Though He Still Dreams of Playing Quarterback, Torrance Gibson Gaining Confidence at Wide Receiver for Ohio State

By Eric Seger on August 16, 2016 at 1:15 pm
Torrance Gibson feels more comfortable playing wide receiver in his second year at the position.

Seemingly every time Urban Meyer talks about Torrance Gibson, he brings up how the former four-star dual-threat quarterback recruit is an athletic freak with all sorts of promise.

"Torrance is showing flashes," Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days.

And in April during spring practice: "He's trying hard, but we've gotta move him into that point where he's a talented guy but he's moved up with his potential," Meyer said.

Gibson shifted to wide receiver at this time a year ago, doing so because he wanted to help Ohio State win football games in 2015 and knew that wouldn't be able to do that with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones in front of him at quarterback. An ankle injury in camp sidelined him and Gibson allowed his immaturity to get the best of him because learning an entirely new position is not easy, particularly a long way from home. Especially moving from quarterback — when he touched the ball every play — to wide receiver, where you run all the time but don't always see it come your way.

"Last year, I wasn't ready," Gibson, who is from American Heritage High School in South Florida, said Sunday at Media Day. "In my head, I thought I was, but the coaches knew I wasn't ready."

Gibson caught six passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns in the Gray team's 28-17 victory in the Spring Game.

Gibson never played in 2015, redshirting like nearly all of his classmates. Only four members of the 2015 recruiting class saw action last year because Ohio State owned a loaded roster fresh off winning a national championship and guys like Gibson weren't there mentally.

"At the receiver position, you stick a guy like Torrance Gibson right now is like that — he might pop, but he might not," Meyer said. "We've had guys like that. Chris Rainey was, when I was at Florida, exactly that. You give him the ball, there's a chance he's going 90 yards. But he might go the wrong way."

Wide receivers coach Zach Smith shares a similar sentiment on Gibson as Meyer: "He’s still really raw. He has to take that next step in maturity and training and grinding and having a routine like a pro which is what we have around here. He’s not there yet. He’s getting there, but I think what happens is you see a couple plays and people assume that is an indicator of what’s to come in the immediate future."

Gibson is adjusting to Year 2 in his new role and still showing flashes — he caught two touchdowns in the spring game, one on a pop pass where he just outran everybody to the end zone from two yards out. He glides past defenders and still has a strong arm, saying he dreams of playing quarterback again and even goes back and watches his high school film online.

"I go back and watch film on Hudl and I just watch all the plays I made, all the mistakes I made," Gibson said. "I miss it a lot."

Meyer said in Chicago that Gibson can pop up in the Wildcat formation with the option to either run, hand the ball off or pass. He didn't specify if that would come this fall or in the future, but Gibson did attempt a throwback pass to quarterback Joe Burrow in the spring game.

He doesn't want to forget his days playing quarterback, adding he still throws on his own "just to play around." What is important now is getting ready as a wide receiver to help Ohio State.

"That's in the past, though," Gibson said of playing quarterback. "I'm living in the present ... (This year) I'm playing fast. I was playing real slow. If you guys could watch film, I was not running. But now I'm running, I'm learning the offense."

He is doing his best to make sure his body is how it needs to be in order to play wide receiver too. Meyer spoke often about another quarterback's struggle to switch to wide receiver due to all the running involved — former two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller.

"Last year I was out of shape. I was dying at camp this time last year," Gibson said. "When we were doing 11-on-11, I was so tired, man. I'm so used to just dropping back and throwing it. When you're running 15 yards, it's crazy. I know how it feels now."

Gibson said he doesn't stay in touch with Miller now that the latter is in Houston playing for the Texans but would be foolish to not tune into his transition from star quarterback to NFL wide receiver.

“I'm playing fast. I was playing real slow. If you guys could watch film, I was not running. But now I'm running, I'm learning the offense.”– Torrance Gibson

"He made the switch and he's doing great," Gibson said of Miller. "If he can make the switch and do the things he is doing, why can't I?

"When I look at Braxton, I see the things he can do. He's very athletic, he can move, he's really quick. And when I look out there in my head I'm like, 'Why can't I do that? Or even better?' That's the mentality I have going onto a football field."

Terrelle Pryor is trying to make it with the Cleveland Browns as a wide receiver after playing quarterback at Ohio State and then briefly in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs.

The only difference between Miller, Pryor and Gibson is the first two waited much longer in their football careers to try and maximize their potential in a different way at a new position.

Gibson is ahead in that aspect but now must flip the switch in his development and go from flashes to a beacon of consistency in order to get on the field. More comfortable at wide receiver in his second season, he thinks he is ready.

"I'm learning how to play fast," Gibson said. "At times I was thinking too much last year. I was not sure what I was going to do. When I'm on the line, should I do this? Should I do that? When I'm on the field I'm just going fast and playing as hard as I can."

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