Ohio State’s spring practice is fast approaching. The Buckeyes have already started training for the 2016 season and the team will take the field for the first time March 8. With nine underclassmen and a number of seniors departing from the 2015 team that went 12-1, there are questions surrounding plenty of position groups for the 2016 Buckeyes. BuckeyeSports.com is taking a look at those positions and how they might be sorted out between now and the Ohio State April 16 Spring Game.
The Departed: The Buckeyes likely knew that Michael Thomas would bolt to the NFL after successful 2014 and 2015 campaigns that saw Thomas lead Ohio State in receptions. Perhaps what they didn’t expect, was the departure of Jalin Marshall, who made himself eligible after just two years of seeing the field. Not to mention the playmaking ability of Braxton Miller, who didn’t get to shine on the field as much as people thought they would in his final season as a Buckeye. The trio of Thomas, Marshall and Miller accounted for more than half of Ohio State’s receptions last year which does not include the additional 46 passes that tight end Nick Vannett and Ezekiel Elliott added to the total.
The Contenders: With the above departures gone, Ohio State’s leading receiver is Curtis Samuel with 22 receptions for 289 yards and two scores but many expect him to be more of a running back next year with Elliott gone. The leading candidate to be the Buckeyes No. 1 receiver has to be Noah Brown, who was in line to be Ohio State’s second or third receiver in 2015 before a broken leg in fall camp cost him his true sophomore season. Brown has just one carry and one career reception to his name, but coaches and players have given Brown high reviews when he is healthy. Right behind Brown is the Buckeyes most experienced receiver in Corey Smith . Smith came onto the scene in 2014 as a JUCO transfer and caught 20 passes for 255 yards, including two catches for 76 yards in the national title win over Oregon. Unfortunately for Smith, a broken leg against Indiana cut his 2015 campaign short however he will be back in 2016 after being granted a medical redshirt. The final upperclassmen likely to see time is Dontre Wilson who hasn’t been able to get healthy since breaking a bone in his foot against Michigan State in 2014. Wilson played sparingly in 2015, catching seven passes for 63 yards after catching at least 20 passes in each of his first two seasons on campus. After Brown, Smith and Wilson the Buckeyes are left with many unknowns. Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon both saw time at wide receiver last season but were hampered wit injury. Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor come into Columbus as highly recruited players, but have yet to play a college game. K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, James Clark and quarterback turned wide receiver Torrance Gibson are also names that have been thrown around by players and coaches alike.
How It Might Shake Out: The bad news here is that Ohio State’s most experienced receivers are all coming off of injuries. The good news is, the door is open for many young wide receivers to make an impact in spring practice. Mack is a player who enrolled early and could very well make a push for playing time depending on the health of more experienced players. Assuming they are healthy, it is likely that Brown and Smith will be the top two guys, Smith serving as the deep threat with Brown being a solid perimeter blocker and possession receiver. If he can ever shake the lingering injuries, Wilson is almost a sure thing to be the leading H-back and maybe even get a few carries out the backfield. Having a healthy J.T. Barrett at the helm could make or break this group of inexperienced but talented wide receivers.