COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a wide receiver room comprised exclusively of 4-star recruits, talent isn’t a problem for Ohio State.
Execution, though, might be.
Ohio State opened the season by completing passes to nine different players in a 77-10 romp over Bowling Green, and a rotation of 10 or so wide receivers stuck around for the first few games of the year. Since then, the group of players seeing the majority of snaps at receiver has tightened.
The offense will always utilize running backs, H-backs and tight ends in the passing game, and that’s been no different. But the big-play production is supposed to come on the outside, where the Buckeyes used a core of just four players — Noah Brown, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and James Clark — against Penn State.
All of those players are either in their third or fourth year in the program, and Brown is the only one who entered this season with any catches (he had one as a true freshman in 2013). He’s by far exceeded the others in production this season, the only one of that foursome to catch double-digit passes and the only one among Ohio State’s top five receiving leaders this season.
“There’s not a big differentiation in our group right now,” Ohio State head coach Urban 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.”
Those four aforementioned players were the ones on the field for Ohio State’s final drive against Penn State on Saturday, and none of them recorded a reception on it. Barrett completed two passes to H-back Curtis Samuel, two passes to running back Mike Weber and one pass to H-back Dontre Wilson. Passes to McLaurin and Clark fell incomplete, and Ohio State ultimately turned the ball over on downs.
While those receivers have seen their number of snaps per game increase, there have been fewer reps for guys like Johnnie Dixon, K.J. Hill and Corey Smith.
Even though the latter two have been dealing with injuries at various points this season, Hill was still dressed and played (sparingly) against both Wisconsin and Penn State. And then there are Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, the two true freshmen who have played this season and were hyped as potential big-play difference makers.
Fans wanting to see more of the true freshmen will have to stay patient, however.
“The young ones … they’re really coming, knowledge of the offense, just not those situations to be able to put them in there yet,” Meyer said.
Once a team that looked like it might have too many wide receivers, Ohio State now looks like it may not have enough.