Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Ohio State Spring Football Questions: Wide Receiver May Offer Wide Options

On March 10th, Ohio State began spring practice, and had fifteen spring football practices available before the conclusion of spring practice on April 18th in Ohio Stadium. Over the next few weeks, I will rank the top ten questions facing Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff as the Buckeyes retake the football field after concluding the 2014 season as the national champions.

These articles will be submitted from areas of lowest concern to highest concern. While Ohio State returns the overwhelming majority of its 2014 team, and welcomes in a highly-touted recruiting class, it will be important for Coach Meyer to convey to his team that complacency within the player ranks could derail any hopes of the Buckeyes repeating as national champions in 2015.

Three practices in, with Ohio State resuming practice after spring break. After March 24th, Ohio State has twelve remaining practices, including the April 18th spring game, to evaluate where the football program stands before fall camp begins.

Up until this point in the series, my questions and focus has been upon emerging players at backup positions, a clear testament to Ohio State’s depth across the board. From here on out, these questions will focus upon position areas where Ohio State has lost a player(s) to graduation or eligibility, which is why I have ranked these position groups higher in terms of importance.

4. Wide Receiver

Key Players/Contributors Lost: Devin Smith (eligibility); Evan Spencer (eligibility)

Key Players/Contributors Returning: Noah Brown (Sophomore), Parris Campbell (Redshirt Freshman), James Clark (Redshirt Sophomore), Johnnie Dixon (Redshirt Freshman), Jeff Greene (Redshirt Senior), Jalin Marshall (Redshirt Sophomore), Terry McLaurin (Redshirt Freshman), Corey Smith (Redshirt Senior), Michael Thomas (Redshirt Junior), Dontre Wilson (Junior).

No more “clown show” at wide receiver. Once derided by Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, the wide receiver position group established itself as a legitimate team strength during the 2014 national championship run.

Unfortunately for Coach Meyer, two of the best players from the wide receiver group, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, have exhausted their eligibility. Besides leaving Ohio State with many dazzling highlight plays and the eternal gratitude of the Buckeye fan base, both Devin Smith and Evan Spencer had considerable playing experience over a four year period.

So you might be asking yourself, “Why is Minnich only ranking this fourth?!? Why isn’t this higher in terms of concerns?”.

Here is why…

Ohio State is losing Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, and both will be missed, but…Ohio State is loaded with talent at the wide receiver position. I am not even mentioning the players who will be arriving this summer from the 2015 recruiting class below.

Starter and leading receiver Michael Thomas returns. While I am including a link to a long touchdown play by Thomas at Michigan State in 2014, it bears repeating that Thomas has a history with possible quarterback starter Cardale Jones, dating back to their days at Fork Union Military Academy; Jones certainly looked for Thomas in the games versus Alabama and Oregon during the national championship run. Thomas is a dependable possession receiver, capable of breaking short passes into substantial gains after the catch.

The second leading receiver in 2014 was Jalin Marshall, who also returns. While listed as an H-B on Ohio State’s official roster, Marshall also emerged as a receiving threat, especially during the national championship run.

Want more? How about fellow H-B Dontre Wilson? Corey Smith, who was a superstar on special teams kick coverage, like Devin Smith? Even Jeff Greene, a walk-on, has previous experience from his days at Georgia Tech.

What about losing Devin Smith as a deep threat? Yes, that is a loss, but…Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin are all reputed to have tremendous speed. One, or all, could conceivably fill that deep threat role this coming season.

What about losing Evan Spencer as a blocker? I am more concerned about this, but have tremendous confidence in players such as Noah Brown or Jeff Greene as blockers, and believe one, or both, will emerge in the eyes of the coaching staff this spring in this necessary role for the Ohio State rushing offense.

Losing Devin Smith and Evan Spencer will hurt, but the 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes may determine that the wide receiver position group is truly offering multiple players wide options to emerge this spring, and throughout the upcoming season.


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