Depth Chartin' 2012: Receivers & Tight Ends

By Jason Priestas on February 3, 2012 at 2:00p
40 Comments
For one night in October, freshman Devin Smith was King of ColumbusMay cause nightmares for Bielema

If a wide receiver graduates in a 6-7 forest and nobody is around to see him miss 10 games, does it make a sound?

That's kind of what the Buckeyes are facing with the departure of DeVier Posey, by far the team's best receiver, even if the NCAA reduced what should have been a springboard to the NFL to a three-game season.

When on the field, against Penn State, Michigan and in the Gator Bowl against Florida, Posey was an efficient weapon, finishing 4th on the team with 12 catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns, including two of the team's top four receptions in terms of yardage. He could have easily doubled his yardage and touchdown numbers if not for a young quarterback overthrowing him on several long plays in which he was wide open.

Still, even though he was robbed (and I do mean robbed in every sense of the word) of a senior season, Posey will still graduate with having started 28 games, and finishing with 136 catches and 1,955 yards, both numbers good enough to put the Cincinnati native in the top 10 for Ohio State receivers.

Posey's departure leaves the rest of the forest -- a gaggle of young receivers that spent the better part of 2011 making nary a sound. It would be unfair, however, to lay the entirety of the blame at the feet of the receivers.

They spent the first few games running routes for Joe Bauserman and when he wasn't taking sacks, he was launching balls into B Deck. Braxton Miller would take over the job in game four, but he struggled learning on the job as most freshman will do. Miller finished the season completing just 54% of his passes for  1,159 yards. As such, sophomore Corey Brown tied for the team lead with a meager 14 receptions. In 13 games.

You have to go all of the way back to 1976 to find a receiver that led Ohio State in receptions with a total like that when James Harrell led the squad with 14 catches for 288 yards (and he did it in 12 games).

But 2012 is all about hope. There's a new head coach with a new attacking philosophy. Gone are the days of running play action on 3rd-and-11. Gone are the days of running the ball on every first down. And there's still a pretty great tight end returning.

Urban Meyer knows what he wants to do, but he also knows he'll need more speed at the skill positions. He indicated as much recently when he said, "The question I have is, do we have the dynamic player on offense? Where's the Ted Ginns of the world? Were they hiding [last] year? I hope we have those guys. That's a big concern of mine right now."

Meyer and Mickey Marotti will attempt to forge or unearth the skill players necessary to make this offense click and they'll have help from new receivers coach Zach Smith. Smith spent five years with Meyer at Florida, first as a graduate assistant and then as a quality control coach and he had the opportunity to work with former Gators Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez, so he knows all about what it takes to make Meyer's offense rev.

It won't be uncommon to see four wide receivers on the field and if I had to pick those four today, I'd be looking at junior Corey "Philly" Brown, redshirt junior Chris Fields, true freshman Michael Thomas and senior tight end Jake Stoneburner, either lined up tight or split out. If Ohio State lands 5-star receiver Stefon Diggs, which is looking more and more like a done deal with each passing day, he would be another newcomer that would likely force his way onto the field.

Departing
# Name Notes
8 DeVier Posey 28 starts; NFL-bound
Returning
# Name HT/WT YR
10 Corey Brown 5-11/182 JR
80 Chris Fields 6-0/180 R-JR
86 Jeff Heuerman 6-5/240 SO
9 Verlon Reed 6-0/195 R-SO
15 Devin Smith 6-3/190 SO
16 Evan Spencer 6-1/190 SO
11 Jake Stoneburner 6-5/245 R-SR
81 Nick Vannett 6-6/235 R-FR
18 T.Y. Williams 6-5/228 R-SO
Incoming
Name HT/WT YR Rivals
Blake Thomas 6-4/240 FR ★★★
Frank Epitropoulos 6-3/195 FR ★★★
Ricquan Southward 6-2/190 FR ★★★
Michael Thomas 6-4/203 FR ★★★★

Brown started nine games for the Buckeyes last year, finishing tied for the team lead with 14 receptions to go with 205 yards and one touchdown. He earned the Warfield Award as the team's outstanding receiver and really showed up against the Wolverines, finishing with 76 yards, the bulk of which came on a 54-yard bomb for six two minutes into the game. He's a good but not great receiver and there are durability concerns (he missed four games with an ankle injury), but I'm willing to give him a pass considering the young quarterback and the play calling.

Fields has earned praise in the last two fall camps, but so far that hasn't translated to the field when it matters. Though he started eight games last year, he finished with just 8 catches for 114 yards and was kept out of the end zone. He did score on a 69-yard punt return against Toledo and led the Bucks with a 17.6 yard average on returns, so look for him to return in that role as well (unless Diggs?).

Thomas is a bit of a wildcard and you could very well see Verlon Reed, who started five games before blowing out his right ACL against Michigan State, getting the nod ahead of the freshman, but I'm enamored with Thomas' size (6-4/203), pedigree (he's Keyshawn Johnson's cousin) and the fluid manner in which he goes about his business. He's an absolute workout freak and is hungry, so keep an eye on him.

Perhaps no Buckeye is as excited for Meyer's offense as tight end Jake Stoneburner is. He tied for the team lead with 14 catches and led the team with seven touchdowns, but oh, what could have been. Jake started fast, racking up eight receptions and four touchdowns in the team's first two games, back when "Like a Baus" was actually a good thing. He set a modern day Ohio State tight end record with three touchdowns against Akron and enters his senior season just one touchdown behind John Lumpkin's mark for career touchdowns at tight end.

The transition to Miller at quarterback did no favors for Stoneburner as the freshman did not have the rapport with the tight end that Bauserman did and often looked exclusively for his receivers, neglecting the tight end. There was a beautiful 32-yard screen that went for six against Nebraska, but outside of the first couple of games, Stoneburner was the forgotten man.

Expect that to change this year and if you need any convincing, just pop in footage of Aaron Hernandez at Florida.

Backing up Stoneburner will be sophomore Jeff Heuerman, redshirt freshman Nick Vannett and true freshman Blake Thomas, Rivals 16th-rated tight end in the 2012 class. Like Jake, all three backup tight ends have huge frames, but while Thomas is likely headed for a redshirt campaign and Vannett may play during garbage time, expect to see Heuerman on the field plenty. He saw action in 11 games as a true freshman and caught his first pass of the season -- on the same play that Stoneburner scored against Nebraska on -- in the Gator Bowl. With Reid Fragel moving to tackle, Heuerman is in a great position to emerge.

Depth Chartin' 2012
01/06 - Defensive Line
01/13 - Linebackers
01/20 - Defensive Backs
01/27 - Offensive Line
02/03 - Receivers & Tight Ends

Adding depth at receiver will be the aforementioned Reed, sophomores Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, redshirt sophomore T.Y. Williams and true freshmen Frank Epitropoulos and Ricquan Southward.

I include Smith in the list of those providing depth, but I could just as easily see him starting. As a true freshman, he played in all 13 games, finishing with 14 receptions for a team-high 294 yards and four touchdowns. He scored a touchdown in his first game as a Buckeye against Akron, had two scores against Colorado and turned in the play of the year when he saved Homecoming. With tremendous upside, I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see him emerge as the team's go-to guy before season's end.

The legacy Spencer played in 11 games, finishing with just three catches, but he made the most of them. His sick one-hander against Akron was the catch of the year in games that didn't punch Bret Bielema in the junk and he scored the Buckeyes' only touchdown against Michigan State -- a 33-yarder with 1:41 that prevented Ohio State from getting shutout at home for the first time since the Reagan era.

T.Y. Williams saw snaps in 11 games, even starting one (Purdue), but questions continue to swirl about his dedication. He struggled early in the year holding on to the ball and then missed the Gator Bowl for a violation of team rules. At 6-5/228, he has the build to be a red zone weapon if he can get it together.

On the surface, Epitropoulos is a three-star recruit that was a safe local project from the Tressel days, but it's worth pointing out that his offer sheet is far better than what Dane Sanzenbacher had to work with when he was a senior in high school. He was recently named the MVP of the International Bowl with a three catch, 98-yard performance and if push comes to shove, he can punt in a pinch. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised by Frank before it's all said and done.

Southward was a Miami commit that flipped to Ohio State the day before Meyer was announced as the new head coach. It's almost as if Urban bumped into him in a Piggly Wiggly and said, "Psst... Guess where I'm going," and Ricquan followed. Either that, or he read 11W and new about the hire weeks before it was announced. His film is nice, but not electrifying and Rivals has him as the 60th-best receiver in this class, so it may be a year or two before we begin to see what he can do on the field.

While there's experience a-plenty in this group, the production wasn't enough last year to get anyone really excited about how things will go. Meyer coming in and expressing concern over the lack of playmakers on offense isn't exactly the most encouraging thing to hear either, but perhaps it will serve as motivation. The scheme should certainly help these guys break out.

We'll be back next week to cover quarterbacks and running backs.

40 Comments

Comments

awwwwwwop's picture

I wouldn't be surprised to see Smith get more time because it is said that he has track speed.  It was hard to see anybody as being good on this offense last season, but with a little room to run, I think Smith could really could become the go-to weapon.  Lets also remember that they had a first year WR coach teaching the position last year which probably didn'tdo them many favors.

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

carence's picture

I had high hopes for TY Williams. I was hoping he could turn into that big WR (Megatron) with his size. 

Buckeyejason's picture

That's a far fetched dream. TY Williams is a tall kid but was a reach offer in my opinion. Too thin, didn't play anyone in high school..very stiff athlete too. Don't even have to mention the dropies.

BUCKEYES BABY!

buckeyefan927's picture

Not going to miss Joe OutOfBoundserman

Tengauge's picture

+100  Not sorry to see Lauserman go either

Maestro's picture

Really want to see Michael Thomas get on the field.  I really thought Evan Spencer would be the freshman to have the biggest impact this past season, but was very pleasantly surprised by Devin Smith.  As disappointing as this group was in 2011, I still see potential to be a solid group.  Miller's feet and the RB's will likely carry the offense, but Stoney and the WR crew will be interesting to watch.

vacuuming sucks

thatlillefty's picture

the wide receivers were a big disappointment last season

but i'm really excited about the future prospects for Braxton & Devin Smith. The two have obvious chemistry and will likely hook up for many TD's in the coming seasons.

RBuck's picture

Let's hope that Zach Smith can teach these guys to come back to the ball and cure the dropsies.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Northbrook's picture

Better OL and QB coaching and play will be the biggest factor in receiver improvement in my mind.

Squirrel Master's picture

First of all, Stoney and Heuerman should be just straight giddy over this. For once in over a decade the TE will become a focal point in the offense.

secondly, there is talent with the wideouts, but a real lack of experience. I wouldn't forget about Verlon Reed this year. before he went down he was playing very steady. I say a starting group of Philly Brown, Stoney, Thomas (big body) and Devin Smith with Diggs/Neal/Hall in the backfield with Braxton. I don't think OSU has every had such speed spread out on the field at one time. Maybe Gonzalez and Ginn with Troy but that still lacks 3 more burners.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Buckeyejason's picture

I Didnt know Diggs and Neal committed? Did I miss something?

BUCKEYES BABY!

Squirrel Master's picture

chill man! I am only speaking of a dream scenario. but even with Hall in the backfield, that would be a pretty potent offense. Diggs and/or Neal would be a big upgrade though. but no word yet. not til at least 10th for Diggs and who knows with Neal.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

kylegratz's picture

think of all these guys.... PLUS DIGGS?  its sick to think how good we can be.

muck fichigan

BrewstersMillions's picture

PFFFF Guys you got it all wrong. Clearly Southward is an AVID SbB reader since you know, he broke that story about something to do with Ohio State maybe needing a new coach or something one day.

Get with it 11W and give credit where credit is due!

4-6 seconds from point A to point B and when you get to point B, be pissed off

Lost nut in Michigan's picture

Robbed, really robbed. He robbed himself. If where ging to be fair, the line didnt really block that well this past season, and Braxton was a true freshmen, making freshmen mistakes.

 

Good Riddance to the Tat Bastards

 

Lost Nut in Michigan

bassplayer7770's picture

These are estimates based on memory, but you'll get the idea.

tOSU dropped back for 290 passes and allowed around 46 sacks

ND dropped back for 490 passes and allowed only 17 sacks

Of course, calling plays that don't take long to develop, along with good route running, can only help Braxton get rid of the ball sooner.

BuddhaBuck's picture

calling plays that don't take long to develop

Over/under on designed (1st option) slant route plays in 2011: 2. (ATO can probably confirm.)

Indeed, Walrusball was the greatest transgressor.. 

Don't text while driving.

Jason Priestas's picture

He caused his own trouble, but the punishment did not fit the crime.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

On the other side - if you don't commit the activity you know is a violation, you never have to worry about whether the punishment did/did not fit the violation!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I am going to reserve judgment on all of these receivers because last year is pretty much a wash when it comes to the passing game!  I can only hope with the proper coaching, conditioning, and actual pass plays put in besides 3rd and 11 plus, we'll have a much different view!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Squirrel Master's picture

How about a hurry up offense every now and then before the game is out of hand. I would like at least once the team to come out throwing and playing fast.

Just a thought, but Meyer and Belchick are friends. Is there no reason that 2 tightend formation they run doesn't show up in the OSU playbook next year! That would be awesome!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Squirrel Master's picture

I think Stoney could run out of the backfield too, Hernandez style! LMAO

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

aforsbach's picture

I don't think "robbed" is the correct adjective to use. I like Posey, but his undoing is his own fault. He chose to get tats and accept extra money from a booster. To say robbed is irresponsible.

Idot08bojangles's picture

I don't think 'robbed' is an adjective at all....

Scarlet and Grey until the day I die.
idotter: September 27, 2008. OSU vs. Minnesota

aforsbach's picture

Yeah, if you want to be a dick about it. I realize robbed is a verb. And adjective is a descriptive word. Robbed was describing Posey's lost season.

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

I'm excited to see how Devin Smith develops. His speed and explosiveness are off the charts (judging by the insane track stats he has). It will be interesting to see what Urban does to try to get him the ball in space.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Look at it this way.... wide receiver play only has one place to go up from last season... up?

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Buckeyejason's picture

Youd have to be crazy to not think Devin Smith is the best Wide receiver on the team. He will be the go to guy, along with Corey Brown and Chris fields. Couldn't disagree any more with your guess of 4 receivers on the field at once.

Watching all of last season it would have to be

Smith
Brown
Fields
Reed
Spencer

If that's not the top 5 wide receivers this season I'd be VERY SUPRISED!

BUCKEYES BABY!

bassplayer7770's picture

I think Southward, Thomas, and perhaps Epitropoulos have a chance to contribute.  It will be interesting.

Buckeyejason's picture

My guess will be 1 or 2 play..I can't see all 3 playing this year though.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Squirrel Master's picture

I just don't see Fields starting. and I think thomas gets in because you do want a big receiver to have a big target for Braxton outside of Stoney. I think your top 5 works for now but at seasons end I see it as:

1. Devin Smith - clearly the deep threat

2. Diggs/Neal - if either commits.

3. Philly Brown - ready to make a steady contribution

4. Michael Thomas - big guy that I think for once will produce

5. Verlon Reed - may need some time getting back in fold but strong playmaker

6. Chris Fields - fast but an enigma

7. Evan Spencer - not sure what happened with him last year. disappeared.

8. Southward, TY Williams and so forth - either not ready or not going to be.

 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Buckeyejason's picture

I can't argue too much with your projection. I do think however that Philly Brown will finally be utilized properly under Urban..which makes me think he's above Neal and Diggs. He's just as fast as those guys and has 2 years experience so far. If he doesn't break out big time this season than I think his time will pass him.

BUCKEYES BABY!

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

If any of the wide receivers on the roster become as good as Sanzenbacher, then the Buckeyes will be  in good shape. Dane was one of the guttiest kids ever to wear Scarlet and Gray. It also proves offer sheets and all the other scouting crap is just that ... crap. He had heart, something that a lot of four and five-star recruits I've seen didn't have. You can't measure heart and guts off a videotape.

Buckeyejason's picture

+1

Couldn't agree more. Add work ethic to that as well.

BUCKEYES BABY!

luckynutz's picture

Not to mention he had no fear, and an inexplicable ability to be wide open at the right time. You can coach a lot of things. Running a good route, finding the soft spots in a zone, what to do when a play breaks down. But you can't coach heart, you can't coach competivive fire, and you can't coach his ability to be right on time when you needed him. Without a doubt one of my favorite buckeyes ever. He wasn't big, he wasn't a burner. But he was the guy who always killed you when you weren't expecting it. Wish he had eternal eligibility just so the studs we will no doubt roll in over the next few years can see what being a buckeye is all about.

buckeyedude's picture

Can somebody help me with the correct pronunciation of "Epitropoulos?" If I'm going to be saying his name in the future, I'd like to pronounce it correctly.

 
 

Squirrel Master's picture

It's pronounced "sanzenbacher2.0".

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

buckeyedude's picture

LOL. Copy that Squirrel.

 
 

Baroclinicity's picture

Pronounce "epi" like you would in epic and "tropoulos" like you would in metropolis.  Put the accent on the third syllable.

This is a guess only, but it sounds right...