SvoNotes: Taking Stock Of Ohio State Wideouts

A young Ohio State wide receivers corps got even younger when potential starter Noah Brown went down with a season-ending injury Wednesday. Where do the banged-up Buckeyes go from here?

Let's start here -- the injury to Noah Brown yesterday is the really unfortunate side of athletics, especially college athletics. He had worked so hard to get in the spot to contribute this year, turning heads from March, and the way his teammates responded to yesterday's events showed just how tough it must have been to see him go down in that way. We wish him nothing but the speediest recovery.

Having said that, the Buckeyes will still play a football game on Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech. It's one of the truths of life, and Ohio State has preached a next man up mentality strongly over the last few years. The phrase "pick up the rifle" is a bit grisly if you think about it but it speaks to the kind of mentality one has to have to have a team that wins big at the college level, and Ohio State proved that a year ago.

So what happens next? Well, the team will go to Blacksburg without Brown, and what had been a position room with a ton of talent and possibilities is now a bit handcuffed. At the team's media day Aug. 16, receivers coach Zach Smith was positively excited about all the options he had, from players who had switched positions in Braxton Miller, Curtis Samuel and Torrance Gibson; to a veteran leader in Mike Thomas; to talented slot receivers Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, who shared a spot on last year's title team; to young hotshots like Brown, Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin.

“I’m trying to figure it out, too,” he said. “We have a very, very, very diverse set of players. There are guys with skill sets, like we talked about with Torrance. We talked about Braxton. We talked about Jalin, Curtis.

“There are guys that can do multiple things. So it’s more a matter of how do we get them involved and find how they’re featured in this offense.”

The algebra gets trickier when the Buckeyes face the Hokies, though, because of injuries and suspensions. Marshall, Wilson and Corey Smith are all out for the game because of a one-game team rules suspension, while Brown is now out thanks to the leg injury. Meanwhile, Miller (hamstring tightness), Gibson (foot/ankle), Johnnie Dixon (knees) and Thomas (foot) have battled various maladies throughout camp.

The Buckeyes were already missing Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, not to mention tight end Jeff Heuerman, from last year's squad, and suddenly Thomas (a team-best 54 catches) and Samuel (11 grabs) are the only wideouts on the field with more than 10 grabs a season ago. Add in the fact that Virginia Tech has one of the best secondaries in the nation -- Phil Steele places it fourth, a spot behind OSU's, and Thomas has a natural foil in potential first-round pick Kendall Fuller -- and the challenge is real.

Still, don't expect the Buckeyes to back down.

“There’s a lot of talent in that room and we have the best coaches in America,” Thomas said. “We have so much talent. Whether it’s raw or not, they’re going to develop and our coaches are going to coach them hard to bring the best out of them. You just have to be willing to be coached.”

So who will the team turn to vs. the Hokies? Read on to find out what each player brings to the table.

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Mike Thomas
6'3" / 210 / RJr.
  • WR
  • 3

Notes

Well, there’s no questioning who the most proven receiver on the team is. After redshirting in 2013, Thomas was a force to be reckoned with during Ohio State’s national championship season. He led the Buckeyes with 799 receiving yards and hauled in nine touchdowns. His touchdown catch in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama was one of the most impressive plays of the season, and he’ll be back for more in 2015. He's big enough to go up and get the ball but also a good enough runner after the catch to break arm tackles and get away. “I just want to pick up where we left off," he says. "I don’t want there to be like a gap with losing them. I want to be able to lead and have a voice in the room and make sure we know where we started and continue.”

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Braxton Miller
6'2"" / 215 / RSr.
  • H
  • 1

Notes

Miller brings high-level athleticism to the table -- remember his juking run vs. Cal in 2012, or his stunning moves in the backfield before scoring a touchdown vs. Penn State? -- but what he doesn't bring is experience. He's also been limited by a hamstring injury and is still working the shoulder that cost him last year back to 100 percent, but he's also unique to college football in the skills he brings. He’s been doing great,” Michael Thomas said of Miller. “Every day he’s making progress. He’s shown that he’s dedicated. The sky’s the limit for him at that position. When you come to the receiver position you learn it’s a lot do with footwork, pumping your arms, mechanics. It’s not just sitting your butt down and talking about it. It’s not just cut and go.""

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Curtis Samuel
5'11" / 200 / So.
  • H
  • 4

Notes

Samuel lined up at running back as a true freshman in 2014, but he’s spent all of 2015 in the wide receivers room. The Buckeyes planned to try him at the "H" spot, where he practiced this spring to add receiver skills and to become versatile enough to play 40 to 50 plays per game, but will his role expand with all the adversity? He's got the quickness to excel on the edge and the vision to make guys miss in the open field. "Curtis is a guy we have to get involved. How we do that? We’ll see how everything else falls into place, but he will be heavily involved," Zach Smith said.

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Johnnie Dixon
5'11" / 194 / RFr.
  • WR
  • 5

Notes

Dixon didn’t record a catch in 2014, but he did carry the ball four times before being shelved for the season to have surgery on his knees. He was one of the jewels of the class of 2014, and a healthy Dixon could become one of the most potent offensive weapons on the team. Health is the concern, though; he's alternated doing drills and riding the bike at the practices Ohio State media has been present for. He was one of the top recruits in the nation coming from Florida, though, and has turned heads this spring. He'll almost certainly be a key part of the rotation if his legs allow it vs. Virginia Tech. “He looks great,” Zach Smith said. “He’s finally healthy. He’s finally doing what I thought he would do.”

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Terry McLaurin
6'1" / 200 / RFr.
  • WR
  • 83

Notes

McLaurin redshirted a season ago but provides a unique target among the Ohio State wide receivers. He's big at 6-1, 200 pounds but also has skills with the ball in his hand to compile 953 yards receiving and 744 rushing along with a combined 14 touchdowns his final season of prep ball at Indianapolis Cathedral. He showed good hands and ball skills while catching a long ball for a TD in the spring game and now seems like someone who will have to be ready vs. the Hokies.

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Parris Campbell
6'1" / 205 / RFr.
  • WR
  • 21

Notes

What does Campbell bring to the table? Speed and lots of it. He's still young -- just 18 -- but he was one of the fastest players in Ohio when he arrived as a two-time state champ out of St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, and he showed that speed and moves by scoring a touchdown on a jet sweep in the spring game.

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Torrance Gibson
6'4" / 205 / Fr.
  • WR
  • 6

Notes

Gibson has been limited by a foot injury suffered Aug. 22, and he was in a walking boot at practice two days later. A spokesman said the injury isn't serious, though, and if he's healthy he, like Braxton Miller, is a unique weapon. He came to Ohio State at 6-4 and with impressive speed and agility for the position, one of the reasons he was one of the most coveted recruits in the nation. He would have been the No. 1 athlete in Scout's rankings if that position existed at the time, but he's got tools if not experience. "Torrance is scratching the surface too right now," Urban Meyer said.

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James Clark
5'10" / 185 / RSo.
  • WR
  • 82

Notes

Clark got onto the field as a true freshman until an ankle injury against Florida A&M ended his season. His redshirt freshman season wasn’t much better, with hamstring trouble keeping him sidelined for all but three games. Finally looking healthy, Clark has reportedly been looking good in practice and could show this season why he was such a highly touted recruit, but Zach Smith cautions he still has growing to do. “This is the best version of James Clark I’ve seen," he said. "He’s doing really well. He’s a long way from being a receiver here, starting here, playing here, but I’m very, very happy where he’s at.”

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Jeff Greene
6'5" / 220 / RSr.
  • WR
  • 89

Notes

Greene, a Georgia Tech transfer, was primarily a factor on special teams in 2014 after sitting out the 2013 season. The walk-on did catch a pass against Illinois (and promptly fumbled the ball), but that was the extent of his production from scrimmage last season. Still, he's a big body and has plenty of experience playing at the Division I level from his days in Atlanta.

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*Walk-on

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K.J. Hill
6'0" / 195 / Fr.
  • WR
  • 14

Notes

Hill was one of the last commits in the class of 2015 but one of the first players to get his black stripe removed. Ohio State has shown in the past that true freshman receivers can see meaningful playing time, and the explosive athlete from Arkansas is this year’s best candidate to fit that mold. His juking touchdown catch that sent Kerry Coombs to the turf went viral this fall, with inexperience the key thing limiting him in the early going.

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Alex Stump
6'3" / 202 / Fr.
  • WR
  • 87

Notes

Stump tore his ACL last fall during his senior season of high school, but he’s good to go and fully practicing in his first season in Columbus. The Lakewood St. Edward had 57 catches and 14 touchdowns as a junior and had 11 grabs vs. Cincinnati Elder before being hurt last season, but his youth is the No. 1 deterrent to him being ready to go for the opener.

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