Receiver Recruits Could Break The Mold

Ohio State has had its share of fine receivers during the past few seasons, but the newest group of three players who will start as wideouts could bring something different to the equation. If the wideouts coach Darrell Hazell has a mold for the types of players he likes, the newest Buckeyes might break the molds with their skills.

In the chess game that is major college football, Ohio State receivers coach Darrell Hazell likes to have certain pieces.

One could argue that Hazell is among the best when it comes to putting together an attack on a defense's back seven. The personable coach, who is always noted among Ohio State assistants when it is discussed which are potential head coaches down the road, put two receivers in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft and didn't miss a beat a year later as the Buckeyes made another appearance in the BCS title game.

One of the reasons the Buckeye passing game has become so effective during the past couple of years is that he's a master of putting receivers in spots where they're able to get the most out of their talent and help the team the most at the same time.

"That is a big part of creating matchups against good teams," he said. "You put guys in certain spots."

So what players go in what spots? Well, think back to the last two Ohio State receiving corps. The top three receivers on the 2006 team were Cleveland Glenville speedster Ted Ginn Jr., the equally fast and sure-handed Anthony Gonzalez and the bigger, improving sophomore Brian Robiskie. In 2007, Ohio State had Robiskie, Glenville speedster Ray Small and fast, sure-handed target Brian Hartline.

With that in mind, it becomes easier to figure out the prototypes for successful receivers. On one hand, you have the bigger, more physical target – in each scenario, Robiskie, who can make catches in traffic and block the short side of the field. Then there's the blazer, such as Ginn and Small, who can run straight down the field and beat teams on pure speed. And most teams love to have a slot guy with great hands who has the speed to go across the middle and make linebackers look silly, as Gonzalez did expertly in '06 and Hartline improved at in 2007.

"You need a bigger guy here maybe to the boundary to block the short edge or you need a fast guy to the field who can stretch the field," Hazell said. "You need a guy who can work on the mismatches against safeties and linebackers. You like to have different types of guys to create matchups.

"It's almost a mold for that position that you like to have."

Looking at the Ohio State roster for 2007, it's hard not to see younger players who fit into that mold. A freshman in '07, Michigan wideout Taurian Washington is a 6-2 target with good speed who came from an Orchard Lake St. Mary's program in which he excelled at blocking on the edge.

Then there's Dane Sanzenbacher, a Toledo Central Catholic product whose hands and ability to work in space showcased in high school had Hazell plug him immediately into the pecking order as the backup slot receiver in 2007, a spot in which he came down with 12 catches.

"When we recruited him, we saw the things that he could do," Hazell said. "We said, ‘OK, from day one, let's put him as the backup slot and make him learn it,' because he would be the next guy inside."

Of course, these aren't rigid distinctions, and it helps when a player brings an eclectic set of skills to a spot that allows him to expand what the mold says he can do. For example, by the end of his career, Ginn was adept at making shorter catches in traffic while still providing the home-run threat on every play.

Then in 2007, Robiskie at times played the part as both the big, physical receiver and the deep threat. With Small injured at the start of the season, the 6-3 Robiskie immediately showed that not only could he be counted on to block and make tough catches on the boundary, but he could turn on the jets, go deep and use his ball skills to beat defenders. Just ask Vonzell McDowell Jr. of Washington, who helplessly watched Robiskie pull away and change momentum of what turned into a 33-14 OSU win Sept. 15.

Which brings us around to the class of 2008 receivers. At first glance, the group of 6-3, 205-pound target DeVier Posey, 6-5, 225-pounder Jacob Stoneburner and 5-11, 186-pound running back/wideout Lamaar Thomas would seem as though it fits into the "big, slot, fast" system Ohio State has, but Hazell hopes that this group sort of breaks the mold a little bit.

"It just so happens that the guys are big, 6-5, 6-3 guys that are huge guys," Hazell said. "We'll teach them every position that we have – X, Y, Z, W – and then start plugging them in where they fit best."

For example, Hazell hopes that a guy like Posey brings just about every receiver skill possible to the table. Posey's speed – Hazell said he watched him run a 10.7 100 in poor weather – and size are unquestioned, and he has the tools to play just about every position on the field.

"You have to be able to play him everywhere," Hazell said. "He's really a gifted kid. I think he can play the boundary receiver where you need a bigger guy, but I think he's also a guy that you put to the field who can stretch the coverage."

And then there's Stoneburner, a freakish target who Hazell calls "a true wideout" despite his large size that has many thinking tight end. Though Stoneburner might be best suited to a slot position, it wouldn't be too surprising to see Hazell tinker as time goes on.

"You can create some matchups now," Hazell said with a smile on his face.

For opposing teams, that could mean checkmate.

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