Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WITH ROD SMITH IN THE BACKFIELD BUCKEYES FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

Rod Smith (The Buckeye Times/Joshua Stueve)
COLUMBUS — Whether Dan "Boom" Herron returns to Ohio State next season or not, it's going to be nearly impossible to keep one young runner from eating up his carries.

Rod Smith, who will be a red-shirt freshman next season, is receiving rave reviews from some of his teammates and coaches for the way he's been performing in practices and bowl season workouts.

He's even garnered some lofty comparisons to one of the best running backs in Buckeye history.

"I always tell him that he's the next Beanie Wells," Ohio State senior linebacker Ross Homan said of Smith.

Smith, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound tailback from Fort Wayne (IN) Harding High School, didn't become academically eligible for admission to Ohio State until the second week of the season, meaning that any playing time during his freshman campaign wouldn't be a possibility due to the fact that he missed all of the off-season workouts.

However, Smith didn't take long to display in practices that he is certainly the future of Ohio State's backfield.

"He has all of the physical aspects: size and speed," Homan said. "But Rod just sits back, takes everything in. He's a humble guy. He's always in the weight room ...

"I'm telling you he's going to be one hell of a player."

When asked about Sugar Bowl practice and which players were standing out, the first name OSU head coach Jim Tressel uttered was Smith's.

"The guy that had a couple good runs (in practice) was Rod Smith," Tressel said. "He went down and scored a touchdown and did a good job. He's the first guy I can think of."

On the day Smith signed to play at OSU, running backs coach Doc Tressel was probably the happiest man in the entire state of Ohio. (Note: to see video of Doc Tressel on Smith, click here)

"Rod Smith is a big guy, he's carried the ball inside and outside. He's just a great ball carrier," Doc Tressel said. "He's an outstanding athlete also. He was (Harding's) place kicker, their punter, their returner, free safety ... he was also their lead leg in the 4x100m relay team that was second in the state of Indiana, which is a one-track meet only state.

"So Rod has some great athletic ability. He's a great competitor and we're excited to have someone with that kind of range and size to help us as the Buckeyes pursue the national championship."

But would the running backs coach compare Smith with Wells?

"He's 6-3, 220 ... he's a big guy, and he's a fast guy," Doc Tressel said of Smith. "I think he has good ball skills. But, you know, Beanie being a first round draft choice, you've got to give a little more time. Give me about a year and we'll try to make that comparison.

"But he starts with similar physical attributes (as Beanie)."

Once again, the Buckeyes will be deep at the tailback spot with Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Jaamal Berry all returning next season, as well as Herron for the final seven games.

However, after hearing the reviews from players and coaches, Mr. Smith will definitely be on the field next season, perhaps as the No. 1 runner on the depth chart — with or without Herron.