COLUMBUS, Ohio — Recruiting a dozen 4-star receivers to Ohio State might not have been such a bad idea.
There’s not a single scholarship receiver currently on the roster who rated as a 3-star or worse in the 247Sports composite rankings, and the Buckeyes are currently reaping the rewards of such depth. Redshirt freshman Torrance Gibson is out for the year after a semester-long suspension handed down by the university in August and redshirt freshman K.J. Hill will miss up to a month after having ankle surgery, but neither of those developments register as panic-inducing moments in terms of impact on Ohio State’s offense.
Sure, neither of those players had thus far signaled they’d have the impact of, say, Noah Brown, but they’re also not throwaway players who had no hope of seeing the field. Gibson is one of the most highly regarded players on the team from an athleticism standpoint, and Hill scored the first touchdown of the season for the Buckeyes on a 47-yard bomb from quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Ohio State solved both problems before they started, however, by departing from last year’s dependency on a select few wide receivers and instead worked in fall camp to develop a rotation that has reached 10 players deep. H-backs Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson have both been huge assets in the passing game, but the Buckeyes have also received contributions from Brown, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon, Hill, Parris Campbell, James Clark and Demario McCall.
Last season the Buckeyes relied much more heavily on a four-man core on the outside that included Michael Thomas (56 catches), Jalin Marshall (36 catches), Braxton Miller (26 catches) and Samuel (22 catches). No other wide receiver or H-back had more than seven catches.
Both playing time and catches have been more spread around this season, which has been great for the overall happiness of the group.
“They all want to play and they all are playing for the most part,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said prior to the Oklahoma game two Saturdays ago. “It definitely helps morale. The more guys that are playing, the more guys that are happy.”
More importantly, however, the current rotation — which also includes true freshman Austin Mack and senior Corey Smith (who is playing in a cast) — has given the Buckeyes the depth necessary to survive the absence of two players who were expected to contribute. That number may get trimmed down as Big Ten play approaches and talent or performance gaps widen, but for now the Buckeyes are happy with what they’ve got at the receiver position.
“It’s a great situation,” Smith said. “We have a lot of depth and right now they’re all performing at a high level. We’re going to rep them and rotate them until they separate themselves. We’re playing 10 guys right now, which is kind of unheard of. It’s a great problem to have.”