Banking The Bucks: The Receivers

How will Ohio State look next season as the Buckeyes take the field in defense of their national title? Bill Greene takes a look at each position group this spring, and how these players have developed after being recruited. Here are the wide receivers and tight ends.

One of the more improved position groups last year were the wide receivers, and their transformation from pedestrian to outstanding mirrored the Ohio State improvement over the course of the 2014 season.

Now that the touchdown-maker, Devin Smith, and the steady-one, Evan Spencer, have moved on, there is pressure to find replacements among the holdovers and newcomers. Who stood out last Saturday?

Parris Campbell. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. When players redshirt as freshmen, they tend to be forgotten until you see them again. I had forgotten about Parris, but was quickly reminded why I've always loved his skills when I saw him last Saturday. On a field with speed everywhere, Campbell still sticks out because he's FAST. He still has trouble catching the football consistently, but when he does catch it, he just sticks that foot in the ground and is GONE. Still a very young player, this is a guy you keep working with until you get him game-ready. I would love to see him become Bradley Roby and move to cornerback, but I don't think that's what he wants to do. Chris Ash could make him a lot of money on that side of the ball, but he still might go to the NFL as an offensive player because he is a burner extraordinaire. Fans probably need to be patient with Campbell, and with the talent at the skill spots there's no need to rush him.

Mike Thomas. Woodland Hills (CA). He's up there for me as one of the more amazing rags to riches stories I've seen in following recruiting. From where he was when I first saw him at the Under Armour Game, to where he is today, is pretty ridiculous. The changes physically to his body turned him from average to NFL-worthy, and he continues to get better at Ohio State. He is the very definition of a possession receiver, and he is lethal on third down and in the red zone. The hands have always been good, but he is the epitome of bigger, faster, stronger. He's not participating this spring due to an injury, but seeing him walk around the facility he looks like a grown man. Should be set to have a big year in this offense.

Jalin Marshall. Middletown. Sometimes you get one right in your evaluation of high school players, and this kid has turned out to be EXACTLY who I thought he would be. A scoreboard-changer of the highest order. A playmaker. A difference maker. And he's still a raw talent, one that's only going to get better. He is also one of the nicest kids I've ever covered, and once you meet his family you understand why. If this were my offense, and Buckeye fans can thank God it's not, the ball would be forced into the hands of Marshall and Braxton Miller often. I've always been a sucker for guys who can take the ball here and put it over there, in the blink of an eye. Yes the speed and change of direction sticks out, but this is one strong football player. He has everything needed to be a star.

Curtis Samuel. Brooklyn. Looked like a natural in the slot Saturday, and I totally think this is where he is best suited in this offense. They want him on the field, and I get that sentiment. He should get Dontre Wilson's reps in this offense this coming season, and he is more of a threat. He caught the ball OK the day I watched him, and he gives Ohio State another offensive weapon as a receiver. He is not tiny by any means, but he's not Ezekiel Elliott or Carlos Hyde either, and I don't think he can be. Will be interesting to see what they do should Elliott become injured. Do they turn to Dunn, or move Samuel back to tailback? That will be interesting.

Noah Brown. Sparta (NY). Another body transformation that is going to work out well for the player and Ohio State. Brown looks about 25-30 pounds lighter than last year, and now instead of looking like a tweener at slot, tight end and wide receiver, he looks like Spencer's replacement. He always had hands, but he is much faster now and looks like a player in this offense. Have to see how it translates to the field in the fall, but he looks like a contributor to me.

Corey Smith. Akron Buchtel. I've known him so long, it seems like he's older than Brian Hartline or Teddy Ginn. Not many people know he actually left the team last year in the middle of the season, but credit Zach Smith and Urban Meyer for sticking with Smith and letting him come back. Because everything in his athletic life has been a struggle, I KNEW this ride wasn't going to be smooth and uneventful. But Smith can play, and there's a spot for him on the field this season. I want him to have a big year and get his shot at the NFL, but more than that I'm hoping for a degree and success in life for Corey Smith.

Marcus Baugh. Riverside (CA). Watching Baugh last Saturday was similar to seeing him impress at Under Armour as a senior in high school. He caught everything back then, and he caught everything last week. This kid can play, and he has been his own worst enemy at Ohio State. I'm not sure how he is as a blocker, and that shows up on each day's practice film, but I have no doubt he can get down the seam and catch the football.

Nick Vannett. Westerville Central. I thought Jeff Heuerman was pretty darn good for Ohio State the past few years, and I have no doubt that Vannett could have done everything Heuerman did if given the chance. This guy is actually longer, and possibly a better receiver than Heuerman. Can he be as good when the bullets are flying? We are going to find out.

Of the trio of Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon and James Clark, the only one I feel can play for Ohio State this year is Dixon. Had he not been injured last year, he might have seen plenty of reps. I'm not saying the other two can't play, but I need to see it first.


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