Wideouts Went Deep In Spring Game

Big plays weren't hard to find in the Ohio State passing game during Saturday's spring game, especially when Terrelle Pryor was the one under center. The Buckeye quarterback hooked up for long scoring passes with Ray Small and Taurian Washington, a development that showed how the OSU wideouts and passing game have progressed in spring.

Throughout the spring, much was made about the Ohio State passing game's focus on short passes that would allow a group of talented playmakers at wideout to break tackles and create big plays.

But if the spring game showed anything, it's that rumors of the demise of the Buckeyes' intermediate and downfield passing games might have been greatly exaggerated.

That was especially true when Terrelle Pryor was under center for the Gray team during its 23-3 win in front of 95,722 fans. The sophomore quarterback put on an aerial show in the second quarter, picking apart the Scarlet team on two touchdown drives that allowed his team to take a 17-3 lead into the half.

His two scoring passes, one to Taurian Washington and the other to Ray Small, topped 40 yards, leaving at least one interested observer on the Scarlet side with mixed feelings.

"They weren't on my team," injured Dane Sanzenbacher said with a laugh. "It's different being across the field from them, but I can't be mad at them because I'm rooting those guys on just like everybody else. It was nice to see the downfield passing game pick up a bit."

The contest capped a solid spring for the receivers, who faced the task of replacing second-round pick Brian Robiskie and fourth-round choice Brian Hartline, the squad's top two receivers the past two seasons, during the practice session period.

The Buckeyes entered with two solid contributors from the past two seasons in Dane Sanzenbacher and Small, a host of highly regarded players caught up in the wash the past few years like Washington, DeVier Posey, Lamaar Thomas, Grant Schwartz, and freshman James Jackson.

Though Sanzenbacher missed most of the spring with a leg injury, the Buckeyes appeared to have two breakout candidates emerge from the spring in Small and Washington while the rest continued to make strides in their development.

"I think they have a chance to be solid," head coach Jim Tressel said after the game. "They're very, very young. We didn't have Dane, who was kind of like the elder statesman there. You're a little bit younger."

But that youth and talent could turn out to help the Buckeyes. The team did plenty of drills and scrimmaging during the spring that included plays in which the wideouts were given the ball in space and were encouraged to try to make something happen.

That work isn't useful only in the short passing game, however. Small showed that on his touchdown, a 42-yard bomb from Pryor with time ticking down in the second quarter of the Saturday contest.

Small caught a laser from Pryor while tracking down the left sideline between cornerback Andre Amos and safety Rocco Pentello. After hauling in the ball near the 10, Small showed the type of after-catch movement that marked Santonio Holmes' OSU career when he cut inside of the flailing Pentello and then Austin Spitler before crossing the goal line with one second left on the clock.

"We've kind of build on things we can do in the past," Sanzenbacher said. "Obviously it's a much younger group. I think we've talked about speed in our room. We have a lot of guys who can catch the ball and run with it."

Small ended the day with four catches for 74 yards, also hauling in a 25-yard bullet from Pryor while going down the seam during the first quarter.

"I thought Ray Small had a very good spring," Tressel said. "He made some plays today that were excellent. When you get him the ball, big things can happen."

Then there was the play of Washington, who spent some time this spring with the first unit in Sanzenbacher's absence. He was a one-man wrecking crew on another second-quarter touchdown drive for the Gray, catching perfectly thrown 15- and 16-yard passes on back-to-back third-down plays to get the ball into Scarlet territory.

He was even bigger on the next third down, getting behind Chimdi Chekwa and pulling in a 44-yard deep ball along the next sideline to give Gray a 10-0 lead with 31 seconds left in the half.

"Taurian has had some real good days," Tressel said. "This was one of them. Taurian needs to be more consistent, but he can make some plays for us."

Washington made a similar catch in last year's spring game, hauling in a 51-yard touchdown pass from Joe Bauserman.

"Taurian did that last year in the spring game, too," safety Anderson Russell said. "He's always been a big play threat."

Posey also had a solid spring game, pulling in five passes for 46 yards for the Scarlet team. On the same squad, Jackson made three catches for 51 yards including a 27-yarder on which he absorbed a solid hit from safety Chris Maxwell while in the air.

"Again, we're young and that's a whole group of guys that needs to come along because, again, we didn't have Dane in there, you didn't have Robo and you didn't have B. Hart, so it's a brand new group," Tressel said. "So those guys getting reps was important."

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