The Ohio State Buckeyes have been known to be ‘Defensive Back University’. In the 2018 NFL Draft, a member of the vaunted unit, Denzel Ward, was selected No. 4 overall to the Cleveland Browns — not to mention Damon Webb signing with the Titans shortly after the end of the event.
Now, another member for the Buckeye secondary has been given an opportunity to land in the NFL, with Erick Smith heading accepting an invitation by the Jacksonville Jaguars to participate in rookie minicamp.
So, why should the Jaguars be excited for this Cleveland native? Well, there’s a few reasons.
1. Experience on the big stage
While he only started two games, Smith saw the field in 45 contests. He didn’t take a redshirt in 2014, which paid off, as he played in 14 of OSU’s 15 games en route to a national championship season. In that Buckeye title run, he was responsible for four tackles in the postseason—where he faced Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. Those numbers aren’t too bad, considering he was a freshman at the time.
And with Ohio State playing in a slew of primetime games drawing national attention, he’s performed under the bright lights, too. That experience isn’t found in abundance.
2. Breakout performances as a true senior
While a 13-tackle freshman season, and a 16-tackle junior season is respectable, it can’t buoy one’s NFL hopes; you’ll need to do something more than that.
Smith turned it on during his senior campaign—ending with his best season yet. He started in his first two games of his Buckeye career, and tallied 40 total tackles across 12 games. This was the season where he brought down ball carriers by himself, as 26 of those tackles were unassisted. In comparison: His first three seasons at OSU showcased Smith getting only 24 unassisted tackles across 33 games.
On a Saturday in September 2017, he had his best game of his career. Against Army, Smith notched a career-high nine tackles and three pass
His hard work was seen by the coaches, as he was named three-time “champion”. (The champion of the week honor at OSU is basically the weekly MVPs from the last game.)
One of the games Smith received the honor was against rival Michigan. In that game in Ann Arbor, his performance on special teams was recognized as player of the game worthy.
3. A winning mentality
Outside of the weekly team honors, Smith comes to the NFL with a trophy case that’s filled with rings. He’s been part of a national championship team, three bowl-winning teams (2014 Sugar, 2015 Fiesta, 2017 Cotton) and two Big Ten Championship squads.
To constantly win, takes a certain drive at not only the player level, but the coaching level. An environment that pushes members to be great—not just good—is one that produces prospects that are ready for the next level.
Smith, while not in a major role, has been part of a winning tradition at OSU. That will definitely be carried into the NFL—and that’s something to be excited about.
Any concerns about Smith?
In comparison to the other DBs that have come out of the Ohio State pipeline, Smith never was a constant starter nor did he put up the same numbers as the likes of Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward.
Additionally, a season-ending ACL-tear in 2015 may be cause for concern, too. In a position that relies heavily on running and turning at a moment’s notice, the ACL could be re-aggravated.
Those seem to be the big concerns for Smith, but if he’s looking for one more chance to play football, especially at the pro level, he’ll do what it takes to make the team.