What a difference a year makes. This time last year, the Ohio State receiving corp was raw, young, and unproven. There was some talent on the roster with guys like Devin Smith and Corey "Philly" Brown, but the #3 WR was a converted tight end, and a former tight end had moved to right tackle. The offense was, in many ways, a patchwork unit of short term answers, with the receivers leading the way. Urban Meyer's first priority in recruiting was to upgrade the receivers, and Corey Smith is demonstrable proof of that focus. Smith is the first junior college transfer to Ohio State in the Meyer regime, and looks to be a guy that will contribute early and often. Let's learn a little bit more about Smith, and the path he took to get to Columbus.
40 time: 4.5
High School: Buchtel High School (Akron, OH) via Grand Rapids Junior College via East Mississippi Junior College
Corey Smith is a guy that had to go to Mexico to get to Canada, in many respects. He was a hot prospect for the class of 2011, and was a guy that Ohio State was hot on the trails of, even then. He put up impressive numbers at Buchtel and started garnering interest from a lot of FBS schools. His first BCS offer back then was from Toledo, but the Division III all-state player soon had offers from some big time programs, to include Tennessee, Notre Dame, Penn State, LSU, Michigan State, and West Virginia, amongst others.
Ohio State kept in touch, but didn't offer him a scholarship. It seemed curious at the time, because many Big Ten programs, and a couple of big time SEC schools were interested in Smith. It seemed odd that OSU wasn't even going to offer one of their top in-state guys, but this was in the middle of the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal, so it didn't get as much play as it probably would have under normal circumstances.
In May of 2011, Smith committed to the University of Tennessee. But in a matter of days, it all unraveled.
Smith had attended Barberton high school for two years, but struggled academically as a freshman, and was expelled as a sophomore. That sophomore year was considered a year of used eligibility, which meant he had two options: finish his senior year and go the JUCO route for at least one year, or drop out of high school, get his GED, and go the JUCO route for two years. Either way, Tennessee was not an option for 2011.
So Smith dropped out of high school, completed his GED, and while working with Tennessee officials, planned to enroll at East Missisippi Junior College. However, Smith felt that was too far from home, and instead enrolled at Grand Rapids Junior College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a much closer commute to Akron. Although he had to go the JUCO route, he was still being recruited by multiple FBS schools, most notably Michigan State. Throughout 2011, however, Smith stayed loyal to Tennessee, who kept a scholarship for him, as long as he could meet the requirements they'd laid out for him. After Grand Rapids Junior College terminated their football program in early 2012, Smith transferred to East Mississippi Junior College, all the while still committed (in the more literal sense) to Tennessee.
And that's when his recruiting blew up yet again. Georgia offered first, then Alabama. Nebraska and his original favorite, Ohio State, got involved, only this time under Urban Meyer and the new coaching staff. Although they didn't offer him right away, they told him to keep up with his grades, and if he met all his academic requirements, he would, in fact, get an offer.
Before OSU could get him on campus, Smith gave a verbal pledge to Mississippi State. However, he still took an official to Columbus some two weeks after he committed to MSU. Once on campus, he started to re-think where he was going to spend his future, and decided that Columbus and the spread offense under Urban Meyer was the best fit for him after all.
Corey Smith was coming home.
When it comes to this section, I'm usually pretty upbeat about how much a guy will be able to contribute, even if it looks like he'll be buried on the depth chart. But seriously, in Smith's case, he has a legitimate shot to start from day one. Let me be perfectly clear on this: Corey Smith is an immediate impact player, for a couple reasons. Although better than at this time last year, the wide receivers are still one of the most unsettled positions on the roster, and Smith has had two years of junior college experience. That puts him a lot closer to Devin Smith and Philly Brown than the other incoming freshmen – and Smith is just as athletic and just as talented. And as skillfull as Smith and Brown have proven, they've both been in Meyer's doghouse at least briefly for inconsistent play. All Smith needs is an opportunity, and I firmly believe he'll make the most of it.
This is a guy that's a legitimate playmaker, and had his academic issues worked out in 2011, he would've probably been starting a a major FBS school last year. Smith is going to come in and push hard for a starting job, and I'll be mildly surprised if he doesn't win one.
Highlight Jam Session:
Over at Buckeye Planet on Smith's official comment thread, somebody compared Smith to Santonio Holmes, and I'll admit, I kind of scoffed when I first read that. But when you watch tape of Smith and then do a comparison, he does give off a Holmes vibe: looks taller than he actually is, and always seems to make the first guy miss when he gets the ball. His top end gear isn't as fast, but the way he positions his body and uses his hands when going for the ball, and then his first move to beat a defender after the catch? Vintage Holmes.
Compare film of Smith to Santonio Holmes and then tell me Smith doesn't remind you of Holmes. Go on, I dare you: