Mr. Smith Goes To OSU

Euclid (OH) LB Brandon Smith didn't quite get the headlines as some of the other Buckeye recruits this year, but that's fine with him. Gary Housteau talked with Brandon on Signing Day about how he got to this point and where he's headed in the future, and it sounds like the Buckeyes have yet another quality player on and off the field.

Having a guy like Brandon Smith of Euclid High School in the 2004 recruiting class for Ohio State is like finding an extra-special treat in your stocking at Christmas after you've already opened all of your presents that were under the tree.

For most OSU fans this year, restocking the linebacking positions probably started and finished with Marcus Freeman, the Parade All-American who was obviously a cornerstone of this recruiting class. Sure, for those that follow recruiting closely, everyone was hoping that James Bryant would come aboard at the last minute, and now there are others who are thinking that Chad Hoobler's future may be on the defensive side of the ball instead of at tight end. But it seems like nobody is thinking about Smith these days.

"We had a small ceremony school-wide," said Smith on Signing Day. "In the morning announcements, they honored me and another one of my guys who signed today. And I had Fox 8 news come and do a couple of minutes with me, so it's been a nice day so far."

Obviously, he's not a totally unknown entity at this point, but he's certainly not the most well-known player ever recruited to play at Ohio State either.

"He's a hard worker who really doesn't get much pub, but he doesn't mind, and he's just ready to work," said Smith as he attempted to describe himself in the third person.

Actually, Smith is hoping to become the third person that Ohio State fans come to associate with greatest that has been produced by his soon to be alma mater. First there was Robert Smith, and then there was Pepe Pearson, and now this other guy named relation.

"I'm fast for my size at the high school level -- I know college-wise that I'll probably have to work on that -- and I'm also strong," Smith said. "So speed and strength, I think, is the key."

Before becoming the head coach at Euclid, Mike Rezzolla was the defensive coordinator and a longtime staff member who was there when both Robert Smith and Pearson played for the Panthers.

"He was a middle linebacker for us this year but he also played some tight end and offensive tackle because we needed some larger bodies there at times," said Rezzolla as he began to describe his school's latest export to Ohio State. "The thing that impressed me most this year -- he was always great at stuff that was run right at him. He's very strong and he fills the interior holes extremely well -- this year he became a guy that played in space well also. He's got good hands and he made a few picks. But one of the best things he did was play sideline to sideline. He's got a great motor and he pursues well; he never stops.

"With the way the game is being played now with a lot of spread offenses and sprint-outs, he was our guy to kind of pull up the quarterback when they broke contain. With his long arms and the height as well as his ability to make plays in the open field, he really helped us defensively in that respect."

Smith has been a varsity performer at Euclid for three years. He actually started his career as a Panther on offense as a lineman in his sophomore year and then he switched over to the defense to anchor that unit at middle linebacker in his final two seasons. That's the ideal position Rezzolla would like to see the 6-3, 240-pound Smith play at Ohio State.

"Naturally, I like him as a true Mike linebacker, but we can't tell what the guy is going to look like down the road," he said. "He just turned 17 at the beginning of the football season, so he's extremely young and he's got a lot of growing to do. So who knows how big this kid is going to be down the road? Whether he's going to be a middle linebacker or whether he's someone that puts his hand on the ground down the road, I don't even want to try to speculate.

"All I know is that he's a great talent and he's a great kid that's extremely coachable. So regardless of position, I'm certain that he is going to have success at Ohio State."

Initially, Smith came to Euclid with just the idea of excelling in football as a means of securing an education.

"I just played. My goal was to be able to go to a good college and not any particular one," Smith said. "I just wanted to play football, have fun and maybe I could get some money to go to school."

But things began to click for him on the gridiron and during his junior year Smith realized that he could make a name for himself on the football field. He actually traced it back to a particular play against St. Joe's, the school's big rivalry game.

"There was one play where everything just slowed down for some reason," he said. "The play moved so slow and I felt like it was frozen in time, like nobody else was moving except for me. I told my coach about it, and he said that's how you know you're becoming a little bit better than the rest. It was just a vision, I guess you could call it."

Hindsight is 20/20 vision as Smith did go on to having a monster career since that game against the Vikings in his junior season. After recording 123 tackles in his senior campaign with three interceptions, Smith believes he's a more than worthy part of this Ohio State recruiting class.

"I work hard and I don't back down from challenges," said Smith who was a State Finalist in the shot put and will be the third leg of his school's 4X100 relay team this spring. "I don't know how good I can become, but I know you can count on me."

Obviously, Ohio State is one school that knows how good a linebacker the he is or can become. Smith, who has run a 4.5 second 40-yard dash time, camped this summer at Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt in addition to Ohio State and officially visited West Virginia as well.

"Ohio State is close to home, it's a nice place, it's a good fit, a great football atmosphere and there's a lot of guys there from our area. It was kind of a late decision; I had narrowed it down to a few different schools and then (OSU) came on pretty strong and I liked it," he said. "When I learned of their interest, I kind of knew that it would pretty hard to turn them down."

Smith's name became prominently mentioned in the public for the first time right around the time of his official visit on Dec. 12. Smith was offered a scholarship during his visit.

"They offered that Saturday morning," Smith said. "My parents were with me. I was really excited."

He didn't take very long to accept the offer.

"I committed that Sunday. I just called them on the phone," he said.

It all came to fruition for Smith on Signing Day when he put his signature on a Letter of Intent to attend The Ohio State University.

"It felt great," Smith said. "It feels good, I'm in now. There's nothing left to do now but play football."

His expectations for himself are rather modest at this time.

"I just want to get down there and learn and understand the program as fast as I can and soak in some knowledge from A.J. Hawk and all of the other linebackers there," he said. "Hopefully I can contribute early."

He doesn't claim to have a chip on his shoulder, but at the same time he's chomping at the bit to make sure that Smith -- Brandon Smith, that is -- is not just an average name compared to some of the other top prep linebackers across the nation.

"It's fine for all of those guys that have gotten all of the publicity. I'm happy for them and all, but it doesn't mean much until they get out there and play next year," Smith said. "Sure, I would have loved to have played in that national all-star game and be on TV every week but I'm still going to Ohio State, so it doesn't matter."

And he said it doesn't matter what position he plays when he gets to Ohio State. He would prefer to play middle linebacker because that is where all of his experience is, but he said it really doesn't matter.

"So far, they said they're going to try me at all three of the linebacker positions, and I'm also open to playing the defensive end spot since I can possibly get a lot larger," Smith said. "Where I can contribute, I'll play. I really just want to play, that's all. I've got a lot of opportunity in front of me."

Rezzolla knows that Smith will make the most of it.

"I think Brandon Smith is a great catch for Ohio State," the coach said. "He's as great a person as he is a football player, so when it comes to student athlete and character, this guy is going to be second to none. He's somebody that will make The Ohio State University extremely proud."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories