Spring Rewind: What We Learned About Ohio State's Wide Receivers

By Tim Shoemaker on April 20, 2017 at 8:35 am
Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill during the spring game.

Urban Meyer was very vocal about it.

Ohio State's wide receiver play severely lacked in 2016.

"It wasn't there last year," Meyer said on the first day of spring practice back in March.

And so, a big part of the Buckeyes' plans this spring was to develop and establish some legitimate wide receiving threats. With Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson — Ohio State's top three pass-catchers last season — all gone, the last two months provided a perfect opportunity for that to happen.

And while the Buckeyes still intend to rotate plenty of bodies in and out this fall, certain names flashed throughout spring practice to give us a good idea of who will be out on the field as pass-catching options for quarterback J.T. Barrett.

We'll start with Parris Campbell, the talented redshirt junior from Akron who moved from outside receiver to Meyer's famed H-back position this spring. Campbell said the hybrid role is a bit more natural for him and Meyer noted Campbell just might be Ohio State's No. 1 option at wide receiver coming out of spring. 

After that, however, the picture is a bit more cloudy. Terry McLaurin, Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Johnnie Dixon appear to be next in line in some order.

Coaches have raved about Victor's seemingly limitless potential, but the talented sophomore needs to be more consistent. Dixon had a huge spring game but needs to prove he can be healthy. Hill is a player who flashed last season and figures to be heavily involved at both the inside and outside receiving positions. McLaurin will be in the rotation in some capacity and it's expected Mack will do the same.

That's a lot of names. Ohio State might be best off if a few of those separate themselves from the rest of the pack, but position coach Zach Smith seems fairly content with playing six guys.

"That's kind of what we want it to be," Smith said this spring. "Two at every position and then we can just roll them. Unless there is a deficiency somewhere then we're going to play six. That's what we always want to do."

It's important to keep in mind the Buckeyes have three wide receivers in their 2017 class who are not on campus yet: Trevon Grimes, Jaylen Harris and Elijah Gardiner. Of those three, Grimes seems like the most plausible candidate to crack the rotation. That, however, is heavily dependent on his recovery from a torn ACL suffered during his high school season. 

Eric Glover-Williams, who moved over from defensive back this spring, and early enrollee Brendon White also flashed at times this spring. Both will continue to battle through fall camp for playing time.

As always, there are a lot of options. It's now about some of these players meeting their potential.

There were a number of reasons Ohio State struggled to throw the ball last season. We've hit on those extensively since that 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The offensive line struggled in pass protection. Barrett was inconsistent. The wide receivers had trouble getting open. The play-calling was suspect. The list goes on. It was a combination of all those things.

The Buckeyes' wide receivers are taking it upon themselves to try to fix the problem. And, by most accounts, it's been a successful spring in that department.

"We gotta make big plays," Smith said. We gotta hit the deep ball, we gotta throw the deep ball, we gotta protect the deep ball. When that happens, you've seen it here before, it opens everything up. And when it doesn't happen, it's hard to move the ball."

"We as an offense have to do that. We've put a huge emphasis on that. And it's been pretty good this spring."

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