After initially planning to wait until at least after his senior football season is in the books, the four-star running back prospect from Fort Wayne (Ind.) Paul Harding has a new timetable in mind – and he has his weekend trip to check out the Buckeyes to thank.
"Ohio State is my top school," he told BuckeyeSports.com. "I think (my decision) will be coming up quicker, probably sometime in July. I liked the atmosphere Saturday. It was great."
The only thing standing in OSU's way at this point is a desire to have a few other visits to compare it to, Smith said. The 6-3½, 215-pound back did not check out any other schools during the spring and said he has three other places he would like to check out before making a final decision.
"That's why I really haven't committed, because I want to see and wait and I want to get a chance to compare it to other schools," he said. "Hopefully I'll check out Michigan State and hopefully check out Georgia and Oklahoma. I believe Georgia is interested and Oklahoma is becoming more interested too. Michigan State has offered me."
Smith earned an OSU offer after rushing for 1,685 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior, bringing his career rushing total to 5,285 yards. The Buckeyes like his running style and have compared him to former tailback Chris "Beanie Wells for his ability to move the pile.
On April 25, Smith was surprised to get a chance to meet Wells, who was on the sidelines before the spring game got underway.
It proved to be the highlight of his trip.
"The biggest thing was I got to meet Beanie Wells and talk with him," he said. "It was cool. We just talked about how (OSU) is a good school. I didn't know that he was going to be at the game. I was kind of shocked when I first saw him."
Smith is primarily being recruited by OSU running backs coach Dick "Doc" Tressel. The two speak regularly on the phone and had a chance to spend some time talking face-to-face during the weekend.
"It's different (in person) because you get to really feel the vibe when you're together," Smith said. "It was fun because he's a really good person. It was nice to meet him."
OSU's history of producing talented running backs has been pointed out to Smith while talking with Tressel, Smith said, adding that the coaches feel he could be the next big tailback in line.
Asked if that fact has helped push the Buckeyes to the top of his list, Smith said, "Yeah, because I know they like big backs like myself. Their big backs always have great careers there. That might be a great tradition to be attached to me."
As case in point, Smith said Tressel frequently compares him to a younger version of Wells.
"We're both explosive and I think we take more than one person to stop us, so I think we're similar," he said. "It's a lot of pressure to live up to but also great to be compared to him with all the stuff that he's done."
While on campus, Smith got to meet two of OSU's incoming running backs in Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde. In all, the nation's No. 11 running back prospect came away impressed by his entire spring game experience.
"It was great," he said. "The atmosphere was wonderful and hard to compare. I just had a great time. I didn't know there was going to be that many people just at a spring game, so yeah I was surprised."
Prior to the game, a number of recruits were besieged by fans wanting their autographs. Smith said he was not one of them.
"I'm not that popular yet," he said with a laugh.
If he winds up playing for the Buckeyes and lives up to the projections put forth by the coaching staff, he won't be able to stay anonymous for long.