Urban Meyer makes it sound like he was the best wide receiver Ohio State had. Or at least its most talented.
Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't. And maybe Meyer was just excited about the absurd potential he saw in Binjimen Victor last season, which is why Ohio State's head coach lamented as he often does about young players and wanting to yank the chains off of them and let them go play. But Meyer needs to see a form of consistency in all phases of a player's life before doing that.
“He just wasn’t a go hard player all the time,” Meyer said of Victor's true freshman season last week. “Just typical freshman stuff.”
Meyer and Zach Smith inserted him into the wide receiver rotation during Ohio State's 58-0 thumping of Rutgers in Week 4. That is when he made his first career catch. He played the following week against Indiana but then missed the next three games. Played in blowouts against Nebraska and at Maryland — where he caught a touchdown pass from Joe Burrow — then again stepped back in the shadows against Michigan State and Michigan.
“It's more like what can't he do in my mind.”– Terry McLaurin on Binjimen Victor
A 21-yard grab early against Clemson in the College Football Playoff again showed that monstrous potential Victor possesses. Now with Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson all gone from Ohio State's pool of pass-catchers, Smith's unit is under the microscope.
So is Victor. There isn't time to be a freshman anymore.
“Everybody, they always say they want to play right away. It's more to that than just playing right away,” Victor said at Fiesta Bowl Media Day in December. “You have to make progress and make plays in practice. It can't just happen in the game. You have to also perform in the meeting room.”
Here lies the rub for Meyer and Smith, two men who know Ohio State's inability to create explosive plays through the air ultimately crippled their chances against Clemson. The pressure is on that group to perform and for Victor to be an essential cog in the wheel, even though a minor injury forced him into an orange, non-contact practice jersey in the final weeks of spring. Smith said on Monday he likes to have six players to rotate at receiver — two at X, two at Z and two at H. Victor must be one of those six.
“He has all the talent in the world. He was having a good spring coming along developing and then he kind of got dinged up,” Smith said. “He's practiced every day. No major injury but it's kind of slowed him up a little bit.”
Smith wouldn't say exactly what the injury was but Victor was seen at Student Appreciation Day on Saturday practicing with the rest of his teammates. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound receiver is the definition of lanky. If you see him standing on the sideline, it appears his fingertips could touch his kneecaps without hardly a bend of the waist.
Victor remains skinny even though he has added 15 pounds to that long frame, courtesy of strength coach Mickey Marotti and Ohio State's nutrition staff. Putting on muscle, grasping all the concepts of Meyer's spread offense and bringing the right level of effort daily is why he didn't see more time in 2016.
“It took me a minute to learn the offense basically,” Victor said in Phoenix. “Just now getting the hang of it. It was quite the process for me.”
Typical freshman for arguably the most talented receiver on Ohio State's roster, indeed.
“It's more like what can't he do in my mind,” Terry McLaurin said on Monday, who roomed with Victor during fall camp. “The biggest thing he needs to keep working on is the ebbs and flows of practice and the ebbs and flow of a game. You can't get too high, you can't get too low. Just take it play by play, step by step.”
As a sophomore, that consistency and pushing through the mistakes and missteps are of high priority for Victor. Ohio State needs playmakers on the outside. Victor did it at Coconut Creek High School in Florida. The jury is still out if he can do it in college. But the potential is certainly there.
“Anything he wants,” Meyer said when asked what Victor can do on a football field. “That's how good he is. He's not good yet, that's just how talented he is.”
“I'm just taking it day by day. As far as next year, I definitely want to get better and be a big role on the team and help my team win games,” Victor said. “To score points as fast as I can and as many as I can. Just make plays.”