Receivers Made Strides In Spring

Make no mistake, replacing Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey in the starting lineup won't be easy when the Ohio State football team takes the field in September. Head coach Jim Tressel admitted as much, but he also said the growth of his young wideouts has helped ease some of his concern after the passing attack had a solid spring game.

As spring practice started at Ohio State, fans and reporters alike wondered just how good the Ohio State receiving corps could be when the 2011 season opens.

What those observers didn't know was that head coach Jim Tressel was among the worrywarts – for a short period of time.

"I think after about three practices, we were thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, we might be in three tight ends, a fullback and a tailback,' because they are so young," Tressel said.

But by the time the 15 practices were over, the panic of Tressel and members of his staff was, in part, assuaged. That was because of the growth of the group's youngsters, including sophomore Corey Brown and redshirt freshmen Tyrone Williams and Verlon Reed.

"I thought they really came along this spring," Tressel said.

That much was shown in the spring game as the offense pulled away to a win against the defense. Williams led all receivers with three catches for 83 yards and a 68-yard touchdown bomb hauled in from Taylor Graham. Reed added two snags for 25 yards, including a nicely hauled in 17-yard fade pass from Kenny Guiton, while Brown snagged a 15-yard score from Braxton Miller.

Players such as those will be tasked with huge roles come September. Coming off his second straight season of more than 50 catches, DeVier Posey had an excellent spring and looked like a potentially dominant player, but he is suspended for the opening five games of the year.

OSU also lost star Dane Sanzenbacher and his 11 touchdowns along with Taurian Washington and Grant Schwartz to graduation after the 2010 season, and one-time four-star recruit James Jackson elected to transfer.

Only six scholarship wideouts – Posey, Brown, Reed, Williams, redshirt freshman James Louis and sophomore Chris Fields – were available in camp, and Posey said the underclassmen came along fine given all the reps they were forced to take.

"They had some rough days," Posey said. "They had some days where they didn't want to play football anymore, and they had some days where they looked like All-Americans. I felt like that was key to get those guys on a straight line and keep them confident. They'll get there. They're working pretty hard."

When the first ball goes in the air Sept. 3 vs. Akron, only 11 catches from a season ago – eight for Brown and three for Fields – return at the position with Posey out, so Tressel said improvement will continue to be key.

"I think they're starting to understand what it is," Tressel said. "First, you have to know where to line up, then you have to know what your assignment is, then you have to go figure out how to do it against good guys. So I think they've come along. They need to have tremendous progress between now and September … but the youth this spring was well served."

Among those impressed was cornerback Travis Howard, himself a breakout star of the spring going into his junior year.

"Those guys are coming along good as far as the depth," Howard said. "DeVier's helping them out a lot. He's out there coaching those guys, showing them techniques and helping them develop their games. I feel like the receiving corps is going to be great this year. They're showing a lot of different things. They're running good routes and I feel like they're going to make some big plays in the offensive schemes."

Near the top of the list is Brown, the speedster from Philadelphia who worked his way up to being OSU's No. 3 receiver behind Posey and Sanzenbacher a season ago. While he did make eight catches, he also had trouble linking up with quarterback Terrelle Pryor on a number of deep routes.

He dropped a pair of passes during the spring game, showing his hands continue to need work, but some of the missed passes a season ago started turning into completions during spring ball.

"I think that was Corey's second time scoring in Ohio Stadium in a real situation with the fans," Posey said after the spring game. "I know how it was and how it felt as a young guy. You just want to prove to people that you can play and you're supposed to be here."

Then there's Reed, who signed with OSU as a quarterback but quickly moved to receiver during last year's fall camp. After taking a redshirt, the 6-0, 190-pound target with excellent speed looks like he'll have to see the field in 2011.

"I feel like he made the position change really quick," Posey said. "In camp last year, I saw some great things from him. He's just technically sound. He does everything right."

Add in the 6-5 Williams (who also needs to continue to work on his hands), the speedy Louis and the smooth Fields and first-year receivers coach Stan Drayton has potential in his group.

"I feel like they bring exactly what you've seen from wide receivers here in the past – being able to work zones, being able to beat man-to-man," Posey said. "I feel like they've done that pretty well."

Ohio State will also add a pair of highly regarded freshmen in the summer in Devin Smith of Massillon (Ohio) Washington and Evan Spencer of Vernon Hills, Ill., a pair of four-star players who should help address depth concerns.

The transition to being a major part of the offense with a new quarterback under center won't be easy, but after spring it appears the Buckeyes have a chance to be fine.

"I feel like the only way they can go is up," safety Orhian Johnson said. "If those guys keep working, I feel like we'll be all right."

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