Playmakers take center stage

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Last updated: 08/31/2012 10:52 PM

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Football
Playmakers Take Center Stage in Ohio Stadium

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been highly critical of his offensive skill players this offseason, but it sounds like they are starting to turn the corner just at the right time.

Meyer has rarely, if ever, been critical of his young quarterback, but Braxton Miller won’t be the only playmaker on the field for the Buckeyes Saturday. In fact, there are a number of guys to watch for in the season-opener against Miami (Ohio), especially if Meyer’s offense is as dangerous as advertised.

The Top 5

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

5 QB Braxton Miller — No player will touch the ball more often Saturday than Miller, who will orchestrate Meyer’s high-powered offense as the triggerman at the quarterback position. Quarterbacks are always going to touch the ball more than other skill guys on offense, but this will be different. Even when he’s not running or passing, Miller be more than just a glorified handoff machine on power run plays. He has to sell a fake or make a read on almost every play.

34 RB Carlos Hyde — With Jordan Hall still a week or two away, Hyde becomes the No. 2 option in Meyer’s offense behind Braxton Miller. At 6-0 and 232 pounds, Hyde is a load to bring down, but he’s also a danger to take one the distance if he gets to the second level. He should get the ball early and often from a number of different looks.

Corey Brown
Photo by Dan Harker
Corey Brown

10 WR Corey Brown — Talk about a player who emerged this offseason, Brown went from being a guy who Meyer did not like coaching early in fall camp to Ohio State’s undisputed No. 1 receiver heading into the season. He’s the fastest player on offense – it might be close between Brown and Miller – and the Buckeyes will look to get him the ball in a number of different ways on Saturday. That includes kick and punt returns.

15 WR Devin Smith — While Brown has emerged as the No. 1 guy at the receiver position, Smith could actually be Miller’s favorite target in the passing game, at least down the field. If Brown is the fastest guy on the offense, Smith is 1b and closing quickly. He is their vertical stretch guy, but also has the ability to make tough catches in traffic.

Jake Stoneburner
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jake Stoneburner

11 TE/WR Jake Stoneburner — This one should come as no surprise, as Stoneburner was the recipient of three touchdown passes in last year’s opener. He is now in an offense that can best utilize his skill set and Stoneburner should thrive on the underneath and crossing routes. He will move around as a WR or flex TE and could present matchup nightmares over the middle.

The Next 5

Bri'onte Dunn
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bri'onte Dunn

25 RB Bri’onte Dunn — Just a freshman, Dunn walked away from fall camp as the No. 2 tailback behind Hyde. He will also be featured as the No. 2 kick returner, but Dunn should get an opportunity to carry the football in Ohio State’s first game of the season.

44 FB Zach Boren — He has more tackles than carries to this point in his career, but that should all change this season. We don’t know exactly how much the offensive staff would like to get Boren the ball, but Meyer said they will even use him at tailback during his senior season. Expect to see Boren get a few carries, possibly in the red zone, during the opener – if for no other reason than to get him used to the feel of getting hit again.

Michael Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Michael Thomas

83 WR Michael Thomas — We haven’t heard a ton about Thomas since his breakout performance in the spring game, and he still hasn’t gotten his black stripe removed, but he should get some opportunities this week. He’s the backup to Devin Smith at split end, and one thing we know about Thomas is he can flat out catch the football.

80 WR Chris Fields — This is a guy we haven’t talked about a whole lot this fall, but Fields could be used in a variety of ways this weekend. He should get a chance to return to some punts at some point, and will also be moved around a little bit in a flex role on offense.

81 TE Nick Vannett — With Stoneburner playing out wide more often in this new spread attack, look for No. 81 to get some opportunities on offense. He has been one of Meyer’s favorite players during fall camp, and Vannett could actually be in the starting lineup when the Buckeyes take the field against Miami.

Outside 5

Kenny Guiton
Photo by Jim Davidson
Kenny Guiton

13 QB Kenny Guiton — We still haven’t seen it, but Meyer said he has worked on some sets with Braxton and Guiton out on the field together. Will we see that against Miami? Maybe not. It depends on whether Meyer considers it to be a wrinkle he wants to unveil against a more dangerous opponent. It’s still likely Guiton will get in the game at some point Saturday.

2 RB Rod Smith — Talk about  a player who has completely disappeared off the radar, it seems like yesterday Smith was being touted as the next great back at Ohio State. He lost the battle with Dunn, a freshman, for the backup tailback spot this fall, but that’s going to be a fluid situation. One turned ankle or one fumbled football and Smith is right back in the thick of things.

Evan Spencer
Photo by Jim Davidson
Evan Spencer

16 WR Evan Spencer — This is a kid who seems to have the makings of a solid outside receiver for the Buckeyes. Outside of Stoneburner, Spencer is one of their more physical players at the position and he should get some opportunities in the receiver rotation Saturday.

9 WR Verlon Reed — After beginning last season as a starter, Reed has been pretty quiet this fall, at least when it comes to the OSU coaches. They haven’t had much to say about the former high school quarterback, but he is getting stronger every day from the knee injury he suffered against Michigan State last year. Reed has the vertical speed to be a weapon if he’s healthy.

86 TE Jeff Heuerman — If Vannett is not in the starting lineup Saturday, it will probably be No. 86 Heuerman. He was the No. 3 TE last year behind Stoneburner and Reid Fragel, who is now at OT, but Heuerman was hampered by a nagging injury during camp. He’s an excellent blocker, and at 6-6, he can be a weapon in the passing game.

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