COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has not been shy about one of the biggest problems his offense has faced in the last month. But has one of the answers to the Ohio State passing issues actually been standing on the Buckeyes sideline the whole time?
Perhaps, and his name just may be Binjimen Victor.
“Oh yeah, this Ben Victor guy, this receiver. Damn, I want to play him,” Meyer said during his weekly radio show in late September, before Victor played his first snaps two days later. “I just don’t know if we can.”
The Buckeyes can, they have, and they should — more.
Meyer knew it in September and didn’t hold back during that Thursday afternoon’s show.
“He’s catching everything,” he said. “He’s faster than you think — got very good speed — and he’s rangy. That’s a quarterback’s dream because your accuracy … you know any time you throw to little guys you have to be very accurate. This guy’s got a wingspan. Plus he’s just a great kid. He’s just a great dude. He’s a hard practice player and he’s learning the game very, very fast.”
Following those first snaps, offensive coordinator Ed Warinner backed up the talk from the head coach.
“Ben got more and more reps in the two weeks leading up to this game, and each rep, each day he kept getting better and better,” Warinner said following Ohio State’s 78-0 win over Rutgers on Oct. 8. “You could just see a sense, so we thought it was time, we thought he had earned the right and we thought he was ready to help us.”
But to date, Victor’s stats look like this:
2 games played, 1 reception, 7 yards.
So the question has to be asked, why are the Buckeyes not letting the true freshman help now? The words of former Ohio State head coach John Cooper can almost be heard echoing through this story.
“If they’re going to bite, they’ll bite as a pup.”
It’s time to let Victor at least try to bite.
Some blame the numbers. Though Ohio State’s depth at receiver was thought to be a strength before the season, the Buckeyes haven’t had a receiver emerge — outside of Noah Brown — as a go-to guy for J.T. Barrett. One of those reasons, according to Meyer, is that guys are just not “separating.” There’s a duality to that term, as well. It’s not just that these guys are not getting open on the field, but no one is separating themselves from among their teammates.
“There’s not a big differentiation in our group right now,” Meyer said Monday. “And you kind of wish one would separate. And I don’t see that happening. Noah is a pretty reliable guy and had nice plays. The other ones need to elevate.”
Victor may be one of the guys capable of doing just that. He just has not done that yet to a level that makes Meyer and wide receivers coach Zach Smith perfectly comfortable giving him more playing time.
“The young ones … they’re really coming,” Meyer said of Victor and fellow freshman Austin Mack recently. “It’s just not those situations to be able to put them in there yet.”
A 4-star recruit from Coconut Creek High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Victor has quietly emerged as Meyer’s favorite subject when he plays the “too good to redshirt” game. On Monday, Meyer spoke of Victor as a player that could potentially see more playing time as redshirt sophomore Parris Campbell recovers from a high-ankle sprain that has him questionable for Saturday’s game against No. 9 Nebraska.
“Bin Victor has been so close,” Meyer lamented. “We’ve just got to get him pushing through the hump.”
That hump, of course, is nothing that any freshman at Ohio State — or any other big-time college program — hasn’t gone through. It’s the adjustment from being the man in high school (Victor caught 27 touchdown passes in his final two seasons at Coconut Creek), to being just a man on the roster for the Buckeyes.
Following a recent practice, Smith — who has helped develop Corey Brown, Evan Spencer, Devin Smith, Mike Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller into NFL wideouts over the past three years — gushed over Victor’s ability.
“He’s got the talent to be a top-15 NFL draft pick,” Smith said. “He’s just young, and he’s still making a lot of mistakes. We’ve been trying to get them in there.”
The question now has become, does it make more sense to suffer a few freshman mistakes and have those offset by the splash plays the passing game is missing, or stay conservative and stick with the more established, yet less dynamic, players?
Victor is a legit 6 feet 4 and possesses the kind of straight-line speed and leaping ability that could make him not only a viable threat in the deep passing game, but also in the red zone opposite of Brown. He has also earned the respect of his coaches and his teammates and shows up in practice according to his quarterback.
“I think he’s close,” Barrett said. “We see him make plays in practice. That’s how it works. You’ve got to make plays in practice to in order to play on the field. I think he’s started to do that, he’s started making plays. He’s understanding zones, and different concepts — spacing — because that’s something different too, spacing as a receiver. That’s what the passing game is, spacing and timing. Those are things he’s getting the grasp of. I think he’s close.”