Jard Work: Smith Shining

Which Ohio State players are among the best bowlers on the team? What has bowl practice been like for freshman running back Rod Smith (pictured) and what does that mean for the future? Which Buckeye had no interest in going out and seeing some of the more notorious parts of New Orleans? "Jard Work" has answers to these questions and more.

With junior running back Dan Herron facing a five-game suspension to start next season should he return, Ohio State has a number of faces who could step into the void at the position. Sophomore Jordan Hall and redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry have each seen action this season, but a third, younger name figures to be in the mix as well.

Freshman Roderick Smith has been turning heads on the scout team while going through a redshirt season.

"Rod is awesome," senior running back Brandon Saine said. "He's a young guy but he shows a lot of raw talent out there. He's huge and he hasn't even really gotten to hit the weight room yet. He's definitely going to be a guy to watch for. I can't wait to watch him."

Herron emerged as the starter this season after Saine began the season there but faltered. Behind them, Hall and Berry jockeyed for position while freshman Carlos Hyde also factored into the equation.

Smith was held back by the NCAA clearinghouse, which kept him from joining the team until shortly after the season began. Sophomore safety Orhian Johnson said he befriended the native of Fort Wayne, Ind., upon his arrival.

"A guy doing the kind of stuff that he had to do and going through that situation and still making it, it just shows the kind of heart and the kind of will and determination that he has," Johnson said. "As long as he can transfer that onto the field, we'll be all right with Rod Smith."

A former four-star prospect as ranked by Scout.com, Smith's bruising style has drawn comparisons to former OSU tailback Chris Wells.

"He's going to be a great player for us," said sophomore defensive lineman John Simon, who routinely goes against Smith in practice. "He shows great eye control and he finds the holes. He's going to be a good one. He's got the total package. He's fast and physical. I look forward to seeing how he's going to do."

A two-way player in high school, Smith has been rumored to be a candidate to play on the other side of the ball. His teammates said they do not see him anywhere but in the offensive backfield.

"He's been unbelievable running the football," senior cornerback Devon Torrence said. "Somehow, some way, he'll have the football."

Added Johnson: "I don't want to give away too much of the secret but you guys just make sure that you pay attention to that guy later on. He's going to be a good one. He's a good player. He's got all the intangibles to be a great player and fortunately enough we've got him on our team."

The Week That Was – As the Buckeyes have prepared for the Razorbacks, they have also squeezed in some fun in the Crescent City. Head coach Jim Tressel said curfew has ranged from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., and a number of players have been spotted prowling famous Bourbon St.

On the eve of the game, the team took in an NBA game. With former OSU standout Evan Turner in town as part of the Philadelphia 76ers, the Buckeyes showed up in full force but left with about two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

A few nights earlier, OSU rented out a bowling alley and divided up into teams for a couple of games. According to senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, freshman kicker Drew Basil was the best bowler – no surprise given that Basil was a letterwinner in the spot in high school and held his signing day press conference at a local alley.

"I have to shout out Aaron Gant because he's a close second," he said. "I'm in the middle of the pack somewhere. I held up my team a little bit. Aaron had the highest but I was second."

In addition, Chekwa said the alley had a microphone and stage for players to demonstrate their freestyling abilities.

Not all of them have taken in the social activities the city offers aside from basketball and bowling, however.

"I'm not going out," he said. "We have one mission and we're trying to get a win against Arkansas and we're doing everything we can to do that."

Different Guys – The fact that Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett has talked of hating Ohio State since he started his career at Michigan did not sit well with defensive lineman Dexter Larimore.

The senior for the Buckeyes said that hearing Mallett disparage the OSU program did not surprise him.

"It's one of those typical Michigan mentalities," Larimore said. "That's why I love it here at Ohio State because I think the people are a little bit different. It's one of those things where Michigan people are just a little bit different. We'll just have to see what happens on the field."

However, Larimore said he expected nothing less from the strong-armed quarterback – and that Mallet's past makes this contest more exciting.

"They say that once you're a Michigan Man, you're (always) a Michigan Man," he said. "We have to get after him anyways, but it does help that he's a Michigan guy. It never hurts to be able to put that mentality in your head and say, ‘Hey, we've got to play this guy like we play Michigan.' Anytime you do that you play just a little bit better because it means just a little bit more to beat a Michigan team."

Blankenship's Progress – He might not have started out on that side of the ball, but junior Evan Blankenship is completing his first full season as a defensive lineman.

Blankenship began the season listed as an offensive lineman but was converted to the other side of the ball. He did not see any action this season, but senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said the recent addition to his unit has shown progress this season.

"He's really adapted really well, coming in as an offensive lineman," the senior said. "We said, ‘Welcome to the good side now.' He's really enjoyed it. He's learned a lot. He's a lot faster now. He's very athletic. You don't realize it but he's making a lot of progress."

After redshirting in 2007, Blankenship saw no action the following year. He has played in just one game to this point, recording four minutes of action as a sophomore against New Mexico State.


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