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October 20, 2014

Zach Smith

THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Coach Smith.

Q.  Zach, Tim asked Urban on the screen pass that J.T. made.  Two passes he made, a touchdown pass to Nick, then two plays before that, there was a slant.  Are those passes maybe you haven't been able to throw recently around here?  Seemed spot‑on.
COACH SMITH:  I mean, both of those plays we've had in the offense and made over the last two years repeatedly.  But they were great throws.
He really has a knack for both of those.  Slants, drags, benders, he really has a knack for leading the receiver, putting it in a tight hole.  He did a really good job on both those plays.

Q.  Jalin Marshall looks like he's really starting to become more a part of the overall picture here.  What are the things he's shown you?  Caught a pass.  Had the punt returns.
COACH SMITH:  He's a guy we wanted to get more involved.  He's really done a phenomenal job.  Coming into the year, we had high expectations.  Coming into his career, there were high expectations.  He worked hard, tried to live up to those.
He's a guy over the last five weeks or so has really earned more, I guess, respect and more playing time, more touches.  So we're trying to find ways to get him more involved because he's a dynamic player that's doing a lot of things really well right now, has a lot of momentum.

Q.  Urban talked about Evan Spencer, his value.  Doesn't light up the stat sheets, but discuss what he brings to this team on and off the field.
COACH SMITH:  He's not a guy that lights up the stats sheet because they keep stats on catches and yards.  In the film room he lights the film up.  Opponents know who he is, think he's a really good player.  Maybe the media or the national news doesn't because all they care about is touchdowns and catches.
He's one of the most phenomenal blockers I've ever seen.  He's really functional, a little underutilized in the throw game.  He's one of better players I've ever coached.  His respect is as high as it can be around here.
So he was a little more involved this week.  We're trying to get him more and more involved because he's earned that right.  He's as important a guy in my room as I have.  He might be the most important.
Without him, our perimeter run game's not near as good.  He's starting to get more and more involved in the throw game.

Q.  About your receivers, that group has the reputation of being the divas elsewhere.
COACH SMITH:  Certainly not here.  That's elsewhere, everywhere else (laughter).

Q.  You do have a bunch of guys rotating.  How do you develop that culture in that room?
COACH SMITH:  I think it comes from the relationship with each other.  There's not a guy in there that doesn't want to see one of the others do something well.  In order for Mike Thomas to touch the ball, Jalin might not touch it as many times, but there's a great relationship between the two.  He wants Jalin to touch the ball.  They all want to do well.
At the end of the day all they really care about is we win and we do our job.  There's probably six guys rotating right now.  All six of them, there may not be a premiere, marquee guy that's going to have the national stats that put him into whatever top of the country, but that's a testament to the development of those six guys in the group.  They're all bought into the fact that whoever is in is going to make the play.  There's confidence in my room.

Q.  Mike Thomas redshirted last year as a sophomore.  That's rare unless a guy is hurt.  Now he's your leading receiver.  What is the biggest difference?
COACH SMITH:  I think the redshirt was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.  He came in as a freshman, really shouldn't have played quite as early.  He showed flashes in the spring game, couple times showed some things where we saw where he could be.  We also didn't have any depth.  Came in the sophomore year, expected big things.  He didn't have a great training camp.  That was a decision we made after the first or second game when he didn't play.  It was to kind of let him have a year to develop into what he is today.
I think the way he handled his business that year, the way his family handled that year, that decision, really made him who he is today.  By no means is he a finished product.  But his successes this year are because of his mentality with that year of development and not playing.
It developed a drive, a motivation, a hunger within him that I don't know that he would be as good today had that not happened.

Q.  Anybody who is redshirting this year standing out?
COACH SMITH:  Yeah, I mean, Terry McLaurin is really doing well.  He's developed over the last six weeks phenomenally.  He's an exciting player that I'm excited about in the future.  There's other guys.  Parris Campbell is a guy that kind of been injured.  He shows flashes.  He's going to be really, really good.  That's really it.

Q.  As you watch J.T. from a wide receiver coach's perspective, what do you see him play‑to‑play looking down the field, his awareness?  Is it past where you thought it would be as a redshirt freshman?
COACH SMITH:  I've always been really impressed with J.T.  I mean, he gave a speech to some recruits maybe his second weekend on campus just about why he chose Ohio State, was kind of telling them about he couldn't imagine being somewhere else and watching us play for a national championship, him sitting there that he let that opportunity slip away.  I'm thinking, This kid is 17, 18 years old, I'm thinking that's an impressive 18‑year‑old.  He's only continued to wow me with his leadership and maturity since then.
It's not that surprising, but it's rare.  It's rare that you have a kid this young that kind of has that maturity and understanding and intangible value.  But he definitely has it.

Q.  Any qualms about him from your coaching standpoint leading this team in front of 110,000 on Saturday night?

Q.  Why not?
COACH SMITH:  Kind of that innate leadership quality.  Guys want to follow him.  Every pregame, he talks to the offense.  I'll never forget, must have been Navy, pregame he spoke to the offense.  Devin Smith, Evan Spencer looked at me, Wow, that's a mature 18‑year‑old, 19‑year‑old.  He's different than most redshirt freshmen.
There's no qualms.  There's no lack of confidence.  When we're going into that stadium on a Saturday, we know he's leading us.  Everyone is confident in that.

Q.  Penn State is only giving up 15.2 points a game.  What do you see when you scout them?
COACH SMITH:  You see a very talented defense that has a very sound scheme and they execute it well.  Number one rush defense in the country, number six scoring defense in the country.  That doesn't happen by accident.
I mean, we're not bad on offense either.  It will be a fun experience for us and really a challenge that we're excited about.

Q.  As a guy who knows offensive football, does J.T. belong in the Heisman discussion?
COACH SMITH:  I don't know.  I don't know nationally what's out there.  All I know is he belongs as our starting quarterback right now, and we're fired up to have him do that.

Q.  Urban talked last year before the season about the need for the young guys to get developed, have depth, add that second layer to the team.  How did the assistants take that in terms of making sure you had not just a first group but a second group ready?
COACH SMITH:  We kind of went into this year talking about last year talking about how I felt my guys wore down a little, they weren't as fast and productive as they were at the beginning of the year.  I think a lot of that had to do with the number of snaps they were playing.
I went into this year saying I need six starters, two at every position.  It's not this guy is ahead of this guy.  These are six guys.  I don't care who is in the game, we're going to roll them.  That's a starting wide receiver at Ohio State.
That's the mentality we had really starting back in January because I think to be productive down the stretch in a no‑huddle up‑tempo offense you need to have that depth.  So that's what we tried to develop, that's what we aimed to do.  I think so far we've got that done.

Q.  What happened with Mike last year, the redshirt, a mid career redshirt not for injury reason, is there a risk in that?  Could a kid go south?  Is to a move that you're willing to make with almost everybody if it makes sense or does it have to be a particular situation?
COACH SMITH:  I think we're not going to waste a year on a kid that's not going to be productive or worth it.  So I don't think there was necessarily any risk involved.  I mean, we know Mike.  I knew the situation.  He needed that year.
I guess it's case by case.  By we're not going to throw a kid out there, play him 20 snaps, 40 snaps on the year, have one catch, say, Sorry, there goes one year.
We're going to play you if you're ready to play.  If it's a redshirt, then we'll do it.  It has nothing to do with mid‑career, mid‑year.  It's all based on are you ready to play or not.  If you are you'll play, if you're not you won't.  At the end of the year if you have a redshirt, we'll use it.

Q.  You addressed the receivers' unselfishness.  J.T. says the guys tell him they are wide open on every play.  Did you ever have to say to the guy, Leave the kid alone, let him settle in?
COACH SMITH:  I've had a lot of conversations with them about how to kind of back up and support your quarterback.  But I don't think telling the quarterback, Hey, I was open, I want the ball.  I think that's a positive thing.  That's a kid saying, Throw me the ball, I got your back.
But there's no question they're always open.  They always should have got the ball, could have got the ball.  Until you watch the film, maybe they weren't.
I don't think that's a negative.  I think that's a positive.  You want a kid that says, I want the ball, throw me the ball, I want to touch the ball.  If you got kids that don't want to touch the ball, you got major problems.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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