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
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
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.