Cincinnati La Salle defensive back Devonta Smith had been waiting for an Ohio State offer for a while now.
He was confident it was a possibility, maybe even a probability, in February. Still, thinking it was on the way and actually receiving it as he did on Thursday night? That’s two totally different things, not just for the 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back, but also for his family.
“My mom shed a tear,” Smith told Lettermen Row. “I knew then it was special. My family is so excited. This is great.
“It’s truly a blessing. I don’t know if anyone really knows how much getting this offer meant to me other than [teammate, cousin and Buckeyes commit] Jaylen Johnson. I’m truly at a loss for words. I cried today when [Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry] Coombs called me and offered.”
The offer from the Buckeyes is No. 29 overall for Smith, who is Ohio’s No. 14-ranked prospect and the top-ranked cornerback in the state. Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Tennessee are among the programs who’ve offered previously, and the Irish were one program coming on especially strong in recent weeks after the hiring of Mike Mickens to be their new cornerbacks coach. Mickens, who left Cincinnati for the opportunity at Notre Dame, had been recruiting Smith since before the Bearcats offered last June.
Coombs, a Cincinnati native, has been recruiting Smith since stepping into his new role with the Buckeyes and has been in regular contact with Smith for two months now. The Ohio State offer Smith wanted may have been coming later this month, but as college campuses and recruiting efforts around the country shut down over coronavirus concerns, things changed.
“Coach Coombs texted me and told me to call him immediately,” Smith said Thursday. “I did and we talked. Then he extended the offer.
“He told me that I’m a priority for him because he knows how I’m built given the fact we come from the same city and neighborhood. He also said that this offer is committable and it isn’t fake, it’s real. They were going to do a big surprise for me originally on the March 28 visit and extend me the offer then. But he said forget it and pulled the trigger now since this virus is messing things up.”
Smith has been pleased with the way Coombs and the Buckeyes handled his recruitment, even during the time he was waiting for the long-coveted offer. Unsurprisingly, the Ohio State approach on the day he received his offer was similar, one that focused on being upfront about what the the program sees — both now and in the future.
“Coach Coombs was being real with me, saying he’s watched my highlights, but more importantly he’s watched my game tape,” Smith said. “He said I’m not perfect at all, but I play the game great and he can take my game to elite levels.
“That really stuck with me. He’s being real and giving me constructive criticism, and I’ve never talked to a coach who has done that. He said if I’m serious about making it to the next level after college and want to provide for my family — because he knows my background — he’s going to get me there as long as I have the right effort and attitude.”
There is no commitment from Smith yet, but he doesn’t deny that the Buckeyes are the team to beat in his recruitment. He had intended to visit Columbus at the end of March, and if that expected offer had come during the trip, it’s likely he’d an offered an on-the-spot commitment. But with no idea of when he’ll return, there’s still time for other programs to make a final pitch.
“I really want this virus stuff to go away so I can get up to visit and see Coach Coombs coach his guys,” Smith said. “He really wants me to see that because he said it’s different from anybody else in the country.”
Now Devonta Smith officially has the option to join them.