Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
While the biggest question heading into Ohio State football’s 2011 season seems to be the starting quarterback battle, another big question remains for the Buckeyes: who will that quarterback’s targets be?
With the graduation of former OSU wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and the five-game suspension of current senior DeVier Posey, the Buckeyes will be forced to rely on a group of young receivers for much of the season.
Head coach Luke Fickell said he isn’t worried.
“I believe we have some young guys who have stepped up,” Fickell said. “I think as a whole, where we thought we might be real thin and young…in the long run we’re gonna have a lot of guys who are gonna have a lot of play-making ability.”
The Buckeyes’ youth at the receiver position was on full display during Saturday’s jersey scrimmage at Ohio Stadium. Underclassmen members of the team that saw playing time during the contest included redshirt freshmen Verlon Reed and T.Y. Williams, true freshmen Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, redshirt sophomore Chris Fields and sophomore Corey ‘Philly’ Brown.
Among those six, only Brown is a previous letter winner.
Despite only being a sophomore, Brown said he has tried to mentor the other young receivers.
“Me, Evan (Spencer) and Devin (Smith) in the summertime worked out a lot,” Brown said. “I brought Devin and Evan in to try and help out with the routes because I remember when I first came in. It was hard for me to run some of the more complicated routes.”
All the young receivers point to Posey as a leader and mentor as well.
“(Posey) ever since I’ve been here has shown and a lot and is still being a tutor to us and he’s always been a good person,” Fields said. “He’s teaching me still how to play the game: where to be and where not to be. He’s always been a team player and a leader.”
Posey said he has done his best to share his experience and knowledge with the younger receivers.
“I can’t wait to see the boys out there playing,” Posey said. “They’re making great strides every week and great strides every day.”
Smith scored one of only three touchdowns during Saturday’s scrimmage after quarterback Joe Bauserman lofted a ball deep to him for a 55-yard gain to set up an eventual touchdown.
“Devin (Smith) had a good play,” wide receivers coach Stan Drayton said. “He did nothing but what we asked him to do; he was very productive and didn’t flinch. A lot of times you don’t know about a freshman until you get them out there live.”
Drayton also said he is confident in the young group as a whole.
“There has been great effort; they have given me a tremendous amount of enthusiasm out there,” he said. “We still have a long ways to go but we are definitely going in the right direction.
“The freshmen came in and are doing everything we’re asking them to do. The learning curve is through the roof right now, but they’ve taken it all in stride and any mistakes they’ve made have been at 100 miles per hour.”
Fields made arguably the biggest play of Saturday’s scrimmage as he adjusted to an under-thrown pass from quarterback Braxton Miller and eluded the defense for a 58-yard score.
“Chris Fields has been phenomenal playing the inside receiver position for us,” Drayton said. “He’s becoming a more versatile wide receiver We can kind of move him around a little bit and he can be effective for us in a lot of different spots.”
Dayton also said to look for Reed to be a contributor.
“Verlon Reed has been very steady,” he said. “He has some big play capabilities and we expect him to be that kind of a guy that we can give him the ball and make something happen after the catch as well.”
Williams, the 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, may not be ready to contribute, Drayton said.
“He’s a big-bodied type that still needs to learn how to use his body as a weapon, but he’s doing a lot of things right,” he said.
Fickell said he expects production from each of the young receivers.
“I’d look for all those young receivers to contribute in some way, whether that’s catching balls, blocking or playing in some special teams,” he said. “As a whole I’ve been very impressed with that group.”