Ohio State Football Season Review: Wide Receivers Step Up


Jan 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Michael Thomas (3) warms up before the 2015 Sugar Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

This is the third in a nine part series that will review each position group on the Buckeyes before taking a look at what the 2015 season may hold.  You can find previous installments below.


Running Backs


D. Smith153393128.211262.1
C. Smith142025512.75018.2


Games AttemptsYardsAvgTDYds/game

This is a position group that has come a long way since being described as a “clown show” by Urban Meyer shortly after his arrival in Columbus.  The unit has matured to now, only a little over two years on from Meyer’s frank description, provide consistent production for the Buckeye offense.  As attention begins to shift from the 2014 national title (and it shouldn’t just yet) to the upcoming 2015 season, Ohio State must replace two of its most consistent performers from the wide receiver group.  Who eventually emerges to fill the void will play a large role in determining the effectiveness of the 2015 Buckeye offense.

Devin Smith

How many big plays/games did Devin Smith make in his career?  Without even thinking that hard a few come to mind:

Wisconsin 2011

Cal 2012

Michigan State 2012

Navy 2014

Wisconsin 2014 (Big Ten Championship)

And did I mention he scored the first points of the Urban Meyer era?

It was clear from the beginning of the season that Smith’s role would consist of stretching the field and providing Ohio State with the deep ball threat.  Smith had only five catches during the first three games of the season, yet his per game average for the season’s first three games reads: 47, 58, 29.5.  Smith’s biggest game came against Michigan State in East Lansing; a game in which he had 6 receptions for 129 yards and a score.  The 6 catches would hold up as a season high for receptions in a single game, as this was really the only game of the season that saw Meyer and Herman target Smith on short and intermediate routes.

The Big Ten Championship game proved to be the definition of a “Devin Smith” game: 4 catches for 137 yards and three scores.  It doesn’t get much more Devin Smith than that.  Smith displayed not only his elite speed, but also his ability to win jump balls and make difficult catches in traffic.

Devin Smith graduates as the best deep threat in Ohio State history.  The man averaged 20.7 yards a catch for his career to go along with 30 career touchdowns.  I’ll close this Smith wrap-up with this incredible statistic; during his Buckeye career Devin Smith caught at least one touchdown in 22 games, Ohio State’s record in those games?  22-0.

Michael Thomas

While Devin Smith provided the deep threat, Michael Thomas emerged as Ohio State’s most consistent receiver over the 2014 season.  After unexpectedly redshirting during his second year in the program last year, Thomas displayed the components to his game that make him a complete receiver.  A big target at 6’3”, Thomas showed the ability to make the “jump ball” catch, make people miss after the catch, and showed a pair of sure hands.  Mike also gave Urban a receiver who can take a short completion and turn it into a big gain.

Only twice did Thomas fail to record multiple catches in a game on his way to hauling in a total of 54 receptions good for 799 yards.  While not a burner, Thomas combines his sure hands and consistency with the knack for making a big time play; spectacular catches against Maryland and Alabama come to mind.  While he will return for his redshirt junior season, it is not a stretch to envision Thomas leaving early for the 2016 NFL Draft.

Jalin Marshall

After redshirting during the 2013 season Marshall saw his first action of a Buckeye in 2014.  The former high school quarterback from Middletown, Jalin used his redshirt freshman season to assert himself as a valuable playmaker for the Buckeye offense.  While his numbers are not otherworldly, and really 644 yards of offense is nothing to scoff at, Marshall found his niche as a jack-of-all-trades.  When you add in his 283 punt return yards and 56 kick return yards, Jalin’s total yards climb to 983.  He even moonlighted as the backup quarterback after Cardale took over for JT.

Marshall came on strong towards the end of the season; and his emergence coincided with the injury to Dontre Wilson.  Following Wilson’s injury Marshall recorded at least 5 catches four times over the season’s final six games.  The same six game stretch also saw Jalin record 342 of his 499 receiving yards.  As Marshall became more of a receiving threat for Ohio State, his impact in the running game diminished; he only recorded 8 rushing attempts over the final six games.  No doubt Ezekiel Elliott turning into a monster during the postseason played a role in Marshall’s lack of carries, but it is also clear that the coaching staff chose to use Marshall more as a traditional receiver than a true H-Back during the season’s final stretch.

Looking ahead to 2015, Marshall figures to play a prominent role; he will be the starting H-back and punt returner.  The coaching staff are sure to get Jalin the ball a number of times per game.  He is truly a unique player; capable of running between the tackles while at the same time possessing the ability to run crisp routes and display excellent ball skills as a receiver.

Dontre Wilson

Dontre’s season ended November 8 after breaking a bone in his foot against Michigan State.  Prior to his injury Wilson gained an even 300 yards receiving to go along with an even 100 yards rushing.  He also served as the team’s primary punt and kick returner.  Wilson is a good player with exceptional agility and quickness.  The knock on him has been his lack of size that often prevents him from breaking arm tackles and gaining tough yards between the tackles.  He also showed a tendency to drop passes early this season.  A much hyped recruit, expectations have been unfair to Wilson during his first two years as a Buckeye.  Percy Harvin he is not, but such a fact does not disqualify him from being a “good” and valuable member of the Buckeye offense.

After missing the final half of 2014, Wilson figures to begin 2015 as Marshall’s backup at the H-Back position.  Really Wilson will be the 1b to Marhsall’s 1a.  Both will see significant playing time in what will be an Ohio State offense possessing an embarrassment of riches.

Corey Smith

Smith’s game log can be summed up in a word: unpredictable.  A four-catch game is followed up with one catch over the next three games, before three multiple catch games over his next four games.  Remember that play against Oregon?  The one where Smith made a catch for about 50 yards that (presumably) would set up Ohio State for another score against the ducks?  And then Corey Smith fumbled.  Yeah that play perfectly sums up Corey Smith’s 2014 season.  The man has all the tools to be a special wide receiver for the Buckeyes; and Ohio State needs him to after graduating Devin Smith and Evan Spencer.  I he can cut down on the mistakes and dropped passes, Smith will be heavily involved in the 2015 offense.

Evan Spencer

Spencer departs after a fine career at Ohio State.  During Urban Meyer’s tenure Spencer became renowned for his down field blocking ability; Spencer and the blocking of the entire wide receiver unit were a big reason Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott enjoyed such outstanding seasons rushing the football.  Wide receiver coach Zach Smith had this to say about Spencer following the Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.  “He’s one of the most phenomenal blockers I’ve ever seen. He’s really functional, a little underutilized in the throw game. He’s one of better players I’ve ever coached.”  High praise indeed, but Smith’s praise speaks to the emphasis Ohio State puts on the blocking of the wide receivers; it also highlights how valuable Evan Spencer was to the success of the Ohio State offense.  Named a captain following the season by Meyer, Spencer’s leadership will be missed.

“He’s one of the most phenomenal blockers I’ve ever seen. He’s really functional, a little underutilized in the throw game. He’s one of better players I’ve ever coached.” -Zach Smith on Evan Spencer

Jeff Greene

2014 marked Greene’s first season as an eligible player for the Buckeyes after sitting out the 2013 due to the NCAA transfer rules.  The former Georgia Tech player walked onto the Buckeye team just prior to the beginning of fall camp in 2013.  Greene saw limited playing time this year, recording only a single catch against Illinois and not playing at all during the final five games of the season.  Ohio State remains intrigued by his 6’5” 220 pound frame; but at this point, as Greene prepares for his senior season, it is hard to imagine him playing a significant role.

Johnnie Dixon

True freshman who redshirted after undergoing surgery on both of his knees midway through the season due to chronic tendonitis.  A highly rated recruit.  One for the future.

James Clark

Will enter 2015 as a redshirt sophomore.  Received playing time as a true freshman during the 2013 season before breaking his leg against Florida A&M.  Rumblings maintain that Clark, over a year after the injury, is still not 100%.

Noah Brown

Began 2014 as the third-string player at H-Back; ended 2014 as the backup after Dontre Wilson went down.  Received very modest playing time, including a carry against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.  According to rumbings may be moved to tight end in 2015.

Parris Campbell

Highly recruited receiver/running back from Akron.  Redshirted during his first year in the program.  Coaches expect big things.  Still only 17 years old.