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November 17, 2014

Zach Smith

Q. ¬†Zach, you guys, Urban was saying that you guys played your best game two weeks ago against Michigan State, the receivers, and then last week not so much.¬† How much are conditions realistically a factor in the throw game?¬† The ball is slippery, it's hard‑‑
ZACH SMITH:¬† I think conditions always play a part.¬† It was not a great atmosphere and weather condition to throw the football certainly, but it's not an excuse.¬† We've got to be able to throw the football in any condition.¬† But I think it definitely affects it, but it wasn't‑‑ it wasn't our best game.¬† It wasn't terrible, but coming off of the week before, we wanted to take a step, and we didn't take that step.

Q.¬† As a receivers coach, when you watch the play where J.T. kind of eluded pressure, stepped up, threw off balance to I think it was Jalyn‑‑
ZACH SMITH:  Yeah, it was.

Q.  Just how difficult of a play is that to make at that position?
ZACH SMITH:  I mean, playing that position is hard enough as is, but that play specifically being able to elude pressure, find a window and still remain a passer under pressure, that's tough for anyone to do.  A lot of quarterbacks you see will scramble in that situation because under pressure, a lot of times you just try to escape, but he stayed a passer, he slid, a found a window and found an open receiver, and that obviously resulted in a big play and a touchdown.  It was impressive for him, but it's impressive for anybody.  That's tough to do for sure.

Q.  Urban mentioned that maybe you guys hadn't emphasized ball security as much the last couple weeks as you should have.  What does that mean or how does that change your approach to coaching your guys?
ZACH SMITH:¬† There really hasn't‑‑ there's been an increased emphasis I'd say as a whole, but that's something that's emphasized week in, week out.¬† I coached no different on Sunday at practice that I have any other practice, and that is ball security is the utmost emphasis with my guys because if they're going to touch the ball, they need to secure it, obviously.
Looking at Jalyn's fumble that he had when he was playing offense on the goal line there, he held the ball correctly, he had it high and tight, he had it secured, it was just one of those things where he didn't have great strength on the ball, and it got hit kind of perfectly.¬† The guy's helmet hit the ball, and it was something that I don't know that‑‑ other than having the ball in the other hand that he could have done much about it.¬† But fumbling the football is unacceptable, so we've obviously addressed that and will continue to coach it hard every practice.

Q.  Is there something that it takes to be able to bounce back from that?  Dontre had that problem two weeks ago, fumbled, scores a touchdown.  What does it take to bounce back from something like that?
ZACH SMITH:  Well, I think when you're invested as a football player and you care about your teammates and care about your team, when you fumble the football, you know how detrimental that can be to your team, and it's really hard to overcome.  It's something that's necessary, it's something that a skilled athlete, really any athlete needs to be able to overcome adversity, but it's not easy to do, especially if you're invested and care.  So that was something that was hard for Jalyn in this game and was hard for Dontre the game before, and Dontre did a great job coming back and making a play, and Jalyn needs to do that this coming week for sure.

Q.  I'll ask you about red shirting.  I know Urban is not a big fan of it, but it's really benefitted a lot of guys, including Michael Thomas.  Could you address how much that year really helped him and your philosophy on red shirting?
ZACH SMITH:¬† Yeah, it's not something that we look to do.¬† We don't want to do it.¬† We feel like if you're going to red shirt, that means you're not quite good enough, and you might get out‑recruited in the long run then, but for Mike specifically, that was something that it worked.¬† It fueled his mentality and his approach to the daily grind because he was so hungry for taking a year off, especially the year ending how it ended.¬† It really did wonders for him.
Every guy approaches and comes out of a red shirt year differently, and it really worked for him and how he went about his business.  So it was very positive in his case.

Q.  What about Jalyn?  Obviously a tough game for him.  How do you kind of get him back, make sure that his confidence doesn't wane?
ZACH SMITH:¬† I think the biggest thing for him is facing the adversity after the game as much as during the game.¬† I mean, he played actually a pretty good game.¬† He had 100 yards receiving almost, and he graded high other than those glaring mistakes that we all saw, and then it's more a young kid that then has to face the social media backlash and the hypothetical fans that want to say just absolutely derogatory things on a 19‑year old.¬† That's the stuff that's hard for him to overcome, I think.¬† But he's been great.¬† He's had a great mentality, had a great practice on Sunday, so I think he'll be‑‑ he's going to be fine, but I think that's harder for a teenager to overcome than anything.

Q.¬† How hard is it for you as a coach to know that those kind of comments are out there?¬† He is a 19‑year old, and how do you shield him from it?¬† You can't really.
ZACH SMITH:  It kind of comes with the territory, right?  People are going to praise you for doing well, they're going to be critical when you do something that's not positive.  It's something kind of in the growing process of an athlete at this level that he's got to get used to, and I think he is, just understanding with the good comes the bad.  You could also not be at Ohio State, not getting praise for a great game, and that wouldn't be as fun.  So it's something that you've got to learn to deal with.

Q.  Urban was in here talking about how y'all didn't take that next step as a group coming off that Michigan State game as receivers.  You had three touchdown passes; what is he talking about?  What was missing Saturday?  Was it running crisp routes?  Was it blocking?  What was missing from the group?
ZACH SMITH:¬† I think it was‑‑ we obviously have a mission at my position to be the best receiving corps in the country and we took a step towards that against Michigan State, and we wanted to take another step against Minnesota.¬† Now, whatever the reason, the snow, the cold, the dog ate my homework, whatever it is, it's just an excuse at that point.¬† We didn't block as well as we have blocked, and we didn't execute the throw game as well as we did previously.¬† There's a number of reasons, a number of excuses.¬† At the end of the day, it's did you get better from the game before or not, and we did not.¬† Now, it wasn't like we were a glaring issue on offense or with the team, but it just wasn't the progress that we wanted.

Q.  That's what I'm talking about.  The interception that turned the game there, that was just an overthrown pass that the guy ran down and things like that.  Were routes not being run crisply?  What are you talking about?
ZACH SMITH:  Little things.  I mean, just attention to detail, depth of routes, spacing of routes.  A lot of times what wide receivers don't understand is they feel like if they got open, they did their job.  That's not always the case.  You have to be at a certain depth, at a certain time, at a certain space and then get open.  You can't just get open when you feel it necessary, and there was times of panic where routes weren't run at the correct depth, maybe a couple yards short or a couple yards too tight, and that doesn't look like it's as big of a problem as it is.  A guy gets open and you say, oh, shoot, he overthrew it.  Well, he might not have been where he was supposed to be.  So just little details that we've gotten better at and needed to continue to get better at that maybe we didn't.

Q.  Obviously Jalyn, when he catches the ball, he is intent on doing something with it.
ZACH SMITH:  Without a doubt.

Q.  How do you do one thing without taking away that?  How do you tame him one side but not take away that element?
ZACH SMITH:  Yeah, without a doubt.  He's an aggressive ball carrier, certainly, but his issues were not in that aggression.  His issues were catching punts, obviously, and that's something that he's been phenomenal at and just didn't have a great game for whatever reason.  And then he fumbled on the goal line like we talked about.  But I think that's something that we can get corrected without taking anything away from his aggression with the ball because that's one of his greatest traits.  He is aggressive, he's trying to make a play, he's trying to attack a defense or attack coverage, so we can definitely fix the issues without hindering what makes him good.

Q.  James Clark was a highly recruited guy, had the injury last year, of course.  Is that still holding him back a little bit, or how close is he?
ZACH SMITH:  Yeah, I think it is a little bit, maybe more psychologically than anything because he's 100 percent or close to it.  I think he still favors it a little bit, but he's gotten better.  Through the course of this fall, he came into fall and just didn't look the same as we had hoped he would look coming off the injury, but he's gotten better and better, and you're starting to see it a little bit now where I would hope that given some time, given some success where he can gain some confidence, that will come back, and that's kind of our plan right now is get him that success so that he can get a little confidence in his leg and in his speed and in his ability so that he can take that next step and kind of start to contribute around here.

Q.¬† It's so early in his career.¬† Do you have to remind him of that sometimes, hey, you're just a red‑shirt freshman, your time will come?
ZACH SMITH:¬† No, that's not really how we operate.¬† I think it's kind of‑‑ we expect you to correct now, I don't care if you're 18, 22, 25, it doesn't really matter.¬† We've got to go.¬† What he needs to understand is, and what he does understand is, he's coming back from a pretty significant injury, but it's healed, and he needs to gain confidence in that and start playing like he should be playing as a second‑year guy.

Q.  With the zone six stuff and stuff in your room this year, did you really want your guys to have an identity like that within the team dynamic but really take on something other than just being the wide receivers?
ZACH SMITH:¬† Yeah, certainly, certainly.¬† We operate on the power of a unit, and I wanted our unit to be the strongest unit on the team, in the country, whatever it is, and however that mentality got developed, I wanted to kind of help that along.¬† It started coming together in two‑a‑days, it really started coming together in spring, started to get stronger in two‑a‑days, in fall camp, and then we started to go through the season and that was something they kind of came up with on their own and that I helped fuel.¬† It's a mentality and a lifestyle that they have adapted to and bought into, so within the team concept it's basically us saying we're going to hold our own as a receiver corps.¬† That's our job and our commitment to the team.¬† So that's what they've bought into and really ran with.

Q.¬† What does that‑‑ just the difference‑‑ just interesting the difference of that.¬† Every group is tight and wants to be as good as possible, but it seems like you guys have taken it that one little step farther.¬† Do you think it does‑‑ does if make guys more accountable to each other?¬† Does it inspire guys to hold up their individual part of it more?¬† What do you think that does?
ZACH SMITH:¬† Yeah, I think it just kind of gives a mentality to what we're striving to get to.¬† It makes them‑‑ it reminds them of what we're trying to be constantly and a lifestyle that we're trying to live, a way we play 24/7 in practice, in games.¬† I think you're right, that whatever you want to call it nickname, has given them a constant reminder of, listen, this is what we're trying to do, why we're trying to do it and how we're going to do it, and nothing else is acceptable.¬† That is the lifestyle we're going to live as a corps.¬† Whatever the reason, that nickname, that mantra, has kind of reminded them constantly that this is how we're going to live.¬† This is how we're going to operate, this is how we're going to play, and nothing else is going to be accepted as a unit.

Q.  Urban just had mentioned that he had a conversation with you maybe talking about Jalyn needed to come off punt return but then you guys talked about how aggressive he is to the ball.  Can you just talk about that, the things that you like about him as a punt returner back there?
ZACH SMITH:  Yeah, I think obviously the switch was made, whatever, five weeks ago, four weeks ago, because I felt like and Coach Meyer felt like he reallygave a lot to our unit being aggressive to the ball, catching the ball, and really not necessarily gaining yards after the catch but really preventing us from losing yards where the ball is rolling.  He was very aggressive to the ball, and that's a trait that we really liked, and so we put him in that situation, and he's been physical since we put him there.
This last game he had two hiccups.  I don't want to jump to any conclusions, it was just kind of a bad day for him, so we're just going to work really hard to make sure he doesn't have another bad day like that.  But the positives that he brought before, he still brings, and so we're excited about it.

Q.¬† During the off‑season conditioning, lifting, seven‑on‑seven, spring, fall, everything, how big a deal was made of the fact to get back to the Big Ten title?
ZACH SMITH:  That's why we wake up in the morning and brush our teeth and do what we do.  That's been the ultimate goal, the number one goal, the thing we had to do was get back there and win a championship for this University.  That's all we really talked about.  There was no greater goal, nothing beyond that talked about, and that's been what our sights have been set on since day one, pretty much every day.

Q.  I'm not asking you to be the social media police here, but when you see what Jalyn is going through on Twitter, do you pull him aside and have a conversation with him?  And then the second part of that is when young guys through something like that, can something like that make him a little jaded toward fans then?
ZACH SMITH:  I think any young guy is going to have a reaction to something like that, but I've pulled him aside, we've talked about it, and believe it or not, other guys have talked to him outside of me, Philly Brown talked to him and other guys just around the building that have dealt with that before have talked to him.  I think that's a part of the maturation process of a football player at a university or a program of this magnitude.  It happens everywhere.  It happens to everyone.  That's just something that maybe he hasn't experienced that now he has, and he'll grow from.  But I don't think it changed his feelings towards fans in general or anything like that.  I think it was just something that he had to realize like, okay, this is how it happens when things don't go well, I need to learn from this, and realize that when things don't go well, not everyone is going to have my best interests in mind.

Q.  A lot of fans defended him, too.
ZACH SMITH:  Without a doubt.  No question, you know how it is.  People are passionate about their team and they should be, so when things don't go well they're passionate about them not going well.  But for the most part fans were supportive and awesome to him and to everyone, really.

Q.  Did you bring it up or did he?
ZACH SMITH:  I brought it up.  It never fazed him, it didn't seem like it fazed him, but I wanted to address it because I know he saw it, and I know he's young, so I wanted to make sure that I addressed it with him before it festered into something else.

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