The inquiries from reporters across the Ohio State landscape had something do with that low number of catches – and a lot to do with indiscretions committed by other Buckeye wideouts.
Both senior Ray Small and true freshman Duron Carter – the Buckeyes' Nos. 3 and 4 wideouts this season – did not make the trip to the City of Angels, elevating Washington and Thomas in the rotation for Friday's Rose Bowl game against No. 7 Oregon.
In fact, Washington said he finds himself working as the No. 8 Buckeyes' third wideout in Rose Bowl practices – the same spot he was in at the start of the 2009 season.
"It's just a great experience right now," he said. "I see it as a big opportunity. I just feel like it's a chance for me to show people what I can do and make up for the first game where I had a couple of mistakes."
In that game against Navy, Washington had two drops, including one in the midst of the Midshipmen's fourth-quarter rally. Washington said coaches told him after the game he was lacking energy during the contest, and he rarely saw the field as a wideout in following games as Carter rose up the depth chart and Small returned from an opening-game suspension. Further chances were limited as Ohio State limited spread looks as the season went on for a two-wideout power set.
"I was kind of surprised (I slipped so far), but I kind of knew what I did and the reason why I wasn't playing, or some of the reasons," he said. "I was still conditioning to work hard in practice and just stayed focused. That was mostly it."
Still, it was hard dropping so precipitously on the depth chart for the junior from Orchard Lake, Mich., who had three catches and a touchdown in 2007 but no grabs since.
"I thought there probably wouldn't be another chance – this year," he said. "Things happen sometimes. I was just praying. I guess that's what it came down to."
As a result, Washington has found himself as part of rumors that he could transfer. As a junior with only one year of eligibility remaining, he finds himself in a tough place, as a move to another Division I-AA school would result in him sitting out a year before being able to play one final campaign.
"I'm not even sure, to be honest," he said when asked about a possible transfer. "I'm just really not even thinking about all that. I'm just trying to focus on the game, and that's about it."
Thomas – a sophomore from Fort Washington, Md., with five career catches – also has been rumored as a potential transfer, but he echoed Washington's words about thinking only of the Rose Bowl.
"I'm not really thinking about (a transfer) right now," he said. "I haven't been thinking about it since bowl practice, or anything like that."
Thomas, who caught one pass for 5 yards this year while also serving as OSU's top kickoff return man, said he also views the clash with the Ducks as a chance to show what he can do.
"I'm not excited about the fact that my reason for having a lot of playing time is because of two other players' mistakes, but I'm happy about the fact that I may get the opportunity to play and the opportunity to play some plays," Thomas said. "I'm excited about that."
He also said he understood why he was having trouble cracking the rotation, pointing to his adjustment from being a running back in high school to a receiver at the college level.
"Coming into this year in spring ball and early in camp I started to pick up on those (nuances of the position) and I was learning those things and I was getting good at them, but I felt like I wasn't increasing during the season," Thomas said. "I was playing at a steady pace and I wasn't increasing, and that's probably one of the reasons I didn't see as much game time as I wanted to."
Another player whose name has at least surfaced once or twice when it comes to a possible leave is Keith Wells, a defensive end who barely played last year as a true freshman and then redshirted this season following a training camp injury.
However, listening to Wells on Wednesday, it doesn't sound like a potential move is in the cards.
"I definitely felt like we had a lot of depth at defensive end, and we have a lot of depth at the defensive line period," he said of the Buckeyes' team this year. "Even though I felt like I was good enough to play this year, I also felt like this year could be a learning year for me. Next year, I'll be going into the spring as a redshirt sophomore. I'll still have three years, and I definitely thought (redshirting) would be a real good learning experience. I didn't want it to be like last year where I only played 15 or 20 plays, so I thought redshirting was the best thing for me."
Moeller On Comeback Trail
Going into the 2009 season, there was a good chance junior Tyler Moeller was going to be a starting linebacker for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State fans know what happened next. An incident in Florida during August resulted in Moeller suffering a head injury that kept him out for the year and ended with charges filed against a Florida man, Ralph Decker, for assault.
The good news for Moeller, then, is that he is progressing on his rehab along schedule and is in California for the team's Rose Bowl game.
"About a month ago I started fast-pace walking, I guess you could say, and now I'm lifting a little bit," he said. "Not anything too strenuous. I'm doing lightweight stuff. January is going to be a big month to make that transition. We'll see how that feels, but I feel great right now."
Moeller said he did suffer a dizzy spell while lifting weights two weeks ago, but that hasn't happened since and wasn't totally unexpected because doctors don't expect him to be 100 percent until at least February. After that, he might take part in a few spring contact sessions, but the real goal is to be ready for the 2010 season.
"Yeah, I mean, that's the hope. That's the goal," he said. "I think I'll be able to play next year, but we'll see in the following months. Right now, everything is going well and I'm starting to lift again. I feel good. I feel better every day."
At this point, the biggest challenge is taking baby steps to meet his goals, something the linebacker once dubbed the "Tasmanian Devil" occasionally has trouble with. Undersized at 6-0, 216 pounds, the Cincinnati native had 26 tackles over his first two seasons thanks to his unending motor and aggressive nature.
"I just want to do everything, but I have to take it slow," Moeller said. "I have to do that sometimes. I understand if I go too hard something bad can happen, and I won't have a chance next year. I'm just taking it slow and seeing how things go. It's going good right now so we'll see."
Dex Back In Saddle
One of the biggest things – literally – the Ohio State defense missed in the second half of the season was the presence of 300-pound nose guard Dexter Larimore.
The junior made 17 tackles in the Buckeyes' first five games, but he suffered a knee injury in the first half of that fifth game at Indiana. After missing three games, Larimore returned to play in the final four, but his time was limited and he made only one tackle.
As a result, Larimore said he wasn't the same player in November that he was two months earlier.
"A lot of my power comes from my legs and having those kinds of injuries is always a little bit of a mind thing," he said. "Now I don't think about it, I don't worry about it. It's just great to get back out there and play football."
One might gather from that statement that Larimore is feeling good heading into the Rose Bowl, and that would be a true assessment.
"I'd say I'm probably as close to 100 percent as I've ever been," he said. "This time off between the Michigan game and bowl practice helped me out a lot. I don't really even feel it anymore or anything like that. I can just get out there and play."