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Devin Smith's Departure Could Cause Issues for Cardale Jones
By Patrick Murphy
Does Cardale Jones need a deep threat to be successful?
Photo by Jim Davidson

What was the one thing everyone around the Ohio State program pointed to in order to maintain success at quarterback when J.T. Barrett was injured? Cardale Jones’ arm strength.

“Eleventy billion,” former offensive coordinator Tom Herman replied when asked to quantify Jones’ arm strength ahead of the Big Ten Championship Game. “I don't know. What, is there an arm-strength-o-meter?

“Really strong arm. Really smooth, easy delivery.”

What reputation did wide receiver Devin Smith develop over his four-year career as a Buckeye? The ability to catch the deep ball.

“Oh my gosh. Best deep ball catcher in America,” Herman said of Smith after defeating Wisconsin. “Maybe in America that we've seen in a long, long time.”

With 28.21 yards per reception, Smith led the nation in that category this year and finished with 20.69 yards per reception for his career. Although Smith’s numbers were already great for the Buckeyes – finished second all-time in career touchdowns – the wide receiver benefitted from Jones’ cannon of an arm.

As Ohio State’s deep threat, Smith was one of Jones’ favorite targets once he became the starter. Although Smith only caught seven of the 46 passes Jones threw over his three starts, he accounted for 36 percent of the quarterback’s passing yards and caught four out of five postseason touchdowns.

Against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Smith caught four of Jones’ 12 completions for 137 of 257 yards and all three touchdowns. He had a 39, 44, and 42-yard receptions for the scores.

Although he only had three catches total against Alabama and Oregon, his shortest grab was for 40 yards and put the Scarlet and Gray at the Crimson Tide’s one-yard line. He also scored on a 47-yard touchdown against Alabama and caught a 45-yard pass that took OSU inside the Ducks’ 10-yard line.

What this all means is that Devin Smith played a large part in Cardale Jones’ success. He not only allowed Jones to stretch the defense, but also had the ability to high point the ball and make the difficult catches.

“The thing I like about what he did today was that he fought for the football,” Herman said of Smith after the Big Ten Championship. “They weren't perfect throws by any stretch. They were good enough and Devin went up and fought for the football.”

Jones’ arm strength is undeniable, but his accuracy and decision-making can be called into question. Yes, he won three of the biggest games of the year for the Buckeyes and was impressive in all three, but guys like Smith made plays to help bail him out on some throws.

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