Army Week Mic Check: Separation Anxiety

By Chris Lauderback on September 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm
Urban Meyer said Monday there's no differentiation between his top six receivers.

After a slow start in a season-opening win over Indiana, Buckeye fans still had high hopes as Ohio State hosted Oklahoma last Saturday but instead of glory, fans were treated to gory as the Sooners overwhelmed the local team

An inability to stop the pass and a comparable display of being unable to complete a pass sent the fanbase into a tizzy and Urban Meyer's coaching staff searching for answers. 

Meeting with the media on Monday, Meyer made it clear Barrett was his starter – which came as no surprise – but his comments on Zone Six were anywhere from hilarious to distressing depending on your appetite for sports masochism:

Q. But do you have guys in line there now that maybe get opportunities that didn't get opportunities before?

COACH MEYER: I think so. Yeah, it's a six-man rotation. There's not a differentiation from 1 through 6, and I think they're going to be all fine players. They're continuing to grow. It's not -- Johnnie Dixon to Bin Victor and Austin Mack. There's not that Michael Thomas right now where you say he's your go to all the time. Bin Victor, we tried a couple with him. I think Terry got behind him one time. So when you ask the question when, it's when do we not, it's nonstop.

And therein lies the reason why Barrett will continue to start. 

Meyer has repeatedly stated the backup quarterbacks aren't in the same stratosphere of being "game ready" as Barrett. Meanwhile his receiving corps features six guys who, according to Meyer, have no differentiation. 

That would be a great thing ff all six were out there consistently gaining separation, making 100% of the routine catches and hauling in a spectacular grab or two but obviously that hasn't been the case.  

2017 Zone Six: 13-Game Stat Extrapolation
P. CAMPBELL 59 1,060
K.J. HILL 46 325
T. MCLAURIN 33 332
J. DIXON 20 501
B. VICTOR 20 182
A. MACK 13 241

Now, Meyer might be bending reality just a bit  – which isn't outside of his skill set by any means – as at least Parris Campbell could evolve into a go to guy based on his small sample size through two games. 

If you extrapolate the two-game stats generated by Zone Six through 13 outings, Campbell's numbers jump off the page but that's it and there's zero chance he goes for 1,000 yards.

Plus, you have to factor in variables that aren't likely to be constants such as Campbell and Johnnie Dixon ripping off 50+ yard catch once every two games, and Ohio State averaging as many pass attempts (70 attempts in two games) over the balance of 11 more games as they run over a few lesser teams and don't play from behind as often. 

C. SAMUEL 74 865
N. BROWN 32 402
D. WILSON 27 352
K.J. HILL (11 G) 18 262
P. CAMPBELL 13 121
T. MCLAURIN 11 114

What you're left with is hoping Campbell can be the Curtis Samuel of 2016 or the Mike Thomas of 2015, leading the team with at least 750 yards. 

From there, K.J. Hill looks serviceable but 7.1 yards per catch just isn't going to get it done nor is Terry McLaurin's 10.2 yards per catch which is right on par with his 10.4 last year meaning both guys need to be able to get open downfield instead of mostly via quick hitters and crossing routes through traffic.

Of course, Barrett doesn't get a free pass here as he needs to put the ball on the money if/when separation does occur on deeper routes where receivers have to rely on their own technique and talent, instead of traffic, to get open. 

M. THOMAS 56 781
J. MARSHALL (12 G) 36 477
B. MILLER 26 341
C. SAMUEL 22 289
D. WILSON (9 G) 7 63
C. SMITH (4 G) 5 62

That leaves Dixon who has two catches for 18 yards besides that 59-yard catch and go for six against the Hoosiers, along with young guys Ben Victor and Austin Mack. 

The two least prolific of the receivers through two games, Victor and Mack are still apparently considered to have as much talent as Campbell since there's no differentiation between the top six receivers.

That said, my vote would be for both to see increased snaps considering their youth – certainly more so than elder statesmen Dixon and McLaurin – so we can try to see what they can become before the next legit opponent comes along. 

Because for now, Zone Six stands for 6-man rotation and that's not a good thing. 

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