Predicting Ohio State's Top Five Receivers in 2014

By Michael Citro on May 4, 2014 at 8:15a
33 Comments

The off-season is a great time to make predictions, because literally anything can happen between now and the end of college football season.

About a month ago, I put on my Dumbledore hat, grabbed my crystal ball, and tried my hand at scrying into the fall to predict who the top five tacklers on the Buckeyes will be at the end of the 2014 season. This time around, I’ll peer into the future to let you know who the five most prolific pass catchers will be, including (of course) the number of receptions, yards and touchdowns they’ll end up with. 

I feel comfortable doing this, because there’s almost no chance I’ll be wrong*.

*In my mind.

Before I get to the bold predictions below, it is helpful to remember that four fifths of the offensive line will be comprised of new starters in 2014, and the only starter — Taylor Decker — will be switching from right tackle, to left tackle. If there are any Khalil Macks out there waiting to play against Ohio State this year, it would probably be wise to fit Braxton Miller for a suit of armor.

In addition to the new line, Miller loses his top receiver of 2013. Philly Brown went off for 63 catches, 771 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dontre Wilson is reportedly the man to fill Philly’s shoes this fall, but it’s a legitimate argument to say that the sophomore-to-be has yet to show he’s capable of handling every down duty in place of Brown.

I believe the passing game will fall off a little from last season based on the above concerns regarding the offensive line and the loss of Brown. An increase in development from Miller could negate or at least mitigate some of that drop-off.

But you came here to see how wrong I am, so let’s make with the predicting.

5. Michael Thomas

Thomas has been waiting in the wings long enough. It’s time for him to come out of the shadows and have a breakout year. With only three career receptions to his credit, it won’t take much for Thomas to put up his best career season so far. He redshirted last year after that three-catch freshman campaign in 2012.

I expect Thomas to be a regular in four-receiver sets and he may make sneak some playing time away from Evan Spencer and possibly even spell Wilson or Devin Smith at times.

Prediction: 27 receptions, 289 yards, four touchdowns.

4. Evan Spencer

Spencer is too valuable a blocker to take off the field, and neither Urban Meyer nor Tom Herman will want to telegraph passing plays by situational subbing. The senior-to-be can catch the football. His criticisms have been more with beating his man than catching the football.

He made three receptions as a freshman in 2011 (his first was insane) for 78 yards and a score. Spencer followed that up with a 12-catch season as a sophomore, covering 136 yards, but without a touchdown. A year ago he was Ohio State’s fourth-leading receiver with 22 grabs for 216 yards and found the end zone three times.  

Prediction: Again finishing fourth in catches, Spencer will continue his upward trend, snaring 30 balls for 292 yards, but scoring three times again.

3. Jeff Heuerman

Beast.
Heuerman's production is trending upward.

A beast of a tight end, Heuerman is back for his final year in Columbus and his second as a starter. Playing behind Jake Stoneburner, Heuerman caught nine passes his first two seasons for 119 yards and one touchdown.

But last year he shined when given his opportunities, grabbing 26 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns. He could have been used a lot more. This year, I think he will be. Heuerman has All-American talent. I’m not sure he’ll get there because he’s such a great blocker, but he should make a run at conference honors.

Prediction: Last year’s third-leading receiver repeats his position in the pecking order, but increases his output to 38 receptions, 580 yards, six touchdowns.

2. Dontre Wilson

As a freshman, Wilson looked dangerous whenever he touched the football. He’s got all the raw talent in the world and speed to spare. He tied Spencer for fourth most receptions on the Buckeyes in 2013, with 22. Those catches went for 210 yards and two touchdowns.

Plugging that kind of talent into Philly Brown’s vacated position could be seriously fun to watch. If Wilson can step right in and make that position his own, his results this year could be ridiculous. But I’m cautiously optimistic. I haven’t seen him do it yet. But I think he’ll be significantly better at the end of the year.

Prediction: 40 receptions, 690 yards, six touchdowns.

1. Devin Smith

Smith contributed right away as a freshman and is now entering his third year as a starter. Blessed with speed, Smith started showing more versatility in his game in 2013, catching more screens and underneath routes than in previous years. But hey, he can still get by anyone on a go route.

He caught 14 passes in 2011 for 294 yards and four touchdowns, and followed that with a 30-reception sophomore year, gaining 618 yards and scoring six times. Last year, Smith finished with 44 grabs but his yardage didn’t jump much — he gained 660 yards (partially due to running more of those short routes) and scored eight times.

I think Smith’s development jumps again. He may not put up Philly’s reception numbers, but he’ll lead the Buckeyes in yards, catches and touchdowns.

Prediction: 54 receptions, 753 yards, nine touchdowns.

Those are my (maybe not-so-) bold predictions for the 2014 season. The Ohio State receiving corps will be fine without Philly, I think, as long as Miller stays upright and delivers the ball.


Who do you have in your five?

33 Comments

Comments

JohnnyKozmo's picture

The line should be fine, it's Braxtons ability to get the ball out quicker that will be the determining factor.  No line can be expected to protect for 5-7 seconds a play.  3-4 is all he should need on most plays, and with the amount of play action they run off of the read plays, that should be no problem.  Braxton has to diagnose plays earlier, and get the ball out.  I pray to god the slant pattern returns to the offense.  With the speed at the WR position, those can be turned into big plays.  With that being said:

5-Johnnie Dixon

4-Heuerman (Leads in TDs)

3-Thomas 

2-Smith (Leads in Yards)

1-Wilson (Leads in Catches)

 

 

+7 HS
seafus26's picture

Amen. I'd only add maybe we'll see some more bubble screens and swing passes clemson used on us. With our speed defenses at times may be off us enough to go to this, and it takes the getting through reads out for Brax and they'd be easier throws for him to be accurate on. I think your choices of your top 5 kinda reflect that, too. 

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

Exactly what I was thinking.  I know Spencer has been in the program, is a great blocker.  But I think this is the year UFM plays "his" guys and throws seniority out the window.  It's year 3, and if any of the holdovers aren't bringing more to the table then blocking, you could see a quick hook.  IMO, I think D Smith needs to be looking over his shoulder too.  The days of running a fly pattern every play are over.  He needs to be running every route in the tree, and catching everything thrown his way.  If not, we've got plenty of other options.  

nm_buck's picture

I'd like to see Thomas break out.  We need receivers with a little swagger.

kgratz's picture

So that adds up 2,604 yards and 28 TDs for the top 5 receivers.

 

I think the 2,604 is too low I think dontre is gonna be a 1,000 yard receiver. With all of our weapons at WR and RB is it crazy to think Braxton could throw for 3,500 yards? 

How Firm Thy Friendship

+1 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

I was doing the same math.

I don't think Braxton could reach 3,500 but I think 3,000 is realistic. Extremely optimistic, but possible.

I think Dontre is in for some serious YAC this year. Don't forget about Jalin and Dixon, our screen game should be pretty ridiculous.

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

+1 HS
nikolajz1's picture

Braxton has yet to throw over 250 in a game I believe in his 3 years at QB. I dont think he's gonna average that a game next season. 

+2 HS
Mhennin2's picture

Have to disagree with Devin Smith, he could have been gone since that TD catch against scUM and you would never know. He'll show up for the first five games and then disappear. Braxton has already called Thomas his favorite target so I think that will go a long way this year. 5: Spencer, 4 Huermann, 3: D Smith, 2Dontroe, 1: Thomas. I think Corey Smith

is sixth with about 25 catches

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Not even an honorable mention for the 6'5" transfer? I think his name is Jeff Greene?

I'm really hoping Thomas backs up his bold talk this year.

 

 

+2 HS
mtrotb's picture

Greene isn't in the 2 deep which consists of the top 6 receivers for the 3 wideouts at this point.

mtrotb

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

The obvious choice is D. Smith, with he and Braxton hooking up for big plays quite a bit over the years….I like Corey Smith to make a big impact and Dixon to get touches. Its just so damn difficult to spread it around when you only have X amount of total plays and even less pass plays 

BoFuquel's picture

Sounds about right, maybe just a little long on the yardage at 2,600. I don't see Thomas having that large a roll, I think he remains in The Dictators Dog House, just like Smith an Dunnn. old dogs don't change very often unless they have to, as in the case of Jones. I think we'll run 60%, still have to keep that D off the field after we get the lead early against the cup cakes. You don't get hurt much running. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

sivaDavis's picture

Will Dontre be getting those catches where he comes in the backfield and Braxton just tosses it out in front of him? Cause I'm pretty sure those count as passes, right? 

 

Also, I think Mike Thomas is going to have a bigger impact than most think. I'd say he ends up with the most TD's. Dontre with the most catches, Devin Smith the most yards. 

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I don't really have a top 5 but not sure why C. Smith didn't get a mention. I think C. Smith, Thomas, and Greene could all play big roles in the offense this year. I think Wilson and Heuerman prob lead the team, but those other guys are really going to help create problems for defenses. 

Ball-Z-Buck's picture

5) Spencer

4)Thomas

3)D Smith

2)Wilson

1)C Smith

+1 HS
buckeyedexter's picture

I also think Corey Smith is going to have a breakout year, but I would replace Spencer with Jeff Heuerman, because the TE's are going to get the ball too.

Also, I think we have a lot more receiving yards this year than last because WR is to deep and talented.

hetuck's picture

Wilson will have the most completions due to volume of bubble screens, shovel passes, and slants. I think the split end position (Smith/Smith/Greene) will be #2. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

Tampabuckeye85's picture

Yeah but another issue that we had last year is our defense staying on the field so long cause we were not good. If we improve like we all are hoping that may create more 3 and outs letting us get more offensive plays

+2 HS
buckeye4life050233's picture

Yea too often we couldn't get off the field on 3rd downs in previous years.  If we do that more often it will lead to more drives and more plays for the offense to capitalize.  It was almost staggering that the offense basically had to have a 80% or higher success for us to not have to worry about the defense and even then we still had to worry because they gave up big plays while playing a bend don't break style. 

 

We also can't forget about James Clark.  He is coming off the ankle injury he suffered early last year and he showed flashes in the small amount of time we saw from him before the injury.  He will be in the mix as well as Jalin Marshall.  The kid runs like Ted Ginn, albeit not as fast, but his strides are a definite advantage as it doesn't look like he is running but covering a lot of ground.  It all is dependent on the defenses ability to not make the offense feel like they have to score every drive down the field to win a game.  Yea maybe a game or 2 here or there but last year the last 3 games all seemed to be have to score or we might lose and that is tough for the offense to do no matter how good they are

TossTrap's picture

1) Thomas

2) D. Smith

3) Heuerman

4) Wilson

5) Spencer

The ball will be in the air a lot this season.

Thomas breaks out catching everything thrown at him.

Would have Wilson higher but opponents become aware of damage he can do. 
 

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

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Good article and some good comments.  Lots of variables, true that our O-line will be inexperienced and not a super deep receiving corp, and no Carlos Hyde.  At the same time BMill will hopefully have that break out season as a senior that we have all been waiting for and have seen flashes of the past three seasons.  His ability to make big runs is still a factor, no matter how much he goes into that pocket passer mode this season.  As others have pointed out, the defense may be much improved giving our offense a longer time of possession.  I look to see pretty good balance on the ground and in the air.  Question remains as to how well the team will gel and if they will be good enough to make the "final four".  I'm a total buckeye homer and optimist, but not ready to predict that the bucks will be upper tier at this point in time.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Citrus's picture

Heuerman is a good player but its been prognosticated for at least 3 straight years that the TE was going to be used more. Hasn't happened yet. With the plethora of fast receivers this team has and the greeness of the O-Line, I don't see this being the year either.

RMichaelS's picture

I had the pleasure recently of watching a speeded up version of our offense against Northwestern and Michigan state;  I focused on the passing.  Clumped altogether, the pattern was disturbing.  Accuracy was really inconsistent in games against decent defensive backfields. The key to anyone having a good receiving year will be Braxton's improvement.  He does not pass well against tight coverage-to anybody.  Michigan state was able to cover tightly & Braxton mostly could not thread the needle.  The down-field passes to Devon were rainbows & frankly, the defender has as much a chance to catch the ball as the receiver.   Thus, Wilson, if covered up by anyone over his height will not catch much; Thomas has a real chance because he is taller & can go up for the ball .  Ditto our tight-ends & the same for Spencer.   I hope for the best, but with a developing line and the analysis being widespread (no pun), it will be tough.  Fast release & intermediate routes will be crucial.

DBell8's picture

I am sorry but Devin Smith is simply an athlete that plays football. I would love to see him have a huge year, but I just don't see it happening. Here's my top 5:

5) Evan Spencer

4) Devin Smith

3) Michael Thomas

2) Jeff Huerman

1) Dontre Wilson

Yes, defenses will be keying in on Dontre yet again this year but the screen game will be ridiculous as someone mentioned earlier. Also, I feel that the tight ends will see lots of balls thrown their way this year. Receiver play, as Urban pointed out, SHOULD be one of our strongest units this year, and I see no reason as to why they won't be. I feel that we have more weapons now than we have had in a long time. Can't wait for the season to start!

PoKeY21's picture

I really hope that your prediction on the passing game "falling off a little from last season" certainly wasn't seen during your scrying (did I use that right). If true the Buckeyes offense is in for a huge regression. I would say that the running game definitely won't be able to repeat its performance based on your predictions of the line, and Hyde is a way bigger loss than Philly. Also the Oline should have a much easier time pass protecting than run blocking. So again if your prediction comes to fruition the Bucks O will be in some serious trouble!

Personally I feel that it is our passing game that will carry the unit this year. I think Braxton will make better decisions and be more comfortable. Hopefully he learns to put some finesse on the ball too which will make it easier on the new WRs. A better understanding of the O should lead to less scrambles and more chunks of yardage through the air. I don't think Philly will be that sorely missed at all. I'm guessing he won't even be thought of after week 1.

Your top 5 is as good as any. In mine I would put Spencer at 2 with Wilson at 4. In the 5 spot you could make a case for 5 different players, but Thomas is as good as anyone. Keep it coming, are the RBs next?

Boring Sunday, can you tell?

When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass - Robert Knight

Michael Citro's picture

To clarify, I think the passing game will come together slowly this season, but I also think (unfortunately) Ohio State will be forced to throw more than last season until the offensive line comes together. The yardage seems high to some, but I think there will be a lot of short passes with YAC tacked on (Wilson, Thomas, Corey Smith if he gets playing time,  and the running backs especially).

bucknut8's picture

Ima go out on a limb here

5. Dontre Wilson 

4. Jeff Heuerman 

3. Devin Smith

2. Corey Smith

1. Michael Thomas

I dnt think Dontre will have a huge year like ppl think. Hes only gona be a soph. I expect him to have a huge year his junior year when we dont have Jeff H & Dev Smith. 2 Smiths & Thomas are gona be lethal weapons this year

#Buckeyes

OSU069's picture

1. Michael Thomas 60 rec 750 yds 7 tds 

2. Devin Smith.   45 rec 720 yds 7 tds

3. Dontre Wilson. 35 rec 600 yds 4tds and some rushing stats

4. Jeff Heuerman.   40 rec 580 yds 8 tds

5. Corey Smith.   25 rec 350 yds 3 tds 

 

 

Shangheyed's picture

I thinks Corey Smith will be there too... Dixon as well but not in top 5. 

It is an inexperienced bunch... TE could finally play a leading role in OSU Offense more so with new O-line...

Looking for Thomas to lead for TDs, and Wilson to lead in Receptions.

nikolajz1's picture

If Devin Smith is our #1 reciever I'm worried. Good 3rd option imo, but we have more talented kids that should be getting the reps regardless of class. 

Nutinpa's picture

You guys are expecting some pretty gaudy numbers from a QB who:

1.  Has a green O line in front of him that will get blitzed

2. Will face Defenses that will dare him to throw and move the chains consistently; something he has not shown consistency in doing.

3. No running threat like Hyde to keep Defenses honest

4. Will run....as opposed to going through his progressions and throw a pass with a DLineman draped on him

5. Has accuracy problems and ranks in the "2nd tier" of passing attacks in the country after 3 seasons

Like I said.....some pretty gaudy numbers for a QB and team clearly not known for its passing.  I hope you are right - as getting the ball quickly out of his hands will be the key to scoring this year while keeping him healthy.

 

GABuckeye's picture

I don't know and don't want to predict who will be the leading receiver, but I think we'll be in trouble if Devin Smith is the leading receiver.

WhySoSerious's picture

As long as don't see any drops I could careless who has the most catches. Honestly to many options. 

Rare&Uncommon

Like the ball in the stands, we balls out