DALLAS -- Ohio State senior wide receiver Devin Smith will join a deep and talented group of wide receivers entering the 2015 NFL Draft, but that doesn't mean Smith's name will be lost in the crowd.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Saturday during media day for the national championship game that the NFL draft value for Smith is "soaring." But not necessarily for the reason you might think.
"He's the best gunner, and the great thing is the Bill Belichicks of the world, NFL coaches, his stock is soaring right now," Meyer said of Smith's role on the Buckeyes' punt-coverage unit. "It's because he catches the ball, but that's No. 2, because he's one of the best gunners in college football."
The gunner on the punt team lines up as a receiver, but despite a long angle to the punt returner, he is expected to be the first defender to the ball on a punt. Smith could get another chance to show off his special-teams prowess at the Reese's Senior Bowl later this month. He is among a loaded cast of receivers who have accepted invitations, including West Virginia's Kevin White, Auburn's Sammie Coates, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett and Stanford's Ty Montgomery.
Smith's production as a receiver has been dynamic this season, averaging 27.7 yards per catch (32 receptions, 886 yards, 12 touchdowns). That's not far off the NCAA record of 28.9 (Mikhael Ricks, Stephen F. Austin, 1997), though Smith would need three grabs in the championship game against Oregon to qualify for the record's minimum standard of 35 catches. And to threaten the record, they'll have to be big ones. Smith has more than enough speed to get behind a secondary, and NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah has taken notice of his wheels.
Smith missed Saturday's media event due to illness, but Meyer said his best deep threat at the receiver position should be ready to play Monday.