'X' Marks The Spot For OSU Offense

Ohio State fans have been decrying the lack of a vertical threat since Ted Ginn Jr. headed to the NFL following his junior season. As it turns out, they might not have as much of a reason to do so when they look at the production of Brian Robiskie as he enters his senior season.

Ever since Ted Ginn Jr. left for the NFL after his junior season, Ohio State fans have lamented the fact that the Buckeyes have been without a legitimate deep threat.

Wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell disputes that sentiment, labeling it a "misconception" born out of ignorance and awe in the sheer speed Ginn brought to the field.

"A lot of people look at Teddy and say, ‘Well, he's a real fast guy.' They don't understand how speed exactly translates on the field, and that's a big thing," he said. "I don't feel like we lacked a vertical threat at all last year. We actually got the ball deep as much as the previous year when we had Teddy."

That statement is backed up by numbers as well. Although Ginn led the Buckeyes with 59 catches for 781 yards during the 2006 season, his yardage output was eclipsed one season later by Brian Robiskie during the ninth week of the season. As OSU was putting the finishing touches on an impressive night road victory against Penn State, Robiskie hauled in four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Those yards gave him 787 for the season, and he would finish the year with 935 yards, the second-highest total posted by an OSU wideout in the last five years and the 11th-highest total in school history.

Although Ginn was blessed with a rare type of game-changing speed, the Buckeyes have been more prolific with Robiskie stepping into his "X" receiver spot. During his OSU career, Ginn averaged 14.4 yards per reception on his 135 total catches.

Robiskie has nabbed 85 catches during his career, averaging 15.7 yards per grab – good for 17th- best in OSU history. Robiskie also has more career touchdowns (16) than Ginn (15).

It only takes a quick glance at Ginn and Robiskie to see that they are different types of receivers who occupy the same spot in the OSU offense. Ginn, now a wideout with the Miami Dolphins, stands 5-11, 180 pounds. Robiskie, entering his senior season, is listed at 6-3, 199 pounds.

But the transition from having Ginn as the leading passing target to having Robiskie fill that role was not as traumatic as many have made it out to be.

"They're completely different receivers and completely different threats," Hazell said. "Brian's more of a receiver-type guy. He's got the good vertical speed, he can catch the ball in traffic. Those two, you can't compare as receivers."

At the "X" spot, the receiver is charged with playing more to the boundary as opposed to the middle of the field. That role goes to the "Z" wide receiver, a spot filled this season by junior Brian Hartline. Robiskie is the "X" wideout because he is "a big guy, he can block well into the boundary and he plays extremely well around people," Hazell said.

The offense changes somewhat, the coach said, to best suit the players in uniform that season. As such, Robiskie is not tasked with doing everything exactly the same as Ginn – just like Ginn was not asked to do everything Santonio Holmes did before him.

"I think that at no point was I trying to come in and be like Ted," Robiskie said. "That was my biggest thing, because I knew if I came in and said I wanted to do what Ted did, then I wasn't going to be that successful. I had to come in and do what Brian does. That's how I've approached every season."

The biggest difference between the two as far as the offense is concerned is that Ginn was the recipient of a few reverses, Robiskie said. Those go to Brian Hartline, OSU's second-most experienced wideout.

"I'm continuing to lobby for them," Robiskie said.

Although he has been slowed through fall camp with a slight shoulder separation that is now 100 percent healthy, he said, Robiskie is looking at another season as the team's primary downfield threat. He has grown into that role based on what he does well independent of what sort of expectations were left behind for the position by Ginn.

"Brian Robiskie is a very good vertical receiver," Hazell said. "He has a knack for covering up defenders, cutting them off. He has probably the best eye-hand coordination I've had since I've been here."

Robiskie might not have the speed Ginn had, but the OSU offense is not suffering because of that fact.


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