Ohio State's Strengths at the Receiver Position Seem to Be Shifting With Recent Recruiting Classes

By Kevin Harrish on May 29, 2018 at 10:25 am
Austin Mack helped break the mold.

Most of Ohio State's receivers signed before the 2016 class seemed to fit a particular mold

Every receiver the Buckeyes signed between 2013 and 2016, with the exception of Noah Brown in 2014 and Alex Stump, who soon transferred, were between 5-10 and 6-0 in height, and between 170 and 190 lbs. in weight. Nine of 10 receivers were under six feet tall, and under 190 pounds.

Year Name Height Weight
Urban Meyer's Receiver Recruits
2012 Michael Thomas 6-4 200
2012 Frank Epitropoulos 6-3 195
2012 Ricquan Southward 6-2 185
2013 Jalin Marshall 6-0 190
2013 Dontre Wilson 5-10 181
2013 James Clark 5-10 170
2013 Corey Smith 5-11 185
2014 Curtis Samuel 6-0 185
2014 Johnnie Dixon 5-10 187
2014 Parris Campbell 6-0 184
2014 Noah Brown 6-2 212
2014 Terry McLaurin 6-0 190
2015 KJ Hill 6-0 188
2015 Alex Stump 6-3 195
2016 Austin Mack 6-2 205
2016 Binjimen Victor 6-4 180
2017 Trevon Grimes 6-3 202
2017 Jaylen Harris 6-5 210
2017 Ellijah Gardiner 6-6 185
2018 Kamryn Babb 6-1 189
2018 L'Christian "Blue" Smith 6-6 205
2018 Cameron Brown 6-1 175
2018 Chris Olave 6-1 170

It wasn't just their size they had in common, but their skillsets. All nine players were speedy, shifty, athletic receivers. They were all the sort of players who could hypothetically fill that famed Percy Harvin role that was discussed so much during that time.

Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, James Clark, Curtis Samuel, Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin – they all seemed like prototypical athletes for an Urban Meyer offense, but there hasn't been much variety in their playmaking abilities.

For three years, in three separate recruiting classes, the Buckeyes nearly exclusively signed receivers with almost the exact same skillset, and it seemed to have an impact on the offense when those players developed and reached maturity.

The past two seasons, we've seen a receiving corps anchored by those shorter, smaller and shiftier receivers, and Ohio State's offense has seemed to reflect that. The Buckeyes have attacked the middle of the field with crossing routes, drag routes and slants, and got the ball to the perimeter quickly with wide receiver screens.

Those plays have been Ohio State's bread and butter, and it's given them the ability to get the ball to their receivers in space and let them create after the catch.

What hasn't seemed to be the offensive emphasis is attacking the deeper, outside portions of the field, but with a shift in personnel at the quarterback and receiver positions, that could be coming.

While Ohio State signed shorter and smaller receivers before 2015, since then it has been the exact opposite. Every single receiver signed after 2015 has been over six feet tall with an average weight of over 190 lbs.

Those players, such as 6-6, 205 lb. L'Christian "Blue" Smith or 6-5, 210 lb. Jaylen Harris are prototypical big, target receivers at the X receiver position. While Ohio State has lacked depth and talent at those positions in the past, they won't for the foreseeable future.

Another recent change is strong-armed Dwayne Haskins taking over at quarterback. Those bigger receivers, combined with Haskins arm strength could allow Ohio State to attack areas of the field they've seemed not to emphasize in previous seasons.

This isn't to say Ohio State completely lacked the personnel in the past. The Buckeyes did have Noah Brown during the 2016 season – the lone exception to the three-year recruiting trend – and got Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor involved early in their careers, and J.T. Barrett was certainly capable of making those throws – he did it many times throughout his career.

It also doesn't mean the Buckeyes intentionally left themselves without any larger, target receivers in favor of small, shiftier players. It just happened that way.

"That's never changed," Meyer said on National Signing Day in 2016. "It's just can you get them, are they out there, are they good enough. Everybody wants Julio Jones. They don't come around very often.

"Everybody wants big and fast," Meyer said. "I don't think any school in the country is looking for small. No. It's the best quality player that's available."

Ohio State has simply been playing to the strengths of its team and working with the personnel it had the past few years, but those strengths seem to be changing, and you can expect the offense to change with them.

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