Born this way

Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith, shown during a spring practice earlier this year, was a graduate assistant under Urban Meyer at Florida. Courtesy of Ohio State University

Familiarity with the area isn't a problem.

Zach Smith grew up in the Columbus area and graduated from Dublin Coffman High School, so he knows his way around.

There's no need for a lesson in the traditions at Ohio State.

One of his earliest memories is of the band playing on the lawn for his grandfather, former Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, and he has certainly spent plenty of time in the Horseshoe.

An acclimation period with his new boss isn't even necessary, as Smith has known Urban Meyer since he was a kid and has already worked for him for five years in his young career.

All of those factors add up to what could be the most painless professional transition anybody could ask for, and Smith is certainly aware of the advantages of his new position coaching wide receivers for the Buckeyes. But that doesn't mean he'll actually allow himself to get comfortable.

"I don't think you ever get that way in this profession," said Smith, 27. "Now you're constantly going, constantly moving, constantly working. You know, it's a year-round job, so there's not a lot of time for things to settle in.

"I mean, it's a fortunate situation for anyone. It's a situation that was never even really a possibility of thought until it happened -- too unreal to be real."

Turning the childhood dream of coaching for the Buckeyes into a reality might seem almost too much like a fairytale as well, but it's not as if Meyer simply rolled out a scarlet carpet for a good story.

Smith's family ties and the realization that he "wasn't going to be a first-round draft pick" during his career at Dublin Coffman helped set him on an early path to coaching, a path that first took him to Bowling Green as a walk-on for Meyer. He later followed Meyer to the Gators and spent five years as a graduate assistant and quality control coach there before leaving the program for two other jobs as he started building a resume as a full-time assistant.

Even then it took a chain of events -- starting with Meyer's departure from Florida and the NCAA investigation that brought down Jim Tressel – to help open a position for Smith that he might always have been ideally suited for, or at least always wanted.

"I think I always knew, but I don't know at what age it became what I really was going to do," Smith said. "I always said it, but when you're 5 years old you say it and people laugh and you go back to playing with Legos.

"Growing up, I would have loved to have been a great player and played at Ohio State and the NFL and everything that goes with that. But it wasn't in the cards, so my obvious ties to the profession gave me the insight and a vantage point into the positives and the negatives. I had a pretty decent idea and it was something that I was very, very passionate about and felt strongly that it was something I wanted to do, so I went after it and took a shot."

So far, Smith seems to have connected with every attempt.

He was a part of two national championships at Florida and worked with a handful of future pros at wide receiver.

In his lone season at Marshall, he helped produce an all-conference performer and led a group of wideouts that piled up 152 catches with 16 touchdowns.

The next season at Temple, Smith's special-teams units ranked among the best in the MAC as the Owls won nine games and the New Mexico Bowl.

Now he's taking on a unit that Meyer repeatedly stressed needs work after spring practice. But Smith should have no problem giving that his full attention.

"I'm glad it happened this way," Smith said. "And I'm obviously appreciative and happy to be back.

"You know, just to stand on the field when the Buckeyes were playing was an honor itself. Now to be on the right sideline, I don't know exactly what it's going to be like -- I just know it's going to be awesome."