Buckeye Breakdown: Ohio State’s talented wide receivers looking to overcome lack of experience
As the season continues to grow closer, Ohio State’s depth chart at each position is beginning to take shape. After losing 16 starters, including 12 during the NFL draft, this will be one of the program’s youngest teams in recent memory.
Join Landof10.com as we break down each of the position groups and what Buckeye fans can expect from each one this fall.
Next up is wide receivers, where the Buckeyes are looking to restore a deep threat option that wasn’t present in 2015.
Assessing the roster
Lost: Jeff Greene, Jalin Marshall, Braxton Miller, Michael Thomas
Added: Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor
Returning: Noah Brown, Parris Campbell, James Clark, Johnnie Dixon, Torrance Gibson, K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Corey Smith, Alex Stump, Dontre Wilson
Projected depth chart
- Wide receiver: Noah Brown, Austin Mack
- Wide receiver: Corey Smith, Parris Campbell
- H-Back: Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson
The sheer amount of talent at this position group is a sight to behold. At a position with more than a dozen players, there’s not a single one who wasn’t rated a 4- or 5-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings.
There’s also a much higher percentage of true wide receivers on this year’s team. Last year’s team was led in part by Miller (a converted quarterback) and Marshall (who played quarterback in high school), but they were replaced by a pair of recruits — Mack and Victor — who are big, physical wide receivers who look the part and have played the position their entire careers.
And as is always the case at Ohio State, speed is the name of the game at wide receiver.
“Wilson is very fast,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. “At receiver we have some really fast guys… Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, James Clark are legitimate sub-10.5 or 10.5 100-meter guys.”
Will the lack of experience be a problem? Wilson has 50 career catches, Samuel has 33 and Smith has 25, but the next-highest total after that is Noah Brown with one.
There’s also the fact that the two leading candidates to start at receiver are both coming off broken legs. Although Smith and Brown have both been full participants in fall camp, Meyer said as recently as Aug. 14 that Brown wasn’t 100 percent back to full strength yet.
“He’s coming,” Meyer said. “He’s probably not back to full Noah Brown this time of year, but he’s, I would say, another week away he’ll be there. He’s working his tail off and I just love having him back.”
And while such a person might emerge at some point, the Buckeyes have yet to establish a deep-ball threat in the mold of Devin Smith from the 2014 championship season. The lack of one last fall played a big role in the Buckeyes falling short of their lofty expectations, and it remains to be seen which of the receivers are capable of connecting on some home-run plays.
What to expect
This position group is one of the biggest uncertainties on the team, and it could go either way. Last year it seemed as though not having enough touches to go around had an adverse affect on individual players and the offense as a whole, but that will be less of an issue this year thanks to the departures of Miller, Thomas, Marshall and running back Ezekiel Elliott, all of whom were high-priority guys in the offensive pecking order.
Brown pinpointed the ceiling for this group when he pointed out that despite the lack of experience, this is one of the most talented groups on paper to ever play for the program. Everyone at the position was one of the top 300 recruits in their recruiting cycle.
“I see nothing but – like I said – talent,” he said. “We’ve got the potential to probably be the best wide receivers that’s ever come through Ohio State. We’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of guys who can do different things. But experience is a challenge for us right now. I feel like once we get a game under out belt, we’ll be all right. I think we’ll surprise a lot of people.”
The opposite type of scenario shouldn’t be ignored, however. Given that more than 75 percent of the position group has either one catch or no catches, there’s a chance that the unit will be plagued by inconsistency, drops and an inability to make the type of big plays that take pressure off the run game.
The truth will probably lie somewhere in the middle. Expect the unit to get off to somewhat of a slow start but eventually find their footing as the season progresses. There’s too much talent overall to not be one of the bright spots of this team, but they still have to actually go out there and do it.