in becoming the kind of player he could be with his skill set.
“During the spring that’s when we really got a whole bunch of the ‘receiver group’s not that good at this and that,’ and we just kept working hard,” Smith said after the game.
“We really took it serious in the summer, really worked on our routes, and everyone got faster and stronger, catching the ball every single day, and we got better and it’s showing.”
Junior Corey “Philly” Brown had a career day in the opener, catching seven passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a kid who had 14 catches and only one score all of last season.
He has been pegged at Ohio State’s No. 1 playmaker outside of Braxton Miller, at least until Jordan Hall returns from a foot injury, but there was no question who was getting the ball on that first touchdown pass.
“I knew that Braxton was going to throw it to me, we talked about it before we got on the field,” said Smith.
“And right before he snapped the ball he looked at me and I knew he was going to throw it to me.”
Miller and Smith have been close ever since they got to Ohio State last year. They worked out together nearly every day over the summer, and even talked about making a play like that one the night before the opener.
“Braxton looked at me, I shook his hand and he said, 'Let's do it,’” Smith said.
“ ‘Let's make some plays’.”
That’s exactly what Meyer has been telling them since he got here.
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