COLUMBUS — Ohio State is working hard to restock its secondary in the Class of 2021, and it took another step toward doing that with the addition of the top-ranked cornerback in its state, Devonta Smith.
A 3-star prospect from La Salle High School, Smith picked the Buckeyes just days after receiving his a long-awaited offer from Ohio State.
The process between Smith and the Buckeyes moved quickly, a testament to the commitment that returning defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs made to getting to know the 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back. That relationship grew throughout the February dead period. And when the teammate of current Buckeyes commitment Jaylen Johnson landed the offer, Smith had a tough time controlling his emotions.
“I’m truly at a loss for words,” Smith said. “I cried today when [Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry] Coombs called me and offered.”
Once that offered happened, it wasn’t going to be long before a decision came in the Buckeyes favor.
Lettermen Row is breaking down the major decision from Devonta Smith and what his commitment means to the Buckeyes, the Big Ten and more.
What Devonta Smith gives Ohio State on the field
At just under 6-foot-1, Smith is the type of long cornerback that Ohio State covets. That’s the primary reason he received the extended look and eventual offer he did from the Buckeyes. A dynamic return man for the Lancers, Smith returned six punts for a touchdown as a junior and has a knack for the big play on defense as well, recording five interceptions and forcing two fumbles last season while collecting almost 100 tackles in one of the state’s most competitive football leagues.
Smith is long and fast. And though he’s not ranked as top-tier cornerback yet, his physical tools as a mid-4.5-second guy in the 40-yard dash and his Ohio State verbal will no doubt warrant a recruiting bump in the next few months. Ohio State sources have made a reasonable comparison to former Buckeyes standout Gareon Conley, who was developed into a first-round pick in the secondary after playing primarily wide receiver at Massillon Washington.
Though he’ll be an outside cornerback candidate at Ohio State, Smith primarily plays in the slot for the Lancers. Pat McLaughlin, the head coach at La Salle, sees no trouble adjusting in the future. In fact, he believes that the willingness of Smith to play elsewhere now is only a sign of his unselfishness.
“I think he will and can adjust just fine to playing corner,” McLaughlin told Lettermen Row. “We want him around the ball as much as possible, and Devonta is sacrificing for our team. We have two corners and Jaylen [Johnson] that all have Power 5 offers. [Devonta] plays where we need him.
“Plus, right now he plays in all three phases. When he gets to college and focuses on playing corner? His development will really accelerate.”
That’s what the Buckeyes are banking on.
What pickup means for Ohio State 2021 recruiting class
One day after picking up commitment No. 11 from cornerback Jakailin Johnson, the Buckeyes have picked up No. 12 in Devonta Smith and once again grown their lead as the country’s top-ranked 2021 class. Smith is currently the lowest-ranked member of the Ohio State class, but he is almost certainly in line for a rankings bump based on the quality and quantity of his offers.
The third defensive back commitment in a group that should number five or six, the addition of Smith gives Ryan Day seven different verbals from Ohioans already in 2021 after signing eight in the 2020 cycle. Smith is the third Buckeyes commitment from La Salle in the last two cycles, and joins Jack Sawyer, Ben Christman, Reid Carrico, Jayden Ballard, Mike Hall and Jaylen Johnson as home-state stars ready to play for the Buckeyes.
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