Receivers Heed Warnings from Meyer, Smith

By Kyle Rowland on August 15, 2013 at 9:30a
Coaches have taken notice of Evan Spencer.

Any time Ohio State football players are available to the media, the scene is straight out of Jaws. Chum is thrown overboard and then surrounded by vicious creatures. In reality, though, sports writers are harmless. Still, when the wide receivers appeared for their question and answer session, they were walled in by eager reporters.

But they wanted to talk about Dontre Wilson. 

“Man, that little joker there is quick,” said junior wideout Evan Spencer. “He is so explosive, and you never know where he’s going and what kind of move he’s going to make.”

Wilson has been the story of fall camp. His skill set gives Ohio State the dynamic playmaker its been coveting. All the accolades have led to returning players being overlooked. One of those is Spencer, who finished 2012 with 12 receptions for 136 yards.

Reading those numbers might give reason to forget Spencer. But he heeded the warning that young talent would be arriving. The summer was used as a valuable resource, and Spencer has continued his assault on playing time during fall camp.

“What he’s shown flashes of at times he’s really done consistently,” said wide receivers coach Zach Smith. “He’s probably the one I’m most pleased with the step he took.”

Urban Meyer echoed those same comments. When your position coach and head coach laud your performance, a boost in confidence ensues. Spencer said the area he’s seen a rise in is his route running. Getting in and out of cuts and grabbing the ball out of the air, not letting it flutter to you, is where Spencer honed his skills. Having players on your heels only increases the motivation.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are really good,” Spencer said. “We’ve got a lot of competition. That’s what drives me and everyone else to continue to get better.”

As a whole, the wide receivers were improved last season. After a nightmarish output in 2011, going up wasn’t much of an issue. Meyer thought otherwise during spring practice when he uttered his famous “clown show” line. But inexperienced and untested are no longer appropriate words to describe the unit. 

“A year ago, I told everyone that it was a young group that needed to grow up and develop and get better,” Smith said. “That’s something they’ve done. Fast forward a year and they’ve had trials, tribulations, had hard times, had great successes. So they have grown and learned from mistakes to the point where they’re able to be a mature group.”

“We’ve got a lot of competition. That’s what drives me and everyone else to continue to get better.”

Smith’s job no longer includes moments of panic. Few position coaches in the country faced as much uncertainty and pressure as Smith did in 2012. The wide receivers were a source of mystery ever since Meyer was hired. Now, Smith gets rewarding moments when he sees the development in practice.

There’s Spencer’s improved play, but also two returnees – Philly Brown and Devin Smith – who caught 90 passes between them. Brown and Smith showed they could make important catches during critical moments. Consistency is a want of Zach Smith and Meyer. Proper route running and chewing up yards didn’t always happen last year. Some of that is one the quarterback, some falls on the receivers.

“It’s so much smoother. Everybody’s flowing faster. We all know what our assignments are and we’re reacting instead of trying to think,” Spencer said. “That’s the biggest thing we’ve improved on since last year. It’s really going to help us out this year.”

When you receive the full impact of criticism from your head coach, going that extra mile – in the receivers’ case, hours of practice – isn’t so hard. When he’s not coaching or recruiting, Meyer is motivating. And like the other two coaching tasks, he’s an expert at getting his players to work hard. Breaking down and building up is included in the two-part process.

“He’s given us more compliments this year,” said senior wide receiver Chris Fields.

Zach Smith and Meyer knew the makeover was not going to happen overnight. Dysfunction doesn’t dramatically improve in days, weeks or, sometimes, even months. But over time, the Buckeyes’ receivers have become a reliable unit, some would even say a strength on the team.

“This year you can expect our offense to just shoot up the charts if we keep doing what we’re doing and try to eliminate the silly mistakes,” Brown said. “We can be one of the top offenses in the country.”

One point of contention last year was Brown’s inability to have 1,000 yards receiving after catching 60 passes. Meyer lamented his efforts at eluding and breaking away from tacklers. Brown deadpanned, “I’m skinny,” when asked by reporters about his escapability before admitting that he put on some weight in the offseason with the help of Mickey Marotti. The added muscle should lead to more receiving yards.

“Philly was the first to say that for however many catches he had, the fact that he didn't have 1,000 yards receiving, he said that's a joke. I mean, what are we talking about? He’s much better than that,” Zach Smith said. “He’s made the conscious effort to improve his body control, how quickly he changes directions, because the natural, physical ability is there and it always has been.”

Still, Smith won’t let complacency creep into the receivers’ meeting room. Hearing good things all the time can have the opposite effect of the negative talk. Instead of working hard, players rest on their laurels. Don’t expect that to happen with Smith in charge.

“We’ve taken a step, we’re no longer dysfunctional, now lets really go be the best wide receiver unit in the country,” he said.

Mission: not impossible. 


Comments Show All Comments

osubuck57's picture

Great article. Our receivers have the opportunity to be a very special group. Great that they're having quality practices, but it's gotta show up on the field, on game days. Mental lapses, route running, and poor drops, can really hinder momentum of an offense.


ChicagoBuckeyeFan's picture

Any word on Michael Thomas? Think he'll get some quality reps in?

cbusbuckeye's picture

It's interesting that we haven't heard a word from or about him all summer and camp. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing...thought he had good chemistry with Braxton, he was catching passes from him in December when Miller went to see George Whitfield. 

otrain2416's picture

I feel like he's solidified #2 spot on the outside behind Devin Smith probably haven't heard much with Smith, Spencer, Brown, and Wilson playing well. Coaches have been pretty quiet on Fields too after the monster spring he had

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

BullCityBuckeye's picture

Great article.  I love how all the intra-team competition is making everyone better.  Two more weeks, and I can't wait to witness the results. Go Bucks!

Doc's picture

The picture at the top of the article got me thinking.  Does the the team have separate helmets for practice and games?  None of the helmets pictured above have the center stripes on them.  Do those get added once the season starts, or are they only used for games?  Thanks. 

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

One Bad Buckeye's picture

They have separate helmets for games....

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

Ian Cuevas's picture

I know at my high school we had the same helmets but we wouldn't get our helmet stripes until the first game week. So all through summer camp and two-a-days we would just have our plain orange helmet that we would manually have to add to the helmet ourselves.
I'm not sure if Ohio State is the same way, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did work in a similar fashion. 

toad1204's picture

With Brax turning the corner, not to mention working with Whitfield, and these guys having a second year under their belt in this system, the offense is going to a completely different animal.  Defenses are going to have to plan for so much that Meyer may or may not use.  Cant wait for 08/31. 

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

gobucks96's picture

Heed warning? I'd say the receivers should be jumping for joy! Once Dontre starts having packages from the defense roll over to protect against him, it frees up everyone else.

cinserious's picture

One year the WR group was a 'clown show'. This year we have a 'little joker'. Its great to know that Braxton elevated his game all summer and so have the returning receivers. We have some numbers out wide now in several positions so the competition is fierce  I'm sure. Urban will make sure the best get the P.T., including freshmen.
Evan Spencer may have found a name for Dontre. JOKER!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

pjtobin's picture

I like it! Joker Wilson. It has a ring to it. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

RoweTrain's picture

Good call on Joker. That's what I'm calling him. 

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

droessl's picture

Opposing defensive coordinators might need to call Kenny Loggins. 'Cause they're entering the

stevebelliseeya's picture

Archer approves of this statement.

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

mtharp's picture

Man i hope this is true. Our recieving corp. last year was sub par at best. They had a few shining moments but overall lacked luster.  I really am getting excited i cant wait for the season to begin.

Larryp713's picture

I think the improvement of Braxton's passes, both in velocity and timing, will really help the receivers find out how good they can be. When your QB is throwing the ball before you break, the receivers tend to run sharper routes.
I am excited that Brown and Spencer are veteran guys who seem to embrace the competition and use it as motivation to get better. I love to see hard work pay off, and really all these guys, with Hall and some of the backs included, will have great opportunities to shine.



zbd's picture

Our receivers need to get maximum separation during the routes. They didn't seem to get open last year and Braxton had a low completion rate.  I have confidence in Braxton and hope he doesn't need to run all the time.  Philly Brown, Dontre, Spencer, Devin Smith, Clark, Fields, Jalin Marshall.....just get open.

Ethan's picture

Great article. Nice to hear from Chris Fields too -- haven't heard much about him from camp thus far. Anyone know if he's still in line to start? Seems like with Spencer, Wilson, and Marshall all making headlines, it'll be tough to justify outside of giving him the courtesy of the season's first snap. That doesn't seem like it's Urban's MO though...curious to see what happens! 

Hovenaut's picture

Good to read about receivers, plural.

Aside from the linebackers, this is the unit I'm hoping to see step things up. Like what I'm reading.

Squirrel Master's picture

We could probably count on 1 hand how many possible play makers that was coming in last year: Devin, Philly, Hyde and Hall. Probably should throw Brax in there! Spencer, Dunn, Ball, Smith and Thomas were still unknowns then.
this year we could conceivably go 10 deep: Devin, Philly, Hall, Hyde, Rod Smith, Spencer, Wilson, Marshall, Clark and Corey Smith. That's not including Eze, Dunn and Ball plus whoever else could be coming out of the woodwork. and I am leaving out the TEs and the possibility of Gareon Conley moving to WR (which I think won't happen now because he obviously is excelling at CB)

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

And you didn't even mention our best offensive player, Braxton. Meyer is going to have quite a task to get all these guys touches. I'm excited to see what they all can do.

ChazBuckeye's picture

These guys will impress this year. Both the youngsters and vets...should be interesting to see them in action.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Maestro's picture

Pay heed !!

vacuuming sucks

buckskin's picture

A pretty good book I'm reading says that iron sharpens iron.  So it is with the OSU receiving corps.  Ready for Buffalo.  

Oldschoolbuck's picture

That IS a good book, BUCKSKIN!

unholy bucknut's picture

I think we are going to have one of the best WR corps in the country. And with the way we are recruiting the position i'd say we are going to be set for years to come.

pjtobin's picture

I'm not usually excited about our receivers. After reading this article I sure am now! Go Bucks!!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

TraptnMI's picture

Thomas must be fuming not ever getting any love. I love you BRA! Best God damn hands on the team by far! Hang in there baby. Your our Red Zone hope. Way to be humble and patient. GETSOME!!!!

" It's real good whatcha done Anthony, real good ! "