It was as close to meaningful playing time as Smith would ever get. Now preparing for his final game as a Buckeye, the fifth-year senior finds himself at the tail end of a career that was high on potential upon his arrival but came up short in production. As a senior at Cincinnati Colerain, Smith was rated a five-star recruit and the No. 4 overall offensive lineman in the country.
He will end his OSU career without ever having started a game, but Smith told BuckeyeSports.com that he has no regrets about his time in Columbus.
"I competed every day to the best of my ability and sold out for my coaches," he said. "That's all you can ask for. At the end of the day I don't really care what other people think about me. In my heart I know I'm doing what's best for me."
As a prep senior, Smith was named a Parade All-American, the Gatorade Ohio player of the year as well as his conference's offensive player of the year after grading out at 92 percent and recording 130 knockdowns.
Smith said he felt burdened by expectations upon his arrival in Columbus.
"Of course if is (difficult)," he said. "It was a tough thing for me, but God has a plan and I have to trust in what He has laid out for me. I just live it one day at a time. I think it's been hard since the day I stepped foot on campus because I wanted to do some things on the football field that I just didn't do."
After undergoing a redshirt season, Smith entered the 2007 campaign as the second-string right guard behind junior Ben Person. He saw 43 minutes of action while appearing in all 13 games but things took a turn for the worse the next season.
As a sophomore, Smith was slowed by injuries that kept him out of two contests and saw a total of 18 minutes of playing time. Person held onto the starting spot for the second straight season before giving way to Rehring for the final three games due to injury.
When Smith did not appear as a member of the second team that season, offensive line coach Jim Bollman said the coaches were "just going off of the different situations that occur in practice," adding that there would be more chances for rotation in the future.
With Person gone the following season, Smith found his chance to crack the lineup. Unfortunately for him, however, the coaches opted to go with a player of the same age who had more experience. Bryant Browning had started the 2008 season at right tackle and taken his lumps but was deemed a better fit on the interior offensive line.
Smith was then switched to left guard, but his prospects for playing time did not improve. Standing ahead of him on the depth chart was former Michigan starter Justin Boren, who was eligible to start playing during the 2009 season. In his first active season with the Buckeyes, Boren started 11 of 12 games.
When he sat out, fifth-year senior and former walk-on Andrew Moses earned the start. Smith did not see action until the fifth week of the season and finished the year with 20 minutes of playing time.
At some point, Smith said he entertained thoughts of transferring out of the program.
"I definitely thought about it but I'm not a quitter," he said. "I didn't give up. I made a commitment to Ohio State. I'm from Ohio. Born and raised here. I wasn't going to run from competition. That's not who I am."
His fifth and final season saw him continue to serve in relief of Boren, who did not miss a start. However, some reports out of practice – which is closed to the media – indicated that Smith was playing some of the best football of his career.
"I'd like to think that I'm playing a lot better definitely," he said. "I'd say over time I've continually gotten better and that's the most important thing that I like to see. At least I was getting better over this time period."
Smith said he has grown both on and off the field during his OSU career and said he has enjoyed playing alongside the likes of Alex Boone, Kirk Barton, T.J. Downing and Doug Datish while watching a player like Brewster grow into an All-America center.
As for whether it was difficult seeing younger players get into the action while he remained on the sideline, Smith offered a grim smile.
"What do you think?" he said.