Ohio State Looks for Big Play Threats to Emerge

By Chris Lauderback on May 17, 2014 at 8:15a
Devin Smith is one target that could see an uptick in big play production this fall

One exciting aspect of every new college football season is that as players exit the program, we get to watch the remaining guys compete in an effort to better the production of those left behind. 

This season, not only do the Buckeyes need to replace their leading rusher and receiver, they also must replace their two biggest big play threats not named Braxton Miller in Carlos Hyde and Philly Brown. 

This is especially important in Columbus as last year's offense, in B1G and postseason play (10 games), benefited greatly from big plays as they churned out 62 total plays of 20+ yards for 1,999 yards and 21 touchdowns. In fact, 40% of the total offensive yards and 41% of the touchdowns (22/54) came via big plays. 

Players no longer in the program accounted for 27 of those 62 big plays (44%), 852 of the 1,999 yards (43%) and six of the 21 touchdowns (29%). Obviously, Hyde and Brown were the chief producers with a combined 23 big plays for 714 yards and six touchdowns. 

B. MILLER 14 502 6
C. HYDE 12 391 3
C. BROWN 11 323 3
J. HEUERMAN 9 309 3
D. SMITH 6 196 3
D. WILSON 4 95 2
K. GUITON 2 50 0
C. FIELDS 1 47 0
E. SPENCER 2 45 1
J. HALL 1 41 0
TOTAL 62 1999 21  

The return of Miller eases the burden a bit considering he peeled off 14 big runs and was involved in all but one of the big passing plays but behind a rebuilt offensive line combined with a desire to cut back on the amount of hits he'll take, a plethora of guys will be counted on to step up. 

Urban Meyer and Tom Herman are also blessed with a handful of returning guys who should be primed to improve upon last season's individual big play output. 

While it might be surprising to some, Jeff Heuerman leads the returning big play threats through the air after nine receptions of 20+ yards a season ago with three scores. Heuerman proved to be a dependable target and was especially dangerous down the seam. An easy choice as an offensive captain, Heuerman will look to better a 26 catch, 466 yard season which served as the finest tight end receiving yards production since Rickey Dudley went for went for 575 in 1995. 

Devin Smith has been hyped as a big play guy for the last few years but his production hasn't quite yet met the hoopla. As a junior starter, Smith had six plays of 20+ yards during the B1G and postseason slate and his struggles down the stretch ran parallel to Braxton's as he caught only six balls over the final five games though he gets bonus points for a 53-yard touchdown against Michigan. In his defense, he was a bit nicked up down the stretch and 44 grabs for 660 yards and eight touchdowns on the season isn't anything to sneeze at but more big plays from Smith would be a boon to this offense. 

Dontre is primed for a huge production jump this fall

Dontre Wilson arrived in Columbus with his own wave of hype but the expectations proved unrealistic as he was often used as a decoy while the coaches worked to find his niche in the offense. That said, Wilson is now primed to fill the H-back role vacated by Brown. After 53 touches as a runner or receiver yielded 460 yards on the season but just four plays of 20+ yards over the final 10 games, Wilson will be on the more than twice as much this fall which could lead to his emergence as the number one big play threat on the field with the exception of Miller. 

Who else might emerge as a playmaker through the air is a mystery. My money is on Michael Thomas as the spring game hero seems to finally have his game tight after a redshirt in his second year in the program. He's got the hands and his 6'3" frame makes for an attractive target. Evan Spencer is still around and he registered a couple big plays last year but the injury bug has somewhat stunted his development. 

Some insiders are touting Corey Smith as a guy that could emerge on the outside based on his reportedly polished play in late season practices while others are enamored with true freshman Johnnie Dixon. Jalin Marshall, Jeff Greene and James Clark also hope to figure into the big play discussion while the yet to arrive Parris Campbell is a burner that has Ohio State coaches intrigued about his ability to play the H-back slot. Anything is possible but the fact remains freshmen busting onto the scene are the exception, not the rule. 

On the ground, the Buckeyes boast a solid stable of backs but it might be unrealistic to think any one of them can match Hyde's big play production next fall for reasons ranging from Hyde's incredible play to running behind a green offensive line to potentially sharing carries with multiple players.

Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott will get the first crack and holding down the starting tailback slot and EZE oozes big play potential which is reflected in his 8.7 yards per carry on 30 totes as a true freshman. The fact Elliott can also catch the ball out of the backfield increases the likelihood of some big plays to come. 

My sleeper to be a legit ground game contributor this fall remains redshirt sophomore Bri'onte Dunn. The Canton product averaged 5.3 yards per carry in three games as a freshman and following a season on the sidelines, he's a year stronger and faster with a running style similar to that of Hyde and his improvement is not lost on the staff

Freshman Curtis Samuel has also impressed during his short time in the program thanks to impressive versatility and blazing speed. Listed as a running back, if Samuel earns time it will likely be at a myriad of spots on the field and while his touches could be limited, the percentage of those that result in big plays could be something to watch. 

Bottom line, while Ohio State has to replace the top two non-quarterback playmakers from a season ago, the list of candidates to fill the voids is nothing short of impressive and the competition for playing time should boost the production. 


Comments Show All Comments

BoFuquel's picture

The big plays are in good hands. Who of The Other Th'Hurteen can stay on the field with us? GO BUCKS!

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

southbuc's picture

It's not the conference I'm worried about 

ibuck's picture

Seriously? You think wins over MSU, PSU, Wisc an TTUN are guaranteed?  

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

avail31678's picture

FWIW, we don't play Wisky this year.

Zimmy07's picture

I wouldn't be surprised if we see them in Indy.

seafus26's picture

PSU and TTUN, yes I do.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

ibuck's picture

Would you still think so if Braxton was unable to play?

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

seafus26's picture

For sure. I'd be comfortable JT Barnett could keep the car on the  road enough; similar to the Iowa, Minnesota, K-state, and scrap heap Nebraska back up QBs that beat them last year.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

Ball-Z-Buck's picture

Recruiting playmakers with speed has been an emphasis and success now we need to step it up recruiting QBs

+1 HS
hetuck's picture

1. Even though the talent may be improved, the big play count may not increase much because of tougher non-conference competition. There is no Florida A&M on the schedule to pad the count. 2. Wilson as a decoy had a lot to do with most of Philly Brown's big plays. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

+1 HS
Crimson's picture

He used B1G big plays, not all of them, so Florida A&M wasn't included.

+3 HS
BuckeyeTrappedInSouth's picture

Who says that Curtis Samuel won't have the same effect or greater on Dontre Wilson, than Dontre had on Philly Brown?  I for one believe the big plays will be more often because teams will have to deal with multiple playmakers on the field together (ala Miller, Wilson, Samuel, and Elliot).  You can only double team or spy so many players.

In Urban We Trust

+3 HS
urbz4prez's picture

The big play potential is greatly dependent on the big guys up front. If our beef can't open up the holes or hold off a pass rush, then those guys mentioned above won't get much of a chance to make those big plays.

We were pretty spoiled in this aspect last year. We're going to be young but I have faith we'll get it together quickly. We always do!

"And Urban Meyer said "Let there be light, and it was so."

+1 HS
route4buckeye's picture

And that's the bottom line, cause Lauderback said so.

+1 HS
FitzBuck's picture

I can't remember ever having so many weapons to choose from.  My only question is how do you share the ball with all of them?

this is a question only a Mensa member could answer. 

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+6 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Ha HA! Well played, FitzBuck! Well played, indeed!

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

im okay with less big plays if it means 12-15 play scoring drives.

I season my simple food with hunger

+2 HS
chirobuck's picture

I think Samuel will be a big play machine, but not this year......down the road I could see him developing into a poor man's marshal faulk, with the elusive running and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield I can see him as a total mismatch with LBers or Safeties trying to cover him


^ best post ever ^

+1 HS
theopulas's picture

in someways Samuel may become our next back and i don't know if we will be able to keep him out of the lineup for long...the rb position is so stacked with good backs, making it hard for coaches to move him in front of upper classmen but its gong to happen....


Menexenus's picture

I thought Dunn was from Alliance (not Canton). Am I confused?

Real fans stay for Carmen.

JohnnyKozmo's picture

What about a massive rotation, similar to what defense's do with the D-Line?  I know so called "workhorse" backs need more carries to be effective (see: el Guapo), but with the depth at the skill positions seemingly at a very strong 2, maybe even 3 deep, you can't tell me fresh legs wouldn't be a benefit.  Urbs wants 4-6 seconds of getting from A to B as fast as possible.  I know that is mainly being used for the defensive side of the ball, but why not have our WRs go all out, on every pattern they run?  Let the opposing DBs and LBs chase them for 60minutes.  More subs for the D means some juicy matchups with other teams 2s-I like that very much.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+3 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

This was Pete Carroll's offense at USC for the last 3-4 years of that dynasty.

It was incredibly effective because you had 3 Joe McKnight-type guys, (almost WRs in the backfield) who could run between the tackles and catch swing passes. Combine that with a TE seam wrinkle, and the flash-screen/jailbreak combo: shit did work.

I'll never forget that shalacking in the shoe, our LBs looked slow and a step behind all damn night because they had no idea which of the 4 guys off the LOS were getting the ball. 

Freakin' Mark "Dirty" Sanchez

I got a gray kitty, white kitty, tabby too, and a little orange guy who puts snakes in my shoes. Got mad MC skills, that leave ya struck, and I roll with my kitties and I'm hard as f*ck.

Silver Bullet 10's picture

I look for Dontre to be a monster in the slot. I think he will surprise a lot of people. 

Zeke will be a home run hitter at rb. 

JakeStevensIsSwag's picture

Anybody know how much Dontre weighs now?

Buckeye fan from PA

stevebelliseeya's picture

It's a beautiful thing to have so many new potential playmakers that you can't even remember them all. I don't recall the last time we had more than I can keep up with. 

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

WesPatterson23's picture

I definitely feel like Jalin Marshall and Dontre can definitely step up and make a lot of big plays this year. They can make a lot of mismatches all over the field

seafus26's picture

I have no worries about big plays and the offense. This staff seems more adapt into coaching to the talent they have, rather than driving a round peg of talent into a square hole system, no matter what unique skills sets they have.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!