Over the years, we’ve heard it dozens, if not hundreds, of times when talking about a player Urban Meyer and Ohio State have recruited.
“He’s going to play the Percy Harvin position.”
Of course, that position – sometimes called the H-back or hybrid back –has evolved and is now the Curtis Samuel position for Ohio State. Before that, it was the Jalin Marshall or Dontre Wilson position.
In this week’s 3 for 3, we asked our readers what they were curious about on the recruiting trail, and this was something that caught my attention.
@Birm Does having an "H-back" position hurt recruiting elite true slot receivers that don't want the "hybrid" label at the next level.
— Brady Cavinee (@bcavinee8) May 17, 2017
I felt that Brady had a solid premise and decided to investigate it a bit further. As we do every week, I asked two of my peers for their “takes” as well. This week, it’s once again Marc Givler of BuckeyeGrove.com and Andrew “TeddyHeisman” Ellis of elevenwarriors.com.
We all think that there’s probably been some truth to the theory at play here, though I’d suggest it may be on the verge of becoming less and less of an issue.
Marc Givler, BuckeyeGrove.com: Every case is different and there may be a kid or two who could look at it that way, but in general the H-position has been, and with Kevin Wilson appears to be, evolving even more toward a slot receiver role.
Curtis Samuel caught 74 balls last year. Guys like K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell haven’t really been hybrids so it certainly would appear that the position is trending in the slot direction more than the hybrid direction under the guidance of Kevin Wilson. And technically, this isn’t an H-back position any more than the X receiver is an X-back or the Y receiver a Y-back; they are all wide receivers. The H thing has sort of taken on a life of its own in how people perceive it.
Ironically, some of the guys recruited to play there in the past weren’t receivers that were skeptical about being used as RBs, but they were in fact RBs that maybe had a hold up or two about being a receiver (and Jaelen Gill early in his recruitment would be another example of this, though he is now completely on board as an H guy). Getting production out of the position this fall will be important to getting those true slot types in the future. But over the years Meyer has seemingly adapted that position, in terms of how he distributes the touches, to the skill sets of the players.
Andrew Ellis, Eleven Warriors: I don’t necessarily think that utilizing an H-back can hurt (or is hurting) the recruitment of the slot receivers. Obviously, Tyjon Lindsey backed off of his pledge and he was probably the best slot in America, but I don’t believe that signifies any sort of struggle at the position or sign of things to come.
When most of us think of an H-back, we naturally think of the Harvin/Miller/Samuel types who are A) quick, B) can run the ball, and C) can catch passes. It’s certainly possible there could be players out there who solely want to be used as slot receivers, but I’ve yet to really see any detrimental effects on the recruiting front.
Sam Bruce was that electric, 5-foot-8, shifty wideout. He was the best slot in the country for 2016 and desperately wanted to sign with Ohio State. He ended up outside of the class. There are players out there that realize the Buckeyes system will fit their skills perfectly, and there are other players that aren’t really interested in hearing anything other than what they want to hear about how college coaches feel they’d be best utilized. I don’t think that’s specifically tied to the H-back position or Ohio State, though.
Jeremy Birmingham, Land of 10: I don’t believe that offensive success ever hurts recruiting, though it may change it. Ohio State has certainly changed the perception of how receivers are used in their offense (which Meyer has done for years, dating back, of course, to those Harvin years), but as Marc pointed out, the best playmakers are still going to get the ball the most, no matter where they are lined up.
In 2012, Urban Meyer’s first class, he signed one receiver (Michael Thomas), in 2013 they signed two (James Clark, Corey Smith) as well as two hybrids in Marshall and Wilson. In 2014, there was one hybrid back in Curtis Samuel, but three pure receivers in Parris Campbell, Noah Brown and Terry McLaurin, with Campbell and McLaurin certainly viewed more as slot guys than as X receivers (as Campbell turned into last year before now being the H for 2017).
The success Samuel had in 2016 – and his eventual draft position (along with guys like Christian McCaffrey) – as a real combo guy, splitting time between two position groups, is rare but may give a glimpse into the future of the Buckeyes offense. Jaelen Gill was reluctant to be called an H-back previously but has come around to the idea, and I think other players like him will do the same thing.
For all the griping that has been done about Ohio State’s receivers over the years, no school has had more drafted in the last two years. With players such as Campbell, Johnnie Dixon (if he can stay healthy), McLaurin, K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor coming down the pipeline, things are certainly looking up for this position overall. Add in a more aggressive downfield passing game and less focus on the quarterback run game, and receivers from everywhere – inside and outside guys – are going to be interested in the Buckeyes.