Redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton broke the Ohio State record for most touchdown passes in a game against Florida A&M, but he didn’t do it alone.
He had to have someone to throw to.
Through four games, four Buckeye wide receivers have at least two touchdowns and 75 yards receiving. At this point in 2012, only two players on the team had reached these numbers.
Junior Devin Smith (281 yards and four touchdowns), senior Corey “Philly” Brown (169 yards and three touchdowns), senior Chris Fields (82 yards and four touchdowns) and junior Evan Spencer (78 yards and two touchdowns) have helped the Buckeyes passing attack average 36.5 yards more through the air than it did all of last season.
Guiton, who filled in for injured junior quarterback Braxton Miller for the last two games, has had the help of a more mature receiving corps than No. 4 OSU (4-0) had last year, wide receivers coach Zach Smith said.
“It’s probably the biggest thing we needed to do coming into this year, is not just have Philly Brown and Devin Smith running vertical. We needed to establish a wider arsenal of skill players to use,” Zach Smith said. “So that was critical for us, because defenses can take away one guy, one position. But if they have to worry about across the board five skill players at every snap, everything opens up. That was something we really needed to do this year and fortunately, it’s happening so far.”
Another option for the Buckeye quarterbacks this season has been junior tight end Jeff Heuerman, who is third on the team with 88 yards receiving and a touchdown this year. Heuerman said it will be hard to stop OSU with the amount of depth they have on offense.
“We got so much depth on our team. We have so much depth from the receivers, running backs, to our tight ends, everybody,” Heuerman said. “We’re so skilled all around that we can make plays. We’re an up-tempo offense and that combined with all the talent we have on offense really does well for us.”
Zach Smith said Devin Smith in particular has developed particularly well from 2012, becoming more of an all-around player this season.
“He’s improved, but he’s been a dynamic vertical threat since I got here,” Zach Smith said. “He can run, he can run (a) straight line, and the steps he’s made have been more at becoming a receiver as opposed to just a deep threat guy.”
Devin Smith’s main improvement has come in widening his knowledge of the defense and working on his ability to catch shorter passes, Zach Smith said.
“Where his development has really came has been in the throws that are more intermediate throws; the routes that are more intermediate routes. He’s really taken steps in doing that,” Zach Smith said. “As far as the deep routes, he has a better understanding of how to lock a corner’s hips or turn a guy opposite of where he’s trying to go.”
But still, Devin Smith’s deep play ability is appreciated by the offense because it helps the other players, Zach Smith said.
“A guy like that with vertical threat, where corners really have to honor him vertically, like you said, 41 yards a touchdown catch is kind of astounding,” Zach Smith said. “They see that on film, so once he has that threat, there is that fear of getting beat deep; everything else opens up.”
Another receiver who has stepped up this season is Spencer, who already has surpassed his career high in touchdowns in the first four games of the season and is on pace for a career high in receiving yards.
The recipient of two of Guiton’s touchdown passes against Florida A&M, including the record-breaker, Spencer said with the number of skilled receivers OSU has, it will be difficult for opposing defenses to stop them all.
“The sky’s (the) limit for our offense,” Spencer said. “We have so many weapons and we can do so many different things, I mean, like I said, I can’t even imagine all the things we can do.”
Zach Smith said he was excited for Spencer, who before Saturday only had one touchdown reception in his career, to get in the end zone.
“It was great to see him go out and finally get in the end zone and (much) of that has had a lot to do with kind of the situation we’ve been in and what defenses were giving us as to why he didn’t beforehand,” Zach Smith said. “But he’s very, very capable and it was good to see him do that.”
He said Spencer has grown from an average player that worked hard to a good receiver for the Buckeyes.
“Every aspect of his game has improved,” Zach Smith said. “He was always a very good kid who worked hard, but he’s taken steps to improve the details of being a receiver, and that’s in blocking on the perimeter. That’s in running routes. That’s in getting open on one on one coverage. He’s improved every aspect of his game.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to play host to Wisconsin in their Big Ten opener, and Zach Smith said he isn’t worried about the Badgers changing their defensive game plan against the OSU receivers.
“Obviously, they are going to play to their personnel, so I don’t know what their philosophy will be down the road, but it’s a little different, a little different than it was last year,” Zach Smith said. “Probably a little more man coverage, more press man, a little more challenging for the wide receivers, but nothing dramatic.”
Guiton agreed it will be a struggle for the Badgers to slow down a Buckeye offense that averages 529 yards a game.
“That’s a problem for them. They need to figure out what they want to do and we’ll come out prepared and ready to go,” Guiton said.
Kickoff against No. 23 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0) is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium.