Ohio State looked to upgrade the talent at both wide receiver and tight end with the 2016 recruiting class, and I believe they succeeded at each spot.
There are a lot of candidates for playing time this season, but not much in terms of proven talent. How will these position groups shake out this fall?
DEPARTED: Not much at all really. Only guys named Mike Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Braxton Miller and Nick Vannett, who are all NFL draftees. In other words, Ohio State just lost the guys that caught all the passes and scored all the touchdowns. Who replaces these guys?
WIDE RECEIVER: While there is talent at the wideout spots, it is mostly inexperienced. Spring football will be huge for some of these players, as they need to show they can play at this level pretty soon.
Noah Brown: Was hurt badly last fall, so you need to see how he responds physically. They were high on him prior to the injury, so the hope is that he comes back at full strength. If he's 100%, he should take one of the outside spots.
Curtis Samuel: Showed well last year from the slot, and caught 20 passes. If Mike Weber and Brionte Dunn can handle the runningback duties, that would free Samuel to concentrate on one position. If he takes the slot job full time there are no worries here at all.
Dontre Wilson: If Samuel has to go back to runningback then it opens up a spot for Wilson. Been hurt a lot in his career so far, but has shown flashes on occasion. More of a specialty player and return man.
Corey Smith: Another player coming off injury, but has looked good when out on the field. Can he take the other outside spot opposite Brown? He's going to get every opportunity this fall.
Parris Campbell: Actually started the first game of the year after guys were suspended. Can handle the blocking duties, but catching the football is a problem area. Has speed and explosive ability. Not sure where he fits in, and spring will be big for him to prove he can be a reliable receiver.
Terry McLaurin: Haven't heard too much about him yet, but he is still very young. One to watch for this spring. Needs to show he can play, or risk being buried by the new guys.
Alex Stump: Needed a full year to recover from the serious foot injury. If healthy, I think he has a chance to contribute.
K.J. Hill: Showed well in practice last year as a true freshman. Gets a shot this spring to prove he needs to be on the field.
Johnnie Dixon: When healthy, which is rare, he has shown he has talent. Not sure he's ever going to be healthy enough to contribute much going forward. A shame, because he can play.
James Clark: Not sure this guy isn't totally buried right now. Not real optimistic about his chances.
Torrance Gibson: Not sure what they're going to do with him, and I don't think he is either. He told me this winter he's playing both wideout and quarterback, and he doesn't know how the reps will be divided. I wish he would go to WR full time and learn the position from inside/out. He has more talent than anyone on this list, but you have to be learning the position at some point. Personally, I would make him a full time wide receiver today and never look back. From a raw talent perspective, he's a TEN.
FRESHMEN: They are bringing in three, and I think all of them are players.
Austin Mack: On campus right now, and this should concern more than a few of the guys listed above. He is probably the most ready to play now of the freshmen. One to watch this spring to see how he's picking things up.
Binjimen Victor: While I don't think he's a threat to anyone this season, this kid is going to be a player down the road. Needs to get stronger, but has a high ceiling. Probable redshirt.
Demario McCall: I do not think he's a threat to Samuel, but he could challenge others for time at the slot. I can also see him running back kicks and punts. Has the speed they love.
TIGHT END: You have exactly one guy returning with experience, and he has three catches in his career.
Marcus Baugh: I've been enamored with his talent since seeing him all week at Under Armour three years ago. Unfortunately for him, we haven't seen much of it. I still think he can play, and he gets the starting job by default.
A.J. Alexander: Not sure he's a true tight end at his size, and he's probably more of an H-back. Hard to see him handling blocking duties should Baugh go down.
Rashod Berry: Still learning the position, and not sure he's ready to play at this point in time. Needs a big spring.
FRESHMEN: Of the three newcomers, it's not hard to see one of them hitting the two-deep.
Jake Hausmann: This is my bet to see playing time next season, as he is physically ready and comes from a top notch high school program. I could see Hausmann moving past Berry and Alexander quickly.
Luke Farrell: While the senior film wasn't great, I still think this guy has a lot of talent and could be a similar player to Nick Vannett eventually. Has a chance to play this season.
Kierre Hawkins: Very similar to Berry, in that he's more athlete than football player as a high school senior. Is he a true tight end? Or another H-back? Probably needs a year in the weight room to see how big and strong he can get.
WIDE RECEIVER SUMMARY: Basically, this position group is like every other on this team: Talented, but inexperienced. Samuel is a given. Corey Smith has been a good #4 or #5 receiver. Can he step up and be a #1 or #2? We don't know. Is Noah Brown a true #1? Can the younger guys play this year? Are the freshmen better than the older guys?
TIGHT END SUMMARY: Again, lots of unproven players. Can Baugh finally deliver? What if he busts out? Where do you go then? Talented guys behind him, but inexperienced. That's the theme of the 2016 Ohio State team for me.