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Backup role continues for Ohio State's Smith

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For more on college athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Ex-Harding standout will get shot at Indiana

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 6:21 am

What's Rod Smith to do? The former Harding standout is a talented running back at an Ohio State program so loaded with them that his main competition isn't even a running back.

Yes, this very much remains quarterback Braxton Miller's team. He runs and throws and dominates in an Urban Meyer attack that has always featured strong-willed quarterbacks, from Alex Smith to Tim Tebow.

Miller enters Saturday's game at Indiana (2-3) with a team-leading 763 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while averaging a team-leading 7.2 yards a carry. Meyer calls him “one of the top 5 runners in the country.”

So that's a problem for Smith's playing time, but not the only one.

When Miller hands off, it's most often to junior Carlos Hyde, who is coming off a Big Ten offensive-player-of-the-week performance. Hyde rushed for 140 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries in last Saturday's blowout win over Nebraska. He was the first Buckeye since Eddie George in 1995 to score four touchdowns in a game.

The 6-foot, 232-pound Hyde has rushed for 298 yards and six TDs this season, averaging 4.7 yards a carry despite missing a couple of games with a knee sprain.

Then there's Jordan Hall, a 5-9, 194-pound senior who has rushed for 218 yards while averaging 5.4 yards a carry.

Smith, meanwhile, is a 6-3, 228-pound sophomore force of nature with sprinter's speed, a body that looks like it was carved by Michelangelo and an overall lack of playing opportunity. He has 88 yards on 14 carries, averaging 6.3 yards a rush.

He did have a career-best 33-yard touchdown run against Nebraska. He had one other carry that day for five yards.

Barring injury, Smith's rushing totals aren't likely to increase dramatically any time soon. That means maximizing the opportunities, Smith told BuckeyeNation.

“When you get your carries,” he said, “you have to make them count. Even in position drills, you have to always compete. We all push each other. You can't ever feel comfortable like you have a spot.”

Smith was a dominant high school runner at Harding, totaling 6,625 yards and 66 touchdowns. His size, strength and speed generated comparisons to Eddie George, who won the Heisman Trophy while at Ohio State.

But that potential hasn't led to many opportunities in his first two seasons. He's had some fumbling issues and has spent time on special teams, excelling as a blocker during Ohio State punt returns.

Meyer told the Morning Journal out of Ohio that last January, a couple of months after taking over the program, he told Smith to transfer, saying, “It's obvious you're not good enough to be here.”

Meyer even put transfer papers on his desk and offered to sign them right then. Smith said he wanted to stay and impressed Meyer with his work ethic.

“He's in the plans for several more years,” Meyer told the Morning Journal. “He's a talented guy. I love Rod Smith. I love guys who turn it around.”

Smith told BuckeyeNation, “It's been a learning experience. I'm gathering so much information.”

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has plenty of information on the No. 8 Buckeyes (6-0) and what their offense can do. He said they're more of a downhill, north-and-south running team with Miller and Hyde and, yes Smith.

“Mr. Smith is a good player,” Wilson said.

“They come at you pretty good, but what's overlooked is that their offensive line is really good. I've been very impressed with their line.”