Ohio State's Receiving Corps Could Feature Freshmen Flair

By Kyle Rowland on February 24, 2014 at 3:00p

The 2013 football season served as a re-birth for the Ohio State passing game and, more importantly, for the players catching those passes. Luke Fickell’s one season at the helm of the Buckeyes would be best described as disastrous when offense is discussed. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman exhibited zero creativity, which didn’t bode well for a senior quarterback who lacked experience and a true freshman. 

Joe Bauserman and a young Braxton Miller combined for 125 completions, 1,651 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. Devin Smith, Philly Brown and Jake Stoneburner tied for the team lead with all of 14 receptions. Few, if any, were proud of the dismal numbers. Attached was a 6-7 record, tied for the most losses in school history.

In came Urban Meyer and his high-octane offense, and everyone thought the passing game would be transformed overnight. The win-loss record certainly was, as Ohio State polished off a perfect 12-0 season in 2012. But the receivers still weren’t at the desirable level. Wide receivers coach Zach Smith became a target for much of the scorn; he even piled it on himself.

Finally, 2013 assisted in the reclamation project. Miller and Kenny Guiton approached the 3,000-yard mark and the receiving corps delivered highlights from the moment the season started. And the coming year could prove even more dramatic.

An impressive haul of pass-catchers was added in the 2014 recruiting class, unveiling visions of the 1980s, 90s and early-2000s. Names like Carter, Galloway, Boston, Jenkins and Holmes. Smith, Evan Spencer and the versatile Dontre Wilson return, but perhaps the most excitement surrounds true freshman Johnnie Dixon.

The South Florida native picked Ohio State over a handful of blue bloods, pointing to the Buckeyes’ tradition of molding receivers into capable NFL producers. Dixon, a four-star recruit, will begin his Buckeye career next Tuesday at the dawn of spring practice.

“I wanted to be a great receiver, and under Coach Meyer and Coach Smith, I can make that happen and they can make that happen,” Dixon said. “If I wanted to be a great receiver, I knew it had to be here. Nothing is ever given to you. You go out and work for it. Depending on how bad you want it and how hard you work, it’s there for the taking.”

Height is certainly not an advantage for Dixon – he stands just 5-foot-11. But he doesn’t shy away from contact, possesses elusive speed and will rise in the air for the football. Once you scan pass the height, one quickly sees the qualities Dixon provides.

“I like electric guys that are going to take the football and put it across the goal line,” Smith said. “That’s it. I want it in the end zone. I don’t care how big you are. It doesn’t matter, just get it in the end zone. It’s nice to have size, but I like playmakers.”

Without even playing a down yet for Ohio State, Dixon has become one of the team’s most coachable wide receivers. During the recruiting process, Smith observed several practices at Dwyer High School. The pats-on-the-back didn’t come until after Smith went down a checklist of the wrongs with Dixon.

In nearly two months on campus, Dixon has been active in the weight room and the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Video of Miller working with the wide receivers has appeared on social media. A strong work ethic is central in Dixon being the recipient of immediate playing time.

“I feel like if I work hard enough, I can hit the field and I can make an impact,” he said.

The wide receiver rotation could feature several names that were absent a year ago. Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Corey Smith redshirted, James Clark played sparingly and suffered a season-ending injury and Jeff Greene was a transfer. That doesn’t include an influx of freshmen skill players.

It adds a dose of excitement to spring practice that’s otherwise nonexistent. And backups Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett will deliver a majority of the passes because of Miller’s shoulder surgery. The duel for the No. 2 quarterback position is another layer in a spring full of storylines.

“You don’t want to take away from what guys like Devin Smith and Evan Spencer have done for us this past year,” Smith said, “but at the end of the day, we need to get better. We were a better unit, but we weren’t where we needed to be. There’s not a position in my room that is locked down or anyone who really has an edge.”

It could pave the way for a freshmen invasion with Dixon playing a starring role.


Comments Show All Comments

Ericgobucks's picture

Dixon sounds like the real deal. I wonder how we are going to get all these young guns on the field. There are a lot of big-time guys all vying for one football. This will be an interesting year. 

+9 HS
teddyballgame's picture

I think Herman and Brax realize they're going to have to air it out more this year.  New offensive line...no returning Hyde.  I don't see us being able to lean on the run game like last year.

+7 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

I agree.  We're going to be attacking from different spots and different angles this year.

Braxton's safety blanket will still be to take off...but hoping he's learned to use his legs to buy time with/for the new line and open angles/passing lanes to get the ball into some of these play makers hands.  Not saying anyone is expendable but we have multiple playmakers in the skill positions and only 1 Braxton.  I would feel comfortable if we distributed the ball all over the park.

I know we need to establish the run and that power numbers game has always been Urban's bread and butter...but we need to use both facets to keep the D honest this year.  As pointed out earlier, no Hyde...which means no powering through stacked boxes (that's what she said).

+7 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

With so much down field speed and the simple fact that Brax can go off at anytime - EZE can't and won't be stopped. Brax coming back for his last year was the right decision and we are about to all find out why.

+2 HS
CC's picture

I just hope Brax hits guys in stride.  There were soo many play last year where guys had to make catches and break stride, go back or dive.  It seemed like we left a lot of yardage on the field.  Obviously he has the weapons around him, I just hope he can use them.

+1 HS
BuckeyeB9B82501's picture

Im with ya there Bax needs to have that "trust" factor their to all the WRs/ Slots/ Hyper/ and RBs and that comes with reps. Brax has ao much talent around him he doesn't have to do it all. Spread it out to all these playmakers and let them do what they do. Yes run when needed but he shouldn't have to have the thought in his head that he has to do it all. All and all he has the talent to dump it off to another playmaker and that in itself mean alot less hit. Lets use them, use the talent aroind you and gr8 things will happen and it will/should keep XBrax healthy .

Buckeye Dynasty starts in 2014 baby !!!!!! GO BUCKS !!!!!!!! O - H - I - O

nburns18's picture

Competition improves players so much throughout spring and summer practices. But we dont have a strong receiving corps which leaves the door open for a lot of new guys

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

CC's picture

But we dont have a strong receiving corps

I bet there are about 110 teams that would trade entire receiving corps today.

tennbuckeye19's picture

The wide receiver rotation could feature several names that were absent a year ago. Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Corey Smith redshirted, James Clark played sparingly and suffered a season-ending injury and Jeff Greene was a transfer. That doesn’t include an influx of freshmen skill players.

So many (unproven) weapons. 

At this point I think we know what we have in Devin Smith and Evan Spencer. But it will be nice to see if all these new and inexperienced guys can have an impact on the offense. Wouldn't it be nice to have the wide receiver position be a strength of the team for a change?


+5 HS
Earle's picture

But, but, but....Mike Thomas.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

+10 HS
TheBadOwl's picture

I think Corey Smith will be our leading receiver, and Mike Thomas will earn a starting spot. I feel kind of crazy predicting that two returning seniors will lose their starting spots, but Smith earned some incredibly high praise.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

+4 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

but Smith earned some incredibly high praise.

Recently? When?

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Crimson's picture

Reports from bowl practices

MoEddieRobtCarlosBeanie's picture

High praise, in Columbus, is often handed out like free drinks in a singles bar. One minute, he is god's gift in practice and in the weight room. The next minute he is red shirting. The next minute he is moving back home to be with an ailing family member.

Urban sells his talent like a coked up stock broker....

The point is, Corey Smith, Michael Thomas, Johnny Dixon, or who ever the best guys are that we have to put out there... #5 has to get them the ball. We need possession receivers. I am going to wait until next fall before I believe anybody's rave reviews.

nburns18's picture

What about devin smith and evan spencer? 

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

dan_isaacs's picture

is there a link to the Miller working out with the WRs available?

Dan Isaacs

+4 HS
Wesleyburgess1's picture

I looked on twitter and instagram..Just not seeing anything besides the couple videos Mike Thomas posted that were on 11w. Corey Smith has a video on Instagram where he is practicing one handed catches from a machine. I really have no idea what video he is talking about. I have looked everywhere and cant seem to find it.

TUNBUCK89's picture

If there were any, I would've imagined that GRAY BOX would've digged them out & posted them

+4 HS
BuckeyeLaw's picture

I would love to see Jeff Greene get on the field. Kid has size you can't teach and has really hit the weight room hard since transferring. To see him lined up across from Mike Thomas and some speedsters would be dangerous. 

OSU 2011 - Toledo Law 2014

+4 HS
BuckeyeJ's picture

I agree. I see them and smith. I also feel Clark and Dixon are an upgrade. It's wide open according to coach Smith. 

+1 HS
Gametime's picture

Completely agree with this BuckeyeJ. Thomas & Greene on the outside and Corey Smith in the slot with guys like Marshall, Clark, Dixon, Samuel, or TMC rotating in.

Big body WRs punking smaller DBs & LBs in the run game and natural WRs at that.

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

+4 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

hope to see some 2013 recruits get some opportunities to show us what they got.

+1 HS
JYBUCKEYE's picture

 Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman exhibited zero creativity, 


+11 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

Is that Joe Tiller?

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

fwiw, Bollman's MSU O didnt have too many issues with our defense…think we can stop ragging on the guy, Bert-like Karma may have struck us down a bit there.

+3 HS
Unky Buck's picture

To be fair, though, 1-11 California didn't have problems with our defense either. I get the point to stop ragging on The Walrus (goo goo ca choo) but having a good game against what is probably one of the worst defenses many of us have seen out of an OSU team does not make him any better of a coordinator.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

+2 HS
whobdis's picture

Warinner is our co-offensive coordintor and I don't think anyone call's this "Warinners offense". Bollman doesnt' call offensive plays..even Boston College would not allow him that responsibility. I'm not tryin to pile on the guy but these posts that's popped up since the MSU game that it was his offense is ridiculous. Word was that he has a role in the running game schemes (which isn't dominating anyone).


BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

The offense will still feature the zone-read power running game, so if any of these new faces want to see the field they better have the requisite blocking skills. 

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

+7 HS
CC's picture

Why do I have the feeling Greene knows how to block?  He's huge, and he played in the option at GT.

Would love to at least see what he can do.

Buck Commander's picture

Sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders and may become the next big thing.

Every time I set my DVR to record Biggest Loser......It always records Wolverine Football Games!

m5987usus's picture

So excited for johnnie dixon to be a part of the scarlet and gray, he is going to be an awesome player


bergy22's picture

Not that it didn't matter in the previous years but I think the spring game is going to be huge for the OL and WR especially. OL we will get to see both the first and second team guys get a lot of reps and the WRs playing with the second team QBs provided that Braxton remains limited.

I think Devin Smith starts Game 1 but by Big Ten season C.Smith or M.Thomas ends up getting more time. Devin has been too much of a one trick pony the last few years, a go route or bust. Time for Braxton to see more of a route tree with multiple progressions. That will develop these guys for the NFL.

+3 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Not to mention, who is going to be this year's Kenny G-backup QB? That is going to be interesting as well.



bucknut94's picture

I can't wait for the spring game. I believe the Bucks will have an exceptional core of receivers who see the field. I hope Miller gets his reads to find the open receivers.

+1 HS
bdegroff's picture

If Dixon is able to run fast crisp routes he could see the field right away. Getting off jams will be the key. I think defenses are going to stack the box and force the receivers to get off jams. Could be a lot of fun to watch


syphon2677's picture

Was the the problem the WRs or QBs?

+5 HS
One Bad Buckeye's picture

This is a great question, I think we'll know more after this season.  Way too much talent competing for starting spots now, I don't think anyone can say "it's lack of talent/depth at WR" if our passing game isn't lights out this season.  

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

+1 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

It might not be because of a "lack of talent/depth at WR" if the passing game doesn't click...and it might not be Braxton either. While I also have high hopes for the passing game, it seems the question marks for the passing game are inexperience at WR and more importantly can the new, inexperienced O-line give the WR's time to get open and Braxton time to find them.

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

+2 HS
buckguyfan1's picture

When was the last time we had such potential talent and depth at virtually all offensive skill positions?

Great to hear these kids are busting their butts this time of year.  Preparation and conditioning now wins games in the Fall.

+3 HS
Hetuck21's picture

I have to admit that I first saw that as "Dixon Seeking Immediate RELEASE".....just about feel out of the chair! 

EDUGOON's picture

Great article!! My only concern is that our WR situation turns into what our LB situation was last year. Top rated talented recruited to come in and make an impact only to see them get redshirted for whatever the reason. Sometimes you just gotta throw the young guys out there and let them play. Sometime's practice doesn't always provide that "Light Are On" type of atmosphere. Some guys are just gamers!!!! I look forward to seeing this group of new guys. Just hope they get there shot and cash in on it.

"We Don't Believe You, You Need More People"- Hova #GOBUCKS #FreeElGuapo #Famthik

+2 HS
One Bad Buckeye's picture

Ehh, I'm kinda with you about the "guys a gamer" theory, but when competition is that stiff you'd better be running every practice route/run block like its the national championship game if you want to earn the right to start.  This is the sort of competitive environment our coaching staff is harboring, and I absolutely love it.  Can't wait to see the results.  

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

+1 HS
BuckeyeStrong2's picture

I agree. With the amount of talent being infused here, the kids are quickly learning its go hard or go to the bench. Hopefully all of these talented WRs coming in will also make our DBs better as well. You play as you practice, so it seems we are doing everything we can to go against the best on a day to day basis!

It's going to be a good year!


buckskin's picture

I'm hoping that M. Thomas can earn a starting spot and bring some of the chemistry that he and Braxton have to the field.  This would be a huge boost for Braxton's comfort level and he can finally display what we all know he is capable of in his passing game.  Then, I would love to see Smith and Clark get on the field and join Thomas with a newly confident Braxton and have a dominant receiving corps.  Dixon is going to be our next Galloway, Glenn, or Holmes in due time, a smaller guy who will excel at the fundamentals of the WR position.   Let's not forget about the Marshall plan either!!  Whew, this season is going to be a dogfight for playing time.  Iron sharpening iron, competition making everyone better.  I'm ready!  

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Dixon is going to be our next Galloway, Glenn, or Holmes in due time, a smaller guy who will excel at the fundamentals of the WR position

I'd be happy if he was the next Dane Sanzenbacher. ;)



buckskin's picture

I heard that Dixon's family owns an apple cider company; I think the name is "Dixon Cider."

-3 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

I bet Coach Smith gets a big smile every time he looks around his meeting room this year after thinking about the "Clown Show" he had just a couple years ago.

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

mtrotb's picture

It will be interesting for sure.  6-7 will play, the ones that can still redshirt will, and a couple others will sit the bench or move on out.


otrain2416's picture

Between Dixon, Brown, Run TMC, Campbell, and even Samuel we got some very good WR/ playmakers on offense. I just see Urban, Herman, and Smith having to change their philosophy and do a lot more rotation at WR,H-back, and RB for any of these guys to get significant times with the amount of guys we have ahead of them. 

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

HomeBrewed's picture

It is important to remember that the Offense is still predicated on what we do in the run game. A guy like Evan Spencer may never fill up the stat sheet, but he adds all the intangibles and is a hell of a blocker. That was my biggest issue with what M. Thomas said after the bowl game. WR's just aren't graded on catches, yards, and TD's. As we all know, the kids coming out of high school tend to shy away from blocking as they haven't been asked to do it and historically is one of the more difficult aspects of the position to learn. The team has a ton of unproven talent at the WR position, so it is key that everyone temper their expectations until we can count on more than just the proven commodities. All of that being said, we have added some great talent and I am extremely excited to see what these young guys can do. Oh, and Go Bucks!

Clever Statement

+1 HS
OSUFlash's picture

With all the offense talent at WR and RB you have to think we may a transfer or two by the end of spring ball. Epitropolis might be one of them unless he's content to ride out his career as a great teammate and of course getting his degree as priority #1. I just see Meyers recruits given every opportunity over Tressel and Fickells recruits. Same on the defensive side of the ball.

Either way you slice it, we have a lot of speed on both sides of the ball and not enough spots on the field. The Spring game should be very entertaining but take the results with a grain of salt.


CC's picture

I'm not saying you're wrong, but why do you feel that way?

Almost the entire starting team was from Tress or Fick 2 years in.  The notable exceptions (off the top of my head are) Bosa (a true freak), Spence, Marcus, Schutt and Dontre (who had no equal on the existing team).  All of them were 5* players coming out of HS hold Marcus.

That seems pretty reasonable to me.  In fact I would like to have seen more, Mitchell, Johnson and Marshall.

buckeyeradar's picture

I O !  Can't leave you hanging.  The WR's all have talent and speed, what we need is to keep them fresh.  Sub in waves.  Fresh legs and creative play calling.  Get the receiver in the open field and let him go.  DON'T forget the tight ends, mixed with gifted backs and Oh baby!  How about ninety plays a game, 50-50 pass run.  Lots of touches lots of fun.  GO BUCKS

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+1 HS
seafus26's picture

I like Thomas and Greene at times on the field in running situations.  Of course at times we'd have to mix it up and toss the ball, especially if we're given an opportunity to audible to a pass at the line.  But I don't see their DB making the tackle getting off of their blocks. Spencer proved to be a capable blocker, as well.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

hudsonsamuel's picture

spring will tell.


What you are speaks so loud,I can't hear a word you say.

Meaty19's picture

Really excited to watch these kids battle it out for their spot on the field. This offense is going to be fun to watch.

buckeyeradar's picture

What's nice about spring ball is mostly passing, we know we can run but we want to see what the passing game will be like.  So I bet during that game we'll throw 80 percent or better.  Too bad Braxton won't be able to work on his timing, but it will be good to see who work's his way into 2 & 3 QB.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

youngcroc's picture

We could have a dope receiving group, but Braxton is gonna have to distribute the ball better this year.

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

a lot of young talent at WR. No offense to D. Smith and the older guys, but they better be top notch going into camp or I hope Urban lets some of these elite prospects get a shot to step in. 2013 recruits will be interesting, but I think Dixon pushes them all.