Receivers Becoming Focus of Offensive Game Plan

By Kyle Rowland on April 3, 2014 at 9:15a

The word inconsistent is defined as “not staying the same throughout.” It’s one term that could be used to describe Braxton Miller’s passing targets. There have been many recipients of his passes, and the group hasn’t always performed at a steady level.

Zach Smith is at the heart of changing that perception – and reality. The third-year wide receivers coach has steadily rebuilt the receiving corps into a strength. When he arrived, Ohio State’s leading receiver from the previous season had 14 receptions. The position as a whole only caught 65 passes.  

In Smith’s first season, the leading receiver’s production rose to 60, and it was 63 in 2013. Year 3 could provide a true breakout despite the loss of Philly Brown, the Buckeyes’ leading receiver for three consecutive seasons.

“My goal is to have every guy be a go-to guy,” Smith said. “It can never be an offense based on one or two guys. We’ve got to have four, five, six guys that can consistently perform to our standards, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

The game plan begins with senior Devin Smith, who’s recorded more than 1,000 yards combined and 14 touchdowns the past two seasons. He’s the team’s leading returning receiver and a candidate to be one of the offenses most dynamic players. The clown show days are over. It’s not uncommon to have multiple receivers who can stretch defenses.

“I look back on some of the plays that I’ve made, and I have made some plays that people will remember forever,” Devin Smith said. “Inside me, I still feel like there is more that I need to give, and I’m hoping I can do that my last year.”

Two years ago, playmakers were not in sight. When Meyer uttered his now infamous phrase, the receiver position was in a depression. For 30 years, Ohio State produced several NFL-ready pass-catchers. It all hit a snag as offenses shifted to athletic quarterbacks. But the Buckeyes are reverting to rosters stockpiled with high-end receivers.

“I am very excited about our group,” Zach Smith said. “We are getting there slowly. Right now, there is a lot of competition and the culture is growing. They’re really buying into what we are trying to build in the room.

“We just have to keep taking steps. We’re a long way away. But luckily the season is a long way away. We have to be consistent every day. We need to make plays when plays present themselves, and we need to do it every single time.”

“We have to be the best receiving group in the country. We’re taking steps toward that.”– Zach Smith

Devin Smith and Evan Spencer deliver experience, while Dontre Wilson, Michael Thomas, Johnnie Dixon, Jalin Marshall, Jeff Greene, Corey Smith and James Clark provide the unproven youth. Although there are unknown quantities, the amount of bodies make wide receiver one of the deepest positions on the team.

It presents competition, which is one of spring’s main themes. Offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, running back – scan the field and you’ll probably find a position that’s trying to establish depth and doing so in the name of competition.

“No spot is guaranteed,” Zach Smith said. “No one is a starter because there are a number of guys developing into a great X, a great H, a great Z, whatever. We’ll see who it is. It’s just a matter of time, who comes every single day and who brings the effort and competes.”

Thomas, Marshall, Greene and Corey Smith have created intrigue. There’s only a handful of career receptions between the four players, but that’s done little to hush onlookers who await a return to previous years that featured many deep threats. Then there is Dixon, a freshman from West Palm Beach who makes up for his 5-foot-11 frame with speed, shiftiness and sure hands.

Alabama, Florida State, Auburn, Miami – all the major powers wanted Dixon. But not only did he spurn the SEC, defending national champions and his nearby school, Dixon chose to head a thousand miles north to Columbus.

“Johnnie’s been impressive,” Zach Smith said. “He is a lot like Dontre. He’s a grown man for an 18-year-old. He comes in and handles his business. He handles his business outside of this facility, he handles his business in the classroom. So I’m excited about where he is going to be.

“Now, he is a typical freshman. He’s still learning and still trying to figure everything out. He has the commitment to be great, and he is doing everything we are asking him to do right now. That’s usually a formula for success.”

The cohesion won’t come until summer, though. Every single pass during the months of March and April has come from a backup quarterback. When Miller’s surgically repaired throwing shoulder heals, the process of developing timing will begin in earnest. Devin Smith, Spencer and Thomas are the only receivers who have a rapport with Miller.

“We have to be the best receiving group in the country,” Zach Smith said. “We’re taking steps toward that. That’s been our goal every year because that's what Ohio State deserves. But we haven’t reached that goal. It's my expectation and the group's mentality that we will be that this fall. We have to be.”

Defensive coordinators’ focus won’t just be keyed to Miller. A vibrant running back may have departed. But the Buckeyes are launching a well-rounded offensive attack. 


Comments Show All Comments

Bugsyk's picture

149 days....tick tick tick...

+1 HS
Mortc15's picture

Zach Smith is quickly rising up in the coaching profession. It was just over a year ago that UFM said he didn't perform up to standards in most areas. Then he's the top recruiter on the staff and has the WR getting to the level they need to be at. I don't think it'll be to much longer before he gets called for a higher position somewhere if he wants it. I really cannot wait to see all these athletes put together on the field. I have high hopes for this coming season.


+2 HS
bucks_4_life's picture

"But luckily the season is a long way away."

This line has ruined my day... I'm just gonna go back to bed.

The juice is worth the squeeze

+6 HS
whobdis's picture

Smith has proved to be quite a recruiter..I think we still need some evidence of his coaching success. Honestly we haven't seen tremendous play out of our receivers..there are many factors that play into that of course. I really thought Devin would have a great year but he's still inconsistent. Urban has give Zach a boatload of talent to work with so we should start to see some serious improvement this year.

+1 HS
TossTrap's picture

Mark it down, Spencer will have a breakout year.

First and goal at the five and Arch is getting the ball.

Barnsey69's picture

The cupboard is bursting, now we just need #5 to find these guys consistently, and the sky is the limit for this offense.

Go Bucks!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+4 HS
allinosu's picture

Herman needs to step also. He is very comfortable with running the ball.

+2 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I agree with both statements.  Braxton has to be a better passing QB and Herman can't fall in love with the run.  

+2 HS
ab1993's picture

I'm so excited for Johnnie Dixon's potential

+4 HS
BassDropper's picture

I think he will be one of the true freshman that everyone in the country knows about. I believe he will be the teams best WR and just dominate. He just has the "it" factor.


Colerain 2004 G.O.A.T.'s picture

Ia anyone else getting ads in the actual comments? Right above Morts comment Iam getting an extrascoupon ad. Could be a isolated adware type of thing just curious. We have missed out on a shit load of our true WR targets this first 3 years here,but we are still loaded to the gills with playmakers at the position. I love the play maker RB/WR hybrid that can do it all ala Jalin,Dontre,Curtis. These guys are usually a little more physical then your typical wr. The ability for every man on the field to block,catch,run.break tackles really creates a mismatch for our offense that is going to be hard to game plan against.

I speak the truth but I guess that's a foreign language to yall.~~Lil Wayne

BeijingBucks's picture

well one thing that just jacked up he WR numbers was Dontre moving to WR...

The fine line between a lateral and a slightly forward out pass to Wilson could see a lot of additional production to the WRs not the Backs

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

OSUpawn's picture

I love all the talent at WR.  Can we run a 5 WR formation? Let the playmakers go one on one.

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

gumtape's picture

The field gets crowded and Braxton gets hammered. It has been tried before. Run-N-Shoot, etc. It works well between the twenties, but has trouble scoring in the red zone.


High and tight boo boo

Horvath22's picture

Right on the money, Gum.

cw823's picture

Devin Smith is a deep ball WR and nothing more.  The new guys need to bring us back to the glory days of Glenn, Boston, etc....