Finding the right fit for your college football program isn’t just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment this afternoon from one of the top-rated prospects in the state when Huber Heights Wayne four-star wide receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith pledged his services to the Buckeyes ahead of his nationally televised game against Pine-Richland (PA).
Let’s take a look at what Smith — the fourth-rated athlete in the Class of 2018 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
Standing 6-foot-5 and 198 pounds, Smith has a rare blend of size, speed and strength that makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in the country. The size, mostly, is the reason some feel he’d be best suited to play tight end at the next level — but more on that in a bit.
“I think the funny part of it is that — at times — he doesn’t actually realize how big he is and what advantage he has with his size,” Wayne wide receivers coach Roosevelt Mukes Jr. told Eleven Warriors. “Even a big corner at 6-foot-1 is still going to be a few inches shorter than him. He definitely can use his size as an asset to attack the ball and catch it at its highest point.”
Smith is a great route runner, catches everything thrown his way and uses his athleticism well, shielding smaller defenders and catching the football at its highest point. He’ll be a terror in the red zone at the next level.
“He’s a competitor, and he catches the ball real well with his hands,” Mukes said. “He works very hard at his craft and wants to always continue to get better.”
Though there’s still room to improve — namely his separation at the line of scrimmage and blocking ability — Smith is one of the most competitive prospects in the country. He’ll continue to refine those skills with coaching and more repetition until he’s among the best wideouts in the college game.
“He does a good job of being a student of the game, listening and making sure he gets better each and every day,” Mukes said.
Smith has hauled in 97 receptions for 2,047 yards and 26 touchdowns in his two-year varsity career. He was named first-team all-state as a junior after leading the Warriors to the regional semifinals last season. Also a standout on the basketball court, Smith averaged a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. He may still try to play both sports at the next level, though it’s highly unlikely he’ll do so in Columbus.
IN THE CLASS
Smith becomes the 17th member — but first wide receiver — of Ohio State’s Supreme ’18 recruiting class, joining five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent; five-star defensive end Brenton Cox; five-star running back Jaelen Gill; five-star tight end Jeremy Ruckert; four-star quarterback Emory Jones; four-star offensive tackle Max Wray; four-star offensive guard Matthew Jones; four-star running back Brian Snead; four-star linebackers Dallas Gant, K’Vaughan Pope and Teradja Mitchell; four-star cornerback Sevyn Banks; four-star safeties Josh Proctor and Jaiden Woodbey; three-star running back Master Teague III and three-star safety Marcus Hooker.
The Buckeyes brought on a pair of talented wideouts in this year’s class in four-stars Trevon Grimes and Jaylen Harris — as well as a three-star project in Ellijah Gardiner — but the position is once always in need of an influx of talent. The staff’s goal is to bring on one or two wide receivers in the current cycle, with St. Louis Christian Brothers College four-star Kamryn Babb the only other realistic target at this point in time.
Babb, who will miss his entire senior season with a torn ACL, hasn’t set an announcement date, but it’s widely assumed he’ll end up with Ohio State at some point down the line. Smith’s decision puts less pressure on the staff to find a second wideout if Babb were to surprisingly choose another school.
The Buckeyes will remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to other receiver targets like Pennsylvania four-star Jahan Dotson and Xenia three-star Meechi Harris, as both have expressed interest in playing for the Buckeyes, but might not have a spot — or an offer — waiting for them in the class.
As mentioned above, there was a lot of outside talk about Ohio State wanting Smith to play tight end at the next level. So much so that a number of Kentucky’s coaches, commits and fans were using it to negatively recruit against the Buckeyes and improve their own standing in Smith’s recruitment, as he’s adamant about only playing out wide.
“I think I look like a wide receiver [and] I think play like a wide receiver,” Smith said. “I just ask why my name, out of all the 6-foot-5 [sic] wide receivers, why my name keeps coming up going to tight end. It’s just kind of hit me there because I’ve been working my whole life to be a great wide receiver. It’s just kind of one of those things, but it’s all about proving people wrong.”
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer put that narrative to rest when he invited Smith and his father, Lorenzo, to campus for a chat in mid-May. He, along with executive director of football operations Tim Hinton, sat down with the Smiths for about an hour and explained everything from where they see him fit into the class to where he is on their list of priorities.
Smith had been on campus numerous times in the last year, but this was unlike any visit he’d been on before. The more intimate meeting changed the tide in Smith’s recruitment and set the tone for his commitment this afternoon.