“Rod Smith had the play of the day,” Urban Meyer said. “He held a block on punt return for 11 seconds. And the way we do our business here, that entitled him some carries.
“I mean, it was one of the greatest efforts I've ever seen on a play. For 11 seconds he locked down a defender and then knocked him down at the end of the play.”
Smith had just two carries for six yards against Navy, but according to his coach the fifth-year senior’s impressive effort on special teams may earn him more this week against Virginia Tech.
That was welcoming news for Smith, who has been struggling to crack into the running back rotation.
“It’s just good to hear that I’m noticed and that I can contribute other than offense,” Smith said. “It was good to get called out. At the same time I’m just helping out the team any way I can.”
Surely Smith’s preferred method for assisting the Buckeyes would be carrying the ball out of the backfield. That’s something the former four-star recruit from Fort Wayne, Ind. has struggled with in his time at Ohio State. He has not averaged more than three carries a game in any of his three seasons.
Smith is hoping that his effort, like that displayed on the block against Navy, will help him cement a spot in a crowded rotation that includes two players who carried the ball more than him in the opener in sophomore Ezekiel Elliott and freshman Curtis Samuel.
“It’s not just one day, you have to be consistent,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve been consistent throughout camp and going into this season.
“You’ve got to be able to not just be good at one thing.”
One thing Smith is clearly good at is blocking and Meyer was adamant that his 11-second block will earn the running back a chance to show he can do some things with the ball in his hands. So impressed was the coach with the block that he brought a group of reporters to a team room after practice Wednesday to play the video.
“In my 28 years I think I’m not sure I’ve seen maybe one or two of those,” Meyer said.
The coach was enamored with the block, which took place on a second-quarter punt against the Midshipmen. Smith locked on to Navy linebacker Ryan Harris and continued to drive him back, knocking him down multiple times before finishing him with pad-rattling blow.
After the team watched the block they gave Smith a standing ovation, Meyer said. The running back, however, was just trying to execute his coach’s teachings.
“I thought the play was still going, I didn’t hear a whistle,” Smith said. “That’s what we teach, four to six seconds, point A to Point B.
“That’s how long it’s usually supposed to last, but it went longer so I had to keep going.”