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Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Wide Receivers Preview

“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.” ~ William McKinley
I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let’s be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.
As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year’s Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football began in Columbus on March 7th.

For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

1st – Wide Receivers

Players Lost:  WR Noah Brown (early entrant to the 2017 NFL Draft), WR Corey Smith, WR Alex Stump (transfer to Vanderbilt at the beginning of 2017 spring practice), WR James Clark (6th year transfer to Virginia Tech for the 2017 season)

Returning Players/Incoming Players: K.J. Hill (Redshirt Sophomore), Parris Campbell (Redshirt Junior), Terry McLaurin (Redshirt Junior), Johnnie Dixon (Redshirt Junior),Binjimen Victor (Sophomore), Austin Mack (Sophomore), Brendon White (Freshman), Trevon Grimes (Freshman), Jaylen Harris (Freshman), Elijah Gardiner (Freshman)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group…

  • Stop me if you have heard this before ~ Parris Campbell is having an outstanding spring, and Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer is raving about it.  Excuse me if I have some well-deserved guarded skepticism about Campbell until the regular season commences.
  • Here is another one ~ Johnnie Dixon is healthy, and able to participate.  As this article points out, “This isn’t the first time Dixon has been healthy during the spring with hopes of contributing the following fall. To this point, though, his body hasn’t been able to hold up or sidestep setbacks for long enough to see the field.”
  • The player who I believe has demonstrated the most consistency within the wide receiver corps is K.J. Hill.  Hill scored the first receiving touchdown of the 2016 season, and may receive opportunities at both wide receiver and the ‘H’ Back positions for the Buckeyes.
  • Terry McLaurin has had a solid spring, but to this point, McLaurin has not been able to consistently produce upon the field as a wide receiver.  McLaurin’s career statistics = 11 receptions for 114 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
  • Binjimen Victor seemed to emerge during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, but is seemingly holding himself back with inconsistent performances and effort.  When asked what Victor can accomplish as a football player, Coach Meyer stated, “Anything he wants…That’s how good he is. He’s not good yet, that’s just how talented he is.”
  • Austin Mack was the talk of the program last season as an early enrollee freshman, but Mack was only able to contribute with 2 receptions in 2016.
  • Brendon White enrolled early for 2017, but may wind up moving to linebacker down the road.  White’s probable contributions in 2017 will probably be on the special teams units.
  • Trevon Grimes is coming off an ACL injury that may limit his participation in 2017.  Even if Grimes is able to play this season, it would not be surprising if the coaching staff decides to ease Grimes into the lineup throughout the season.
  • Jaylen Harris and Elijah Gardiner are not yet on campus, and it remains to be seen if either will be able to contribute in 2017.
  • The optimist in me is excited about the arrival of new coaches in Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day, to spur the Ohio State offense to expand beyond its self-imposed conservative approach.  The pessimist in me sees the returning talent, and knows that Campbell, McLaurin, and Dixon have all had opportunities in the past, and none of the aforementioned players were able to do much with those chances.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion. 

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