But the big question was who would step up as OSU's third receiver. Sophomore Brian Robiskie, coming off a three-catch performance against Penn State that included a 37-yard touchdown grab, seems to be putting that question to rest.
The 6-3, 195-pound Robiskie was named as OSU's offensive player of the week for his role in the Buckeyes' 28-6 win over Penn State.
"Brian has been a very steady, kind of the unnoticed guy," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "Everyone talks about Teddy and Gonzo and so forth. And Brian's aware he's supposed to be doing what he's supposed to do. He's very meticulous about his film study. He's very meticulous about his route running. He works very hard to be a good blocker.
"He had the highest grade -- I think a 92 percent grade in the game -- and obviously came up with a huge play and a couple other catches and he just keeps getting better as a wide receiver."
Robiskie is a second generation college football standout, following in the footsteps of former LSU and Oakland Raiders standout Terry Robiskie. His father is now an assistant coach with the Cleveland Browns.
"I think Brian saw how hard his dad as worked to get to the level he's gotten," Tressel said. "It wasn't just casual that he's had the opportunities he's had. He paid attention. There are some people that I'm sure are around excellence all day long and don't even know it. But Brian's a guy that, I'm sure he picked up off of his dad.
"They're a very close family, so I'm sure dad took him to training camp and all those kinds of things and he's wondering why the heck are they in the meeting room eight hours a day? As he got older, he figured it out -- it's because you need to be."
His First Touchdown
Ohio State was nursing just a 7-3 lead early in the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes drove into PSU territory. Quarterback Troy Smith was flushed to his right and, to avoid PSU's Tim Shaw, he turned away from the line of scrimmage and ran backwards around back to the middle of the field.
Smith spotted Robiskie coming open in the end zone and threw a laser that went at least 55 yards in the air. Robiskie broke free and caught the ball in front of a pair of PSU defenders.
"Robie was on a short route and when he saw Troy start to scramble, he took off deep," Tressel said. "And then when Troy reversed field kind of, he took off sideways because he was about as deep as he could get and still, a marvelous throw, I mean, 57 yards on a rope. I mean, it was something."
Tressel also marveled at the catch.
"They would have had to surgically remove it, I think, if he didn't catch it," the coach said. "I mean, it was great concentration, because there was some people storming after him and great awareness of how to get away from them and then to see where the ball was going, its trajectory, but Robie's got great concentration."
Robiskie took the scoring play in stride.
"You could say it was a crucial play," he said. "We just wanted to come out in the second half and listen to our coaches. We needed to get Antonio going running the ball. That's what we tried to do."
Robiskie said the touchdown was a product of drills the offense does in practice – drills designed to capitalize on situations when plays break down.
"Whenever we go team with one offense and one defense, we're trying to win," Robiskie said. "Sometimes the defense gets to Troy and they win. But he's going to try and get out of the pocket and we just have to keep working for him."
Robiskie was asked what he was thinking as the ball was headed his way.
"I didn't realize how far he threw it," he said. "It ended up as a 37-yard pass, but I think he threw it 50 or 55 yards, whatever it was. Just being in that play, I didn't register how far it was.
"It did seem like it was in the air for a long time. Everybody has been saying it was a strike, but to me it seemed like it was up in the air and came back down. It was a great play by Troy. For me to be on the field and be able to help our team like that, that was great."
Chip Off The Old Block
Robiskie shared some of the advice his father gave him.
"He just told me that whenever I'm on the field to never quit," Robiskie said. "You never know what can happen. The quarterback could be rolling out and elude some defenders and you're standing around.
"He's just helped me to learn so much. Any time I had a question, he would be there to help me. He's not a guy who pushed me to do a lot. I know if I ever had a question, he'd sit down and help me with it."
Film study is one area where Robiskie had an idea of what he was looking for.
"You can watch film for six or seven hours a day, but if you're not looking for the right things you don't get anything out of it," he said. "I'm watching how they move and react when guys come off the ball."
As the son of a coach, Robiskie said he and his family have been lucky that they have not had to bounce around the country a whole lot.
"He's been fortunate to be in some place for a long time," Robiskie said. "We have moved with him. We started out in Los Angeles, where he was with the Raiders. Then, we moved to Virginia, when he was with the Redskins. Then, five years ago or so, we moved to Cleveland. That's pretty good for an NFL coach.
"When we got to Cleveland, I got a job as an equipment manager there. I did that for three years. I didn't get paid a lot, but I got a chance to learn a lot. It was blessing to get up there and see how they practice and how they work and what they do in the weight room and on the field."
Being around Browns camp, Robiskie said he has enjoyed getting pointers from pro receivers.
"I talked some with Kevin Johnson, who was there a few years ago," he said. "I talked a bit with Kellen (Winslow), while he has been there the last couple of years. I just tried to listen to them. These are guys who have been to the highest level you can get to. I just tried to take as much information as I could from them.
"Talking to Kevin Johnson, my dad always said he had great hands. He may not be the fastest guy, but that really didn't matter because there are other ways to get open. You just keep working for the quarterback."
Robiskie was asked who the biggest names were that he has had a chance to meet.
"I got to meet Jerry Rice when he came to town for a game a few years ago," he said. "I didn't get a chance to talk to him a lot. He told me at a young age just don't stop working, working out, running hard and doing the little thing. My dad is good friends with Marcus Allen. He's a guy I have looked up to a lot. He's a guy I have called during the recruiting process and during my visits. He gave me a lot of good advice."
Robiskie, who attended Chagrin Falls (Ohio) High School, was asked if he is a Browns fan.
"Right now? Yeah," he said. "It's been tough there the last few weeks. Dad said the wide receivers are doing some good things. It's just frustrating right now."
Terry Robiskie has twice had a chance to serve as an interim head coach. Brian said he is still hoping for a chance to become an NFL head coach.
"It was tough, being in the situation he was in, he tried to take advantage of it," Brian said. "He has not had a full season as a head coach. He did it in Washington as well. It was tough there, too. Hopefully, he gets that chance one day."
Brian was asked if it was hard following in his father's footsteps.
"I knew I was going to have to do that regardless," he said. "I wasn't a super recruited kid and I knew I had to prove it week in and week out."
But Brian said his dad did not force him into the game.
"He kind of kept me from playing football until I was in middle school," he said. "His big thing was he wanted to make sure I played for myself and not because my dad was a coach."
It was January 2005 when Ohio State finally got involved heavily with Robiskie, then a senior at Chagrin Falls.
"They did offer me real late," Brian said. "I almost had my mind made up I was going to go to the University of Miami. But they offered me late and I visited here. I got a chance to spend time with the coaching staff and I enjoyed it.
"Coach Tressel came to the school one day. He met with my mom there for a while. She came out and said, ‘Coach Tressel is a pretty good guy.' "
Robiskie played sparingly last year as a freshman. He came back with a goal this year to get into OSU's regular receiver rotation.
"Coming back from last year, I wanted a chance to get on the field and be more consistent," he said. "If I got on the field, I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunities I had."
So far this year, Robiskie has 10 catches for 130 yards. But it was a catch he didn't make – a drop in the win at Texas on Sept. 9 – that left an impression on him.
"I think it was a third-down out route," he said. "I was going over to the bench and I didn't know if (Smith) would say anything. But he came over and said, ‘I'm going to come back to you and I know you're going to be there.' It lets you know that you're a guy they are counting on with the offense."
An early season ankle injury to senior Roy Hall opened the door for Robiskie to play. But with Hall on the way back, Robiskie said he knows he needs to stay on top of his assignments.
"I can't step back now," Robiskie said. "Roy is a hustler. He's going to be here to help us. I just have to go out and try and get better every day."
One Proud Papa
After Ohio State made Robiskie available for interviews on Tuesday, a deluge of reporters contacted the Browns to get in touch with Terry Robiskie. Accordingly, the team set up a teleconference on Thursday for media members to speak with Terry. Here were some of his responses during that 20-minute session.
* On how often he gets to see Brian play -- "I did get to come to their first game. We played our last preseason game on a Thursday night. That Saturday, we had a relatively slow day at practice. Coach (Romeo) Crennel was nice to come over to my office and ask me if I wanted to go down and see my son play in person, so I did.
"The others, I watch them on TV or I watch them on tape delay. I catch them all."
* On how much he still coaches Brian -- "Just like I told Brian, we spent a lot of time talking about a lot of things. In his high school career, we talked about route running and working on this and that. It's just that time now where his hat has to come off to Coach Hazell. He's at Ohio State and he's working hard.
"That's something I put on him at an early age – always outwork the next man. Don't let anybody beat you from work or preparation. Nothing pays off more than preparation."
* On the touchdown play against PSU -- "It looked to me that he was running hard. That's something we have always talked about – run hard and run fast. He competed, and we have always talked about that.
"I called Coach Hazell immediately after the touchdown. I yelled into his telephone. I congratulated him and told him what a wonderful feeling I had. Not only was I happy for myself and my family and also happy for Brian, I was also happy for Coach Hazell. When I saw Brian in the end zone, it looked like it two days to get there – even though I know Troy threw a missile.
"At the end, I saw Brian did a good job of using his body and cradling it into his body. That's something that he and Coach Hazell have worked on a thousand times. I have worked on a lot of routes with him, but I've never worked on that – get up in the air, body catch the ball and protect it from the DB. That was a tremendous job and my hat's off to Coach Hazell for that one."
* On the tips he has for Brian -- "I always have to emphasize to Brian, ‘Hey, this is your dad. I know you think I'm crazy. I know you think I'm goofy. You know what I'm getting ready to tell you, but … you've got to run fast. You've got to come off the line fast. You have to play fast. You have to block in the running game. If the play is designed to go to the right and you line up to the left, you have to get across the field to go get the free safety.'
" ‘If the ball carrier cuts back, you have to block the free safety. The only way we stand a chance for the running backs to get a home run is for the receiver to get downfield and block. If you're standing on the sideline and watching or you're standing 5 yards downfield and you're playing with your DB and you're watching the game, then Coach Tressel should ask you to go and buy a ticket. People who watch the game have to buy a ticket. I preach that to him over and over and over."
* On reaction to the touchdown -- "I don't think the ball had landed in his arms yet and my cell phone had rang 22 times. I had friends calling me from all over the world. I had Louisiana people calling me and people from California. I had a friend of mine, believe it or not, that within seven minutes called me from Hawaii. They were excited and elated for me.
"I have coached in Super Bowls, coached in Pro Bowls. I've been doing this my whole life. But like I told my wife, to watch my son make those catches against Texas – the big third down to keep the drive alive – and jump up and catch a touchdown against Penn State, nothing in the world matches it. I have not had that emotion.
"The last time I had that emotion was the day he was born. I was in the hospital with her when he was born and that's the only time in my life I have felt that tremendous and that wonderful. It's just the most tremendous feeling that has ever come over me."
* On Brian signing with Ohio State -- "I wanted him to go somewhere where he felt he could be happy. I wanted him to go somewhere and fight and compete and also compete at the level that program is used to. I didn't want him to go somewhere and think, ‘I can go there and play one day.'
"The other thing is Brian and his mom have a very special relationship. They are connected a lot more than he and I are. I was like that with my mom. I didn't want him to say, ‘I want to go to Ohio State because it's close and my mom can come down and watch me or because my dad is with the Browns.'
"I told him to not base anything off where I was going to be because there was no telling where I would be. And his mom could come and see him wherever he went."
* On Brian's attributes as a receiver -- "Brian has some God-given ability. He's got some ability to catch the football. I think he is getting stronger. I think he's got a big heart. I think he has a tremendous desire to work. Work doesn't scare him in any fashion. I think he is very adaptable to coaching. I think he's one of those kids where if Coach Hazell says, ‘I need you to work on this,' he comes right home and works on it. He goes and gets it done.
"I think he is a very dedicated young man. I think he is very serious. Sometimes, I tell him he's too serious for me. I think he has the potential to keep going and step up and be a very good football player. He just needs to see where it goes."
* On Brian being at Ohio State -- "He's in as good an environment as there is to learn how to compete and learn how to win and how to succeed. The final thing is I think he is in the best environment you can put a young man in to learn how to grow up to become a man.
"His situation there at Ohio State is as good as it gets. Kids who go into the service, they say they leave home a kid and come back a man. At Ohio State, as far as I know, it is second to none in terms of going in as a kid and coming back as a man.
"He came into the right situation. You had (Santonio) Holmes, who was there last year who was a very competitive guy. You have (Anthony) Gonzalez, who he has been around on the field and off the field. I'm not sure what Tony's grade-point average is, but he is a smart kid. Brian has driven home with him to Cleveland and talked about schoolwork and all of a sudden we get a notice this last semester that Brian had a 4.0. I know where that came from. It didn't come from his daddy or his mommy harping about that. It came from him riding from Columbus to Cleveland with that No. 11, who plays in the slot. They talked about school and grades.
"I know that, again, being in that environment he sees he's on the field next to a guy who is playing for the Heisman Trophy. I've been preaching to him about running and running fast. All of a sudden, he finds himself running beside a kid (Ginn) who is one of the fastest kids going today. He sees this guy and he sees him running by people and catching football. He sees them talking about him on TV.
"He's in as good an environment as he could be in. He's got the athletic side. He's got the speed side. He's got the work ethic. And, again, how can you have a better guy to look up to than Coach Tressel."
* On the family's impression of Tressel -- "The very first time Coach Tressel came to my house, I wasn't home. I was sitting at my desk in my office. My wife called me. She said, ‘Honey, there's a guy who just got out of the car in our driveway. I'm not sure, but it looks like the president of the United States.' That was our very first experience with Coach Tressel.
"For three days, she was beaming. She could not believe this guy was a football coach. He got out of the car with his scarlet and gray on and his white shirt and his suit. He had his flag pin. She couldn't believe that was a football coach. She's been married to a football coach her whole life. But she's used to seeing me with a sweatshirt on, some blue jeans. She didn't know football coaches could look like Coach Tressel did."