Ohio State Receivers Again Filled With Great Talent, Great Uncertainty

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

For the second season in a row, Urban Meyer and Zach Smith will head into fall camp with a great deal of uncertainty surrounding their group of receivers. Questions remained going into last season as Ohio State looked to replace their biggest home run threat in Devin Smith. That role never was filled, and it hurt the offense considerably throughout the 2015 season.

Still, Michael Thomas returned from a strong sophomore campaign to give the Buckeyes a legitimate weapon on the outside. Noah Brown had himself an excellent offseason, the rave of seemingly everyone who were at practices and workouts day in and day out. Corey Smith offered stability, especially as a blocker. Jalin Marshall figured to take the next step, and Braxton Miller’s position switch provided a tantalizing x-factor.

All of that without even mentioning guys like Dontre Wilson and Johnnie Dixon, two guys with a great deal of talent but just hadn’t put it together yet. Talent was abound, but depth in experience was not.

And then that depth started to get stretched even thinner. Brown broke his leg in fall camp, knocking him out for the season. Smith suffered the same fate in the Big Ten opener at Indiana.

Marshall, forced into an unfamiliar role, struggled to find his footing as a true wide receiver. Miller showed flashes of brilliance. But they were just that, flashes. For large parts of the season, he was a non-factor.

Combined with the quarterback carousel that lasted for over half of the season, the passing game never really took off.

Zone 6 had been grounded.

Fast forward to this current offseason, and talent remains abound. But if you thought the 2015

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

receiving corp was short on inexperience, get a load of this group.

Gone is the sure thing in Michael Thomas, who elected to enter the draft a year early. So, too, is Jalin Marshall. Braxton Miller? Out of eligibility and now in the NFL.

The task of getting Zone 6 in the air again now falls on a group of players who will look to Corey Smith for leadership as the most experienced guy in the meeting room.

Curtis Samuel’s role is still undefined, and you can expect to see him in a multitude of ways. Nevertheless, he will be counted on to provide big play ability.

Noah Brown continues to work his way back from the gruesome injury that cut his supposed breakout season short. If he can rekindle the momentum he was riding last summer, he could very well ease a lot of the uneasiness that Buckeye fans will feel about this group. Still, he has never started a game at Ohio State.

Parris Campbell was forced into a major role in the season opener last year, given the suspension of Jalin Marshall. As the season went on, he struggled to get meaningful snaps. As far as guys who must step up on offense goes, Campbell is on the short list. In a group with so little experience, the snaps he did play last year are important. With explosive ability with the ball in his hands, he could and needs to be one of the offense’s more dangerous playmakers.

Perhaps it will be a pair of freshmen who rise up to the occasion and turn a major question mark into a strength?

Torrance Gibson’s path to Ohio State, and his quiet true freshman season, are well known to Buckeye fans. Coming to Columbus with hopes of playing quarterback, he made the decision to switch to receiver in hopes of earning early playing time.

At 6’4″, with elite athletic talent, it’s hard not to salivate over the limitless ability he possesses as a receiver. He couldn’t put it together in his first year though, and suffered from immaturity resulting from his frustration.

The time is now for Gibson. He made the position switch in hopes of being a factor early in his career. With the offense in serious need of play makers, he will get every chance in fall camp to prove that he is ready for this stage. A strong spring game already has Buckeye fans buzzing about his potential. If he continues to put in the work over the summer, expect Torrance Gibson to start making a name for himself this fall.

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Urban Meyer wasted no time in identifying Austin Mack as an immediate impact player when discussing his newly signed recruiting class of 2016. As an early enrollee, Mack has already had plenty of opportunity to make his case in spring practice.

That is every bit as much about his talent as it is the lack of proven depth, and like Gibson, he will have every chance to make a splash.

With three new starters taking over on the offensive line, and the running back hierarchy still to be determined, the receiving group has to be formidable this season. And they have to become formidable quickly.

Unlike last year, the Buckeyes more than likely won’t be able to line up and bully teams with the running game. Regardless of what happens with the depth chart at running back, it would be foolish to expect anything close to what Ezekiel Elliott accomplished last year in route to solidifying himself as one of the best to ever carry the rock for the Buckeyes.

Next: Important Recruiting Visits for Buckeyes

The receiving corp can take a great deal of pressure off of the running backs by providing some balance. The talent is there, and by the boat load. It is time for guys to come into their own.