Since the arrival of coach Urban Meyer and his spread offense at Ohio State, the holdover wide receivers have needed as much time as they could get learning what they had to do to be successful on the field.
Meyer’s offense demands to have a player with the ability to play a hybrid, pivot position that Percy Harvin made famous at Florida for it to be successful. But with redshirt senior Jordan Hall battling through injuries in 2012, only playing seven games, the pressure was on the rest of the receivers to pick up the slack.
Only four players caught more than 10 passes in the team’s 12-0 campaign, with senior Corey Brown hauling in a team-leading 60. Junior Devin Smith caught 30, since graduated Jake Stoneburner had 16 receptions and junior Evan Spencer caught 12.
Much maligned by Meyer in the first year of the new system, year two may prove to be a little kinder to the Buckeye wideouts.
Wide receivers coach Zach Smith knew his unit had a lot of growing up to do, but is pleased with how far they have come.
“A year ago I told everyone that it was a young group that needed to grow up and develop and get better and that’s something that they’ve done,” Smith said Saturday. “Fast forward a year, they’ve had trials, tribulations, had hard times, had great successes but they have grown from the mistakes and matured as a group.”
The returning receivers echoed their coach, and said being in their second year with Meyer’s system makes all the difference.
“It’s so much smoother,” Spencer said. “Everybody is flowing faster. We all know our assignments and we are reacting instead of trying to think. That’s the biggest thing that we have improved on since last year.”
Corey Brown, who said he has gained six pounds this offseason, thinks the offense as a whole can be one of the best in the country if played to its potential.
“I think this year you can expect our offense to shoot up the charts if we keep doing what we are doing and try to eliminate the stupid mistakes,” Brown said. “We could be one of the top offenses in the country.”
The influx of young talent in the form of freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall coupled with the returning players’ improvements makes Zach Smith particularly satisfied.
“You feel more rewarded because you’re seeing what you’re trying to get done,” Smith said. “I think it’s been a long process and it’s not something that could have happened overnight.”
Smith said he is pleased to know that the receivers have taken a step to where they are “no longer dysfunctional” but is looking for them to get better and become the best receiving unit in the country. He said Spencer’s growth has been most evident.
“Evan Spencer has really had a great eight practices,” Smith said. “What he’s showed flashes of at times he’s really done consistently. He’s probably the one receiver that I’m most pleased with.”
Smith said that Wilson is a talented player who at times “doesn’t know left from right” or to “go ten yards or twenty yards,” but loves how hard he plays.
“You watch a play where he’s really insignificant to the play but the speed at which he goes and the effort he gives makes you go ‘Wow, look at that,’” Smith said. “And that is a beautiful thing.”
OSU is scheduled to continue practice Monday morning.