2012 Buckeye Rewind – Wide Receivers
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Our 2012 Buckeye Rewind series takes a look back at the 2012 Ohio State football team for a better understanding of how Urban Meyer pieced together one of the great seasons – in many ways one of the great teams – in school history.
So far we’ve touched on the Quarterbacks and tailbacks, along with Defensive Ends and defensive tackles. Today we flip back over to the offensive side of the ball for a closer look at Corey Brown, Devin Smith and the OSU wide receiver position.
Expectations Coming Into The Season
It was a wild ride for the wide receiver group in year one under Urban Meyer, maybe more so than any other position on the roster. After all, Meyer is a wide receivers coach by trade, and he was particularly hard on his group in 2012.
With good cause, though.
The Buckeyes did not have a single player on the roster who caught 15 or more passes a year ago, and Meyer knew drastic measures were needed if this group of receivers was going to put that stat firmly in the past.
Meyer called them the most unprepared group he had ever been around during the spring, and he continued to use little comments like that to poke and prod – with the hopes of motivating – guys like Corey Brown, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer all throughout the offseason.
They even moved senior tight end Jake Stoneburner over to the receiver group after he returned from his suspension over the summer in hopes of adding some leadership to a group that was sorely lacking in 2011.
How the Season Played Out
Stoneburner became a full-time receiver in the fall, spending most of his time split out wide in the slot, but he never quite became the dominant impact player some expected when Meyer and Tom Herman first came to Columbus.
The fifth-year senior out of Dublin did have the game-clinching 72-yard touchdown on a catch and run against Penn State in Happy Valley, but he finished the year with just 16 catches for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Not terrible numbers, but not what many people were expecting.
Early in the year, it was sophomore Devin Smith who emerged as Braxton Miller’s favorite target, especially in crunch time. This is the same Devin Smith who hauled in that amazing game-winner against Wisconsin during the 2011 season, and he got things going right away as a second-year player.
Smith made an unbelievable one-handed grab in the south end zone of Ohio Stadium for the first touchdown of the Urban Meyer era. He would follow that with a 72-yard touchdown to beat Cal and a 63-yard score up in East Lansing that helped the Buckeyes eek out a one-point win over Michigan State.
Photo by Dan Harker
He dropped a pair of touchdowns at Indiana, but Ohio State’s “go-get-it-guy” still hauled in what would be the game-winning touchdown on a 46-yard strike from Miller. Then, all of a sudden, Smith seemed to disappear the rest of the season. He caught just nine passes in the last five games and did not reach the end zone again.
In the meantime, Corey Brown emerged as Ohio State’s most valuable weapon at the receiver position. He went on to lead the team in catches and yardage as a junior in 2012, and scored a critical go-ahead touchdown against Michigan in the season finale.
A number of other receivers stepped along the way, including Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas, but it would be criminal to recap the receiver position without mentioning the huge touchdown grab by Chris Fields in that comeback against Purdue.
It was his only touchdown grab of the season – he had 3 of his 4 catches for the year in that game – but it came when the Buckeyes absolutely had to have it.
What Should We Expect in 2013
Photo by Jim Davidson
The only real departure from the group is Stoneburner, who caught only two passes in the last three games of the year after making that big play in State College. The rest of the group returns intact, and the Buckeyes are going to be looking for even bigger things from both Brown and Smith in 2013.
Spencer is another guy who will be in the mix at receiver, but the guy who could emerge as a sophomore this season is Michael Thomas. He had the big spring game last year, but more importantly, he has all the tools to be an impact player at this level.
The Buckeyes will also add to the group with some incoming guys, including former Middeltown quarterback Jalin Marshall. Of the bunch, Marshall is the guy who could step in and make an immediate impact for Ohio State as a freshman in 2013.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad year for one of the most maligned groups on the Ohio State football team. They still need to get Philly and Devin going at the same time, and other guys need to emerge as viable weapons in the passing game, but the 2012 season laid a good foundation for future success. Particularly because they have so many of these guys coming back.
Philly Brown really impressed me at the end of the year, and I expect him to continue to grow in his role within this offense. We already know Devin Smith can stretch the field, now it’s on him to prove he can be more consistent in all the other areas of being a receiver. We started to see that a little bit at the end of the year, but he really had to work on his route running and his timing so that corners aren’t playing so far off him that he can’t make the defense pay with his straight line speed.
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