New Crop of Wide Receivers Emerging for Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on July 8, 2014 at 8:30a
73 Comments

One glance at the wide receiver depth chart produces a couple familiar names and some, “I’ve heard of that guy, he could be good.” Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are known commodities – the seniors have a combined 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns – but the Michael Thomases, Corey Smiths, James Clarks and Jeff Greenes remain mysterious and enchanting.

Quarterback Braxton Miller’s passing produced schizophrenic results in 2013, with the latter part of the season giving way to undesired outcomes. Veteran receiver Philly Brown and a wealth of production exits, but promising returns enter the picture full-time.  

“Because we redshirted so many players this past year, there wasn’t an opportunity to just redshirt them and let them have a year to develop,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said about Thomas and Corey Smith. “They were preparing to play because one injury and they’re in. So they got the benefit of preparing like they were playing, but they didn’t waste a year. The strides they made this past fall, I was very pleased. They made phenomenal strides.”

An injury-free Miller has reportedly done the same in summer workouts. Head coach Urban Meyer recently said Miller was “90 percent” healthy, while insiders have lauded the leadership he’s shown with receivers and eagerness to establish cohesion.

“A lot of these guys, like Devin and Evan Spencer, have been with Braxton for three years and it’s not a bad thing to develop the same rapport and chemistry with a guy that may be the backup because you don’t know when that guy is not the backup,” Zach Smith said. “At any time, he could be the guy in the game and you hope they have a report like we had with Kenny [Guiton] last year.”

The 2013 offense was of the record-setting variety. Much of that was due to an overpowering offensive line and equally powerful running back named Carlos Hyde. With a new line and new crop of running backs, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman could prefer to spread the wealth through the air, though their stated goal is 55-45 in favor of rushing plays.

Miller tweeted last month that the Buckeyes have “a lot of weapons/talent that’s surrounding me on offense this year! Will be scary and fun‼” Meyer acknowledged in the spring that the perimeter game would be more apparent. He described the 2014 offense as a “different taste.”

Thomas is a big piece of Miller’s passing confidence. The duo traveled together to visit George Whitfield and have developed a friendship and on-field rapport dating to Thomas’s first season. It’s just never shown up in a game. The spring phenom has not yet turned the March and April heroics to another season – fall.

Thomas caught three passes for 22 yards in 2012 before redshirting in 2013. There’s belief his role could change entirely in 2014, into a go-to guy type of situation.

“My goal is to have every guy be a go-to guy,” Zach Smith said. “There’s different ways to try and take a guy out of a game. 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.”

Corey Smith, a JUCO transfer, and Jeff Greene, a transfer from Georgia Tech, have yet to play in a game for the Buckeyes – Smith redshirted and Greene was held out due to NCAA transfer rules. But they’re ready, not to play but to make an impact for the Buckeyes.  

Smith, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound speedster, gives Miller a receiver who’s specialty is getting the crowd on its feet after catching the football. He could develop into a deep threat or pile on the YAC (yards after catch). Those skills were exhibited in the spring game, when Smith finished with 72 yards receiving and four rushing yards.

After coaching him through a redshirt season, Zach Smith believes Corey Smith progressed just as much without playing a game.

“He came in and was not anywhere close to being ready to play,” Zach Smith said of the Akron native. “By the end of the year, he probably could have been playing. But at that point it was too late and you’re not going to waste a year on a kid with only two years left.”

Instead, Smith retains his final two seasons of eligibility.   

“I'm really excited about him in the fall, as long as he continues down the path that he's on,” Zach Smith said. “He’ll provide a lot of competition and depth. Hopefully, he’ll be able to go and compete for a spot.”

Greene remains the wildcard. At 6-foot-5, he’s a vertical threat downfield that Ohio State hasn’t had for a decade. Every time he lines up, he’ll have a significant height advantage over the opposing defensive back. And he’s primed to win.

How much so? Enough that he left a scholarship at Georgia Tech to walk-on at Ohio State.

“I was just trying to get to Ohio,” Greene said.

He led the Yellow Jackets with 18 receptions for 284 yards with two touchdowns.

“We don't have a lot of long, tall, physical receivers like he is,” Zach Smith said. “The development when a kid first gets here, that first calendar year is night and day.”

One could say it’s likely Miller’s passing ability is night and day when compared to last season. After three years as a starter and two under the guidance of Meyer and Herman, Miller’s is set up to be pleasing for Ohio State. He’s wired to succeed and his NFL prospects are at stake.  

Helping him along the way will be little-used receivers poised for a breakout and keen on providing a lift to the passing game.

“I am very excited about our group,” Zach Smith said. 

73 Comments

Comments

OSUStu's picture

insiders have lauded the leadership he’s shown with receivers and eagerness to establish cohesion.

As much as improving his passing, this is the kind of development I have been hoping to see out of Braxton during this off-season.  I would really like to see him be more vocal with his teammates on both sides of the ball.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

+2 HS
Sims_tOSU's picture

I hate to say it but kind of like Johnny manziel. Not all the off the field stuff and even the on field stuff but more the leader. For example last year when they were getting killed by Duke you saw Johnny rallying his defense to get some stops. So I see exactly what your saying there. 

-4 HS
OSUStu's picture

Yep.  That is exactly who came to my mind as well.  I can't say I am a Manziel fan but I was impressed by that.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

robobuck's picture

Sorry but good legs and a last initial are the only things Miller and Manziel have in common in my eyes.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

+1 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Johnny rallying his defense to get some stops.

It helped that it was Duke...

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

+10 HS
d5k's picture

Duke was better than most of the teams we played last year... :/

+1 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

That's debatable.

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

+2 HS
Nutinpa's picture

I don't have the time to do an "analysis"....but it is not going out on a limb to suggest Duke was better than most of the teams the Buckeyes played last year....and the year before.  You only need to look at the end of season rankings of the teams we have played to realize that the next, true signature win of the Urban Meyer era....will be its first.  

+2 HS
DC-town's picture

James Clark, excited to see him and hopefully he's fully recovered.  JD wasn't mentioned either but looking forward to seeing who they line up out wide

'Piss excellence' -RB

+2 HS
whobdis's picture

I agree DC..some forget that Clark was the first of the new receivers to see the field prior to his injury..so the coaches must like him. His HS film was crazy (as it is for many of these guys).

Earle's picture

Did Clark practice this spring?  I can't recall.

Italics are for emphasis.

Crimson's picture

He was listed as limited, and the only thing I remember is he was probably in the regular student smokehouse.

Hilliard WB's picture

Can't comment on the actual practices, but I had a May class with him and he seemed to be mobile, agile, hostile.  Ha

S-Row the Best Row

thatlillefty's picture

Lot of talent at WR this year. I expect Devin to remain our deep threat and Dontre to tear it up on the short routes. If Thomas, Greene and Smith can contribute as well, we should have a well balanced offense this fall.

+3 HS
TheShookster's picture

We haven't had this much WR firepower in quite a while...at least since 2010-11...and even then it was mostly 2 superstars (Posey and Saaaanzenbachaaaa). This is exciting, teams will actually have to respect the buckeye passing game and that will make it easier to break EZE into his starting role. 

+3 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I'd say this might be the most talent Ohio State has had at WR since 2008.

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

+2 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

We are going to have speed for dayzzz...attacking from all angles.

If we just get a big man to do work outside the hashes, we are going to score 70 (not even sure joking) all season long.  Hopefully Greene is that guy and tears the lids off of the defenses we will be facing.

+3 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I am most excited about Greene. He gives a different look with his height that opposing defenses havent seen from OSU in a while.

I didnt realize that Greene came to OSU as a walk-on. He must have really wanted to play for the Buckeyes, no?

 

 

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

Greene's father lived here and he wanted to be closer.  He wants to be a big time reciever and will put the work in.  He has become a monster as far as size goes.  Can't wait to see him play.  Also was unhappy with the offense at G Tech being 80/20 run/pass.  G Tech was the hometown school though.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+3 HS
nfischer's picture

I had forgotten that he was a walk-on.  Does anyone know if he earned that scholarship this year? If not, I wonder if they would push Sprinkle's recently vacated scholarship his way? 

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Will be fun to see who steps up at WR and RB this year... I can't wait!

+1 HS
CarolinaBuck's picture

In my mind, the jury is still out on Braxton. I don't know how we can say his passing has improved when he has been injured for the entire off season. Just how could he improve his throwing?

+4 HS
Posterchild's picture

I think references to Braxton's improvment as a passer simply come from his film work and "mental reps". His arm strength and accuracy would have improved marginally with physical work this off-season, but Braxton's mental work this off-season may greatly improve his ability to make quick reads and decide to deliver the ball to the receiver, or use his feet to get the yards. That is how he could improve.

+4 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Exactly. How did 5'11'' Chase Daniel play at such a high level at Missouri? He had good mechanics. for sure, but Braxton has much better physical tools than Daniel does.

However, when Daniel entered the draft, the following strengths were mentioned:

Gutty, competitive field general. A virtual coach on the field. Reads defenses well and checks down effectively. 

Furious George 27's picture

His passing has improved from 54%-58%-63% in his first 3 seasons, so I am not sure what you are looking at to say he has not improved in his time there. Getting over an injury doesn't mean he couldn't work on other aspects of his game while waiting to throw.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

+6 HS
BuckeyeJ's picture

Agreed. I also feel our receivers were not getting good separation. IMO the talent at WR that we have is the best we have had for years!

+5 HS
saltybuck61's picture

Throwing isn't all about the throwing arm. Working on footwork, hip rotation, eyes, and more can really improve throwing without actually throwing a football. Also, he can work on his decision making without a healthy right arm. In fact, I think that Miller's improved decision making will bring him to the next level.

+4 HS
theopulas's picture

he could always throw, and i know people back at work in 2 weeks after this type of surgery....or less....do you really think Brax wasn't working....just because they shut him down until summer doesn't mean he couldn't throw....he is the franchise this year...they are just getting him ready for the big push for NC and trophy chase....

Theopulas

Barnsey69's picture

Talk about a motherlode of talent...also working out on their own keeps them away from negative opportunities that might encourage Grown & Sexy behavior.

I am a modern-art masterpiece.

+7 HS
OSUpawn's picture

He led the Yellow Jackets with 18 receptions for 284 yards with two touchdowns.

Eh.... I see why he left.

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

+3 HS
11UrbzAndSpices's picture

They run the flexbone triple option, Paul Johnson loves to run run run run throw the ball deep. Not the worst offense to be in if you're a 6'5" WR. It's just too bad they can't get more talent like the had when Johnson first started, Stephen Hill had 28 rec, 820 yds, 29.3 yd/rec, 5 TD. Those aren't bad.

+4 HS
BuckeyeinSavannah's picture

If my memory serves me, GT is option offense and he was the leading receiver on the team.  Living in Georgia I heard a lot about him leaving.  I was happy when he walked on...shows he really wants to be there.

+2 HS
CC's picture

That would have lead the Buckeyes in 2011.

I'm not sure if he will have more than that during his time in Columbus.  I hope he does.

OSUpawn's picture

Wasn't that the year that the status got erased? 

I mean the one that should have.

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

11UrbzAndSpices's picture

I'm excited about Corey Smith...mostly because I always forget about him and then hear about how good he could  be. I think his name is too boring, we need to some up with something more exciting with pizzazz.

+2 HS
BeijingBucks's picture

CSI... Out to dissect your defense

 

 

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

MN Buckeye's picture

I think that the WRs will be much-improved this season, and I am excited that the coaches are adapting the offensive style to the weapons at hand. To me, the performance of the O-line will partly determine just how much success the WRs have.

redcans's picture

An embarrassment of riches to be sure. And the article doesn't even mention Jalin, Noah Brown (who might redshirt), Dixon, or hybrids like Dontre or Samuel. If the line can hold up and Braxton continues his development, the sky is the limit!

whobdis's picture

I see more YAC guys than we've had in awhile..guys that can take a 5 yard pass and turn it into a TD. But this will take some adjustment by Braxton (if we go that route) as he generally looks downfield first. I would like to see more short yardage easy passes and let these guys make plays. Early in the season Miller was taking those but for whatever reason as the season wore on I felt he was trying to score the big play every down. It should be fun to watch.

rambis's picture

Braxton not choosing to enter the NFL draft last spring(wise decision) has made this discussion a whole lot more fun. I would be worried a bit if Jones or Barrett were battling it out at QB.

O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Excited to see all of these guys rotating in so we can stay fresh and keep attacking. 

hit_the_couch's picture

Hopefully this high octane offense with be complemented by an equally amazing partner: a stingy defense.

I definitely wanna see Green play. GT had some monster receivers before the triple option was installed; if i'm not mistaken, a few even during its time.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

+1 HS
nickel beer's picture

I've been waiting seems like forever to see Thomas play.  To me he looked like he had prodigy written all over him when I first saw him play his first spring game. 

Hah, Miller more like manziel's mouth--bury the thought sfu.  He just needs to be himself and lead, but put a lot more thought into his game--before he plays.  I agree with the post earlier, about how he can accomplish that kind of prep this off-season.

nickel beer

+1 HS
buckeyebfd's picture

The one name you never hear about is Jalin Marshall, well besides the picture Braxton tweeted of them practicing. Any word on what his role will be?

+2 HS
Crimson's picture

This article focused more on outside WRs.  Dontre is the starting H/slot WR/Philly role, and Jalin is the #2 at that spot.  Smith, Smith, Greene, and Thomas are all more outside guys.

+1 HS
ECSAGESTER's picture

Article leaves out the guys at H-back, but wouldn't be surprised at all to see Jalin get some touches behind Dontre this year. I'm wondering what they're going to do with Samuel with Jalin and Dontre at the H, haven't heard much about Samuel getting a redshirt. 

cdub4's picture

From what I understand Samuel is a running back, believe he ran with the twos on occasion in the spring.

+1 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

I'm not that well-versed on the technical sides of football positions, but it's hard for me to see sharp distinctions in the passing game between the Buckeyes' prospective inside WRs, which I think is the "X" receiver in their terminology (or "flanker") - like C. Smith (6-0), J. Clark (5-10), Johnnie Dixon (5-11) - versus H-back receivers like D. Wilson (5-10), J. Marshall (5-11), or potentially if they rotate Samuel (5-11) there a bit as well.

Granted, the H-back is more likely to shift into the backfield to take pitches or hand offs in the run game, or to function as a receiving threat out of the backfield, but when four receivers are lined up on the l-o-s, I couldn't explain the functional differences between the H-back and the other inside receiver.

CC's picture

Fido, are you referring to their physical makeup or their routes?  Phisically Marshall and Samuel are bigger, 205 type guys where the others are more in the 180 to 195 range.  Apparently Samuel is a straight running back, not a H per Urban after the spring.

+2 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

CC, good point, the H-back guys are stockier, which is appropriate if they get, say, 5-8 carries per game.

I was also thinking about the routes out of 4-WR sets. In those formations, what are the distinctions between the two inside receivers? It sounds like Dontre will pick up some of the roles and responsibilities that Philly played last season, yet Philly wasn't an H-back. Basically, some of these roles seem pretty fluid to my inexpert eye.

As for Samuel, I saw that he is listed on the roster as RB/WR and wondered if he might get some H-back looks in the event that other RBs really excel running power. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Given the depth of talent, athleticism, speed/quickness, and pure "juice" with this group of outside WRs, inside receivers, and H-backs, I really like their odds to produce several dynamic playmakers. I won't try to predict which few guys elevate to the next level, but I'm confident that the Buckeyes will have at least two WRs/H-backs that are among the top 10-15 offensive playmakers in the Big Ten in 2014.

cw823's picture

“At any time, he could be the guy in the game and you hope they have a report like we had with Kenny [Guiton] last year.”

I think you want to use rapport here instead of report.

+1 HS
woodi19's picture

Very excited about Michael Thomas ... I am still on the fence as to Braxton's consistent passing ability.  I know he puts up big numbers but I want to see the big time throws made on a more consistent basis.  Especially with a lesser O-line in 2014 and possibly not being able to lean so heavily on the running game.  I really hope he can breakout and get the ball all over to all of these weapons.  

+1 HS
TossTrap's picture

Agree with everything you posted. And I have a feeling Thomas might lead this team in catches.

Braxton's passes generally look good when he has the time and wherewithal to plant those feet, so here's hoping Whitfield reminded him of that.

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

+1 HS
gunni070's picture

With you there.  It seemed too that late last season when he started wearing the glove he wasn't as consistent throwing. 

+2 HS
What Would Troy Smith Do's picture

Time for me to give back some of these newly earned helmet stickers but for me it just comes down to Miller (or whomever)…..I do feel we have more talent at the WR position than we have had in a long while but until Miller is going through progressions and sometimes going to his 4th option it won't matter who's running routes.  Yes, I suppose if the receivers aren't getting open (probably due to the lack of good talent)  it makes it a moot point but the point I'm trying to make is that I haven't felt comfortable in our passing game or passing situations since Smith left.  Pryor and Miller are spectacular talents but I never fully trusted Pryor and I feel the same way about Miller.  Miller is getting a lot better and I do see it, but until he is doing it all the time or putting some touch on passes I will be uneasy.  Here's to our talented receiver crew getting open this year and making it easy on Miller and hard on defenses.  It makes me excited for guys like Burrow or Danny Clark in the future who are passers first and why I'd be very wary of a Gibson led offense (although I'd like his athleticism on the team).  

+8 HS
CC's picture

I totally agree.  If you watch Troy Smith videos he was leading players everywhere.  So 13 yard catches would turn into 60 yard gains.

There is a big difference between a 13 yard catch in stride and one while twisting/stopping etc.  This isn't to say all of his throws are that way but there are enough that I've taken notice.  If he only improved on that he would gain many, many more yards.

+1 HS
SpielmanForPres's picture

I may be totally wrong, but I thought I read a comment a while back that referenced Corey Smith as the best WR on the team at the end of last year. I found that hard to believe since he didn't play, but I'm most excited to see him. 

Buckeye Rocket Sci's picture

I remember hearing the same thing. This article did point out, though, that Smith progressed throughout the season and by the time he became possibly the best receiver (per that other report), it was too late to burn an entire year of eligibility.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence" - Calvin Coolidge

+1 HS
Findog5's picture

Is this the first year we truly get to see an Urban Meyer offense the way he designed it to be?

NCFinn

+2 HS
CC's picture

i just hope it isn't as "good" as the Al Borges offense when it was at full strength post "Big Helmet".

iamcbs's picture

Have we all forgotten about Jalin Marshall, who's coming back from knee surgery? The competition will be fun to watch. Mr. Scoreboard Operator, get your rest now, while you can. When this offense hits the field there won't be much opportunity to rest.

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion~Alexander the Great

+3 HS
German Buckeye's picture

and because our Silver Bullet defense will actually play to their name, the offense will be getting on the field ALOT more after the defense racks up a bunch of 3 and outs...

Hilliard WB's picture

I am very ready for a new receiver(s) to rise.  Urban has been killing it on the recruiting trail but I am getting kind of tired of only being able to say that players have a lot of potential.  Some of these 2014 guys should make some serious noise.  

S-Row the Best Row

RickKaneWasHere's picture

Jeff "The Wild Card" Greene gonna make some big-time clutch plays this season...remember where you heard it.

From,

The Rick

Can you put the past away?

+1 HS
Vinginia_Buckeye's picture

Outside of our new secondary. I'm most excited to see some new life and play making ability pumped into the receiving core this year. I would be completely OK with Smith and Spencer both in backup roles this year. We could still use their experience and leadership, but as far as play making and being complete receivers I think they are both extremely limited. Just my opinion. Excited about Dontre, Marshall, Thomas and Dixon the most.

" I'm a Buckeye "

Vinginia_Buckeye's picture

Oh and excited about Corey Smith.

" I'm a Buckeye "

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Receiver U!

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

whiskeyjuice's picture

There are a lot of positive comments about potential at all the units of this football team..................I just hope that the team goes out there and performs to all this hype. If OSU stutters during the first few games of the season, the "boo birds" will probably come out and start creating negativity around Buckeye nation..........no need to help ESPN with their cause to hate on O State

"You'll find out that nothing that comes easy is worth a dime. As a matter of fact, I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face." -- Wayne Woodrow Hayes

s.pasadena fl's picture

Greene and Thomas on the outside? Outstanding targets for Miller! Plus Miller is VERY comfortable with both. Could be a very good year?

Ed Hopper

sivaDavis's picture

I love Devin Smith and Evan Spencer but I really hope there is a good and steady rotation of these WRs. And this is no offense to either of the aforementioned two but I don't wanna see them play solely because their the two receivers that have been here the longest. If they are out there I want it to be because they are the two of the best options at receiver.

"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

+1 HS