Land of 10/file photo
Zach Smith did one of the more impressive jobs on the Ohio State coaching staff last season.

Ohio State football: Expectations rising for Zach Smith, Zone 6 wide receivers

Austin Ward

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The pressure to perform never stops for any coach working under Urban Meyer at Ohio State. There’s no doubt that much will be expected from Zach Smith and his wide receivers this season, considering all the depth, talent and experience the unit has returning. But is the CEO of Zone 6 on the hot seat? Heading into spring practice at this time a year ago, the temperature might have been toasty ― but Smith shouldn’t have to worry about his future with the program at this point.

The passing attack certainly wasn’t perfect again last season for the Big Ten champions, and the veteran wide receivers are the first to point out there were plays they left on the field a year ago. But Smith helped lead dramatic improvement for that group as a whole, with everybody in the rotation clearly operating at a higher level and helping to expand the playbook in the process.

Ohio State-K.J. Hill-Buckeyes football-wide receivers-Zone 6-depth chart
K.J. Hill is coming back after leading Ohio State with 56 catches last season. (Land of 10/file photo)

Whether it was K.J. Hill racking up 56 catches, Parris Campbell becoming a home-run threat seemingly every time the football was in his hands or Johnnie Dixon becoming a touchdown machine, there are examples up and down the rotation of everybody in Smith’s meeting room taking a step forward. Certainly the players get credit for working hard and putting themselves in position to succeed, but they didn’t do it without any coaching from Smith.

Beyond the on-field production, there also was a clearly different vibe off it for the wide receivers. The bond between them is real, and it’s not just for show when three of them report to media sessions and ask to be interviewed collectively instead of individually. The buy-in and brotherhood is meaningful at a position that is typically known for selfish, me-first players demanding the football. Zone 6 had no problem sharing the workload and has seven players coming back who finished with double-digit reception totals last season. On top of that, Smith has proved to be an effective recruiter as well, another example of his ability to cultivate strong relationships.

Even with all that pointing to a cooler seat, that obviously doesn’t mean Smith can relax. The standard is exceptionally high for anybody on Meyer’s staff, and there will be no excuse if the wide receivers don’t continue to develop or put up impressive numbers this season. So, certainly there still will be pressure for Smith, but this spring he shouldn’t be facing any doubts about his value to the program.

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