If running back was the position the Buckeyes are going to have the biggest drop-off in as they look forward to 2016, the wide receiver position group might be next on the list.
Ohio State has 12 receivers on its roster that were all rated as four or five stars by Scout.com that have yet to tally five starts individually and in most cases, they have recorded none. With so many wide receivers yet to record a start, we are breaking up the wide receivers portion of ‘Next Man Up’ into two parts, starting with players from the 2013-2014 recruiting classes.
Believe it or not, there are still two wide receivers from the 2013 class on the current roster that have made up a grand total of one start in their Buckeye careers. In the 2014 class, there are five players that have combined for five starts. Despite the lack of experience, wide receivers coach Zach Smith said he is excited about the athletes in his room.
“I'm extremely pleased with the ball of clay that we have. It's my job to mold it into the best receiver group in the country. We have the clay though. That was my job in recruiting. Now it's my other job. By design this is how it should work every year,” Smith said. “You should have two, maybe three guys leave, be big-time prospects, go to the NFL, then you should have guys waiting in the wings champing at the bit because they were ready last year but they had a first-rounder in front of them.
“That's the design. It's about executing that design, and I think we're doing it the way it's designed right now. It's about making them a first-rounder, making them a great player.”
Smith owns the lone start between the two 2013 class members, as he got the nod in Ohio State’s 2014 victory over Cincinnati in Columbus. A JUCO commit from Akron, Ohio, Smith has collected 25 career catches for 317 yards and no touchdowns. He was limited to just four games in 2015 after serving a suspension for the season opener, then suffering a season ending leg injury against Indiana.
A four-star recruit out of Florida, Clark was a highly recruited speedster that has yet to make a start for the Buckeyes at wide receiver. Not only has he not started, he has yet to record a catch in college.
The 2014 class at wide receiver not only has the most in numbers, but could very well have the most talent as well. They have the most starts of any other class at their position, and could likely have the most in 2016.
Noah Brown was expected to be one of the two starting outside wide receivers for the Buckeyes in 2015 before a leg injury just before the season sidelined him the entire season. He is widely expected to be one of J.T. Barrett’s top targets in 2016, but has not gotten many chances to show what he can do at the collegiate level. In 2014 as a true freshman, Brown caught one pass for nine yards and carried the ball once for a loss of four yards.
Curtis Samuel joined Brown as one of the few players to not redshirt as a true freshman in 2014 and showed why that was the case early on. He has two starts to his name, one each in his first two seasons, and has the ability to play running back or wide receiver for Ohio State. He has accumulated 1,352 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns in his first two years.
Perhaps one of the biggest question marks at the position going into 2016 is Parris Campbell. In the absence of Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall against Virginia Tech last season, Campbell got the start but failed to make a big impact. He started the season’s first three games before injuries and dropped passes buried him on the depth chart for the remainder of 2015.
Terry McLaurin is trying to avoid the Bam Childress/Taurian Washington curse of having big spring games, but never breaking through during the season. McLaurin has tallied back-to-back spring games with touchdown receptions, but has yet to record a catch in a game that matters.
Another four-star recruit out of Florida, Johnnie Dixon's future seemed bright as he earned reps as a true freshman in 2014, collecting four carries for 20 yards early in the season. However, injuries have slowed his progress and he has just one career catch to his name, which came against Virginia Tech in 2015.