Jarrod Smith was a little surprised, to say the least, when he picked up his local newspaper Oct. 22.
It was the day after his Fairborn (Ohio) H.S. football team had brought an end to its eight-game losing streak with a 21-0 win over Miamisburg H.S., and the day he was set to make a trip to Bloomington to see his future teammates take on his homestate Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium. In the wake of Fairborn's Friday night victory, the 6-4, 278-pound Smith had said how he was expecting to see more than just a spirited battle between the Big Ten foes.
"I said I was going to Bloomington to watch Indiana beat Ohio State," says Smith.
Those sort of words aren't often spoken in Ohio, and his comments wound up making their way into the local newspaper the following morning. After Ohio State proved Smith's prediction false by handing the Hoosiers a 41-10 setback, Smith had to deal with his fair share of ribbing from locals who certainly wish Smith well in his future endeavors at IU, but whose loyalties run deep for the Scarlet and Grey.
Don't count Smith among those with deep-rooted affection for the Buckeyes. The offensive lineman was born in Evansville and has been a lifelong backer of the Hoosiers. That's what led him to quickly accept an Indiana scholarship offer last summer, and why he's adamant about what the future has in store for the Cream and Crimson.
"I tell everyone, watch out for Indiana football, because things are changing," says Smith.
As for the homestate Buckeyes, well, Smith likely welcomes the opportunity to get to Bloomington and no longer be inundated with news about the traditional power.
"I don't care for Ohio State at all," says Smith, who will likely play center at IU. "I think me and the other guys playing from Ohio, we get sick of hearing Ohio State this, Ohio State that."
Now that he's ready to embark on his IU playing career, Smith will have a chance to quiet some of those Ohio State fans himself. While he's focused on helping the Hoosiers get to their first bowl game since 1993 and to re-emerge as a factor in the Big Ten Conference, Smith can't help but mentally circle the Ohio State game on the calendar. Indiana hasn't beaten Ohio State since 1988, the same year Smith was born in Evansville. He's hoping to be a part of ending that drought starting next fall.
"Besides a BCS or national championship, knocking Ohio State from their little program prestige level, that would be unbelievable," said Smith.
That might seem like a stretch considering IU's recent struggles and Ohio State's tradition of success, but Smith has bought into IU Coach Terry Hoeppner's vision of rebuilding the IU program. A big part of that is revamping the Hoosier offensive line with the 2006 recruiting class, which includes seven signees.
Smith, the nation's 70th-ranked offensive lineman according to Scout.com, is one of the Hoeppner's biggest catches.
"Coach Hep's vision has me excited," says Smith. "Everyone says you have to start the whole thing off with a good group of linemen, and that's what we've done. I think with the commits we have, we all have the same agenda – we want to get on the field as soon as we can, and that's going to keep raising the bar in terms of competition."
Smith is joined by fellow offensive line recruits Pete Saxon, James Brewer, Mike Stark, Cody Faulkner, Rodger Saffold and Alex Perry, all of whom are excited about the opportunities they'll have to compete for playing time early in their college careers.
"The more you compete with your teammates, the better you play on the field," says Smith. "I think this approach is going to have us ready to compete in the Big Ten and start changing things around Bloomington."
Truth be told, there will be plenty of people from Fairborn who will be pulling for Smith and even the Hoosiers now that he's crossed the state's borders and suited up for the Hoosiers. They'll welcome the thought of Smith helping lead the Hoosiers back into the postseason – just so long as it's not at the expense of the Buckeyes.
"I get a lot of support from people here, too," says Smith. "They all say – this is Ohio State country, so they'll be for me in 11 of the 12 games, for the next 4-5 years."
SIGNING DAY 2006 - Jarrod Smith
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