August 10, 2013

No longer a clown show

class="st_facebook_hcount" displayText="Share">displayText="Email">

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Coined a "clown show" by head coach Urban Meyer, perhaps no other Ohio State position group was under as much scrutiny in 2012 as its wide receivers. And while they performed admirably during their team's run to a 12-0 record, the Buckeyes wideouts are still searching to get the last laugh.

"A year ago, I told everyone that it was a young group that needed to grow up and kind of develop and get better, and that's something that they've done," OSU wide receivers coach Zach Smith said of his unit. "Fast forward a year, they've had trials, tribulations, had hard times, had great successes and so they have grown and learned from mistakes, to the point where now they're able to be a mature group."

Led by second-team All-Big Ten selection Corey Brown, the Buckeyes' wideouts combined for 126 catches in 2012, one year after three players tied for the team-lead in catches with 14. The big play ability that Meyer so covets, however, was often times lacking, with the group only combining for 14 receiving touchdowns.

Smith expects that to change in 2013, with the majority of his players now entering their second season in Meyer's spread offense.

"It's no different than when you get a job or when you get in college -- anything in life, when you first do it, you're learning the delicate intricacies, day-in, day-out," Smith said. "We've taken a step, we're no longer dysfunctional, now lets really go be the best wide receiver unit in the country.

"When we take that step, I'll be really pleased."

In order to take that step, the Buckeyes will lean on a number veterans who showed flashes in 2012, starting with Brown, who tallied 60 catches for 669 yards and three touchdowns last season. The Upper Darby, Pa. native has drawn rave reviews for his improvement over the course of the offseason.

"Philly was the first to say that for however many catches he had, the fact that he didn't have 1,000 yards receiving, he even said that's a joke. I mean, what are we talking about? He's much better than that," Smith said. "He's made the conscious effort to improving his body control, how quickly he changes directions, because the natural, physical ability is there and it always has been ... he's made a conscious effort at becoming that guy."

Joining Brown as one of OSU's top returning receivers is Devin Smith, who like his aforementioned teammate, struggled with consistency in 2012.

The Massillon, Ohio native led the Buckeyes with six touchdown receptions, but only caught 30 balls, good for the second most on the team. A junior, Smith is looking to establish himself as an All-American-caliber player as he passes the midway point of his college career.

"He knows that he could lose his spot in a second -- everyone knows that," Zach Smith said. "He knows that next guy is creeping up on him, and he's as hard on himself as I am on him."

In addition to veterans Chris Fields, Evan Spencer, and Michael Thomas, some of those next guys include a trio of talented freshmen in Jalin Marshall, James Clark, and yes, Dontre Wilson. All three first-year players have shown flashes of the speed that Meyer brought them to Columbus to provide, although Brown admitted that there's still a learning curve for his new teammates.

"A lot of them are still playing kind of slow, but that's natural for a freshman to play like that right now," Brown said. "I gotta tip my hat off to a lot of the freshmen, they're playing real good right now."

If that type of play shows up this season alongside the alleged improvement from the Buckeyes' veterans, then Smith's desire for his position group to be the best in the country might not seems as laughable as it would have a year ago.


...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!