COLUMBUS, Ohio — With under two weeks until kickoff, the excitement for this coming Ohio State football season can hardly be contained, which seems to be the sentiment across the board from players to coaches to fans.
The Most Exciting Newcomers for the OSU Offense Will Actually Be Familiar Faces
By Tony Gerdeman
Following an undefeated season, the possibilities for this team flitter like butterflies of opportunity, tickling the nose and tilting a smile.
After all, when you're swarmed with options on offense like the Buckeyes are right now, it's easy to get caught up in the spinning perplexion of all of the readily available what ifs at Tom Herman's disposal.
The coaches worked hard in the offseason, recruiting the necessary parts to make the future more promising. They were successful all over the nation, and the results have been the talk of the town since camp opened.
Urban Meyer talks about adding speed like Sarah Winchester talked about adding rooms to her mansion. There can never be enough. There is no finish line. Work must continue around the clock.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Those results have led to this Ohio State offense being faster than it was a year ago. And how could it not? Adding freshmen Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, James Clark and Jalin Marshall would make any team faster.
There is so much more that this offense can now do just based on the speed that has been added. Soon, possibilities will start to become probabilities, and "what if" will become "when".
But relying on freshmen to turn an already good offense into a great offense is like relying on a screen door to make the temperature in your home more tolerable – half of the year, it's the absolute wrong thing to do.
Freshmen are best left as complements, and the good thing for Ohio State is that this is exactly what they'll be. There is already talent here, led by veterans Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, and they have done nothing but impress the coaches since the end of last season.
"I think it’s just production, understanding the offense, but ultimately it comes back to production," receivers coach Zach Smith explained.
Photo by Dan Harker
"I mean there’s other guys that are talented, there’s other guys that we’re going to rely on, there’s other guys that need to come along and I don’t know if they’ll get in that category, but get close. Those three have on a consistent basis, this fall camp, this training camp, produced. It’s not talent, it’s not effort, it’s just the production."
Since the spring, four different Ohio State receivers have been named "starters". Urban Meyer called slot receiver Chris Fields a starter following the spring game. Everybody knows about returning starters Smith and Brown. Then this week, Tom Herman called Spencer a starter as well.
The Buckeyes probably won't be trotting out four receivers in their starting lineup every week, but it's certainly an indication of the comfort level that the coaches now have for this veteran group of receivers.
Smith and Brown spent their offseasons becoming more complete receivers, almost trying to become what the other was best at. Brown worked on his deep routes, which Smith is known for, and Smith worked on his inside game, which is where Brown led the team in receiving last year.
Photo by Dan Harker
Then there's Evan Spencer, who has been consistently named as the most improved receiver on the team. Those accolades have come from the coaches, his fellow receivers, and the defense who is having to deal with him.
"What he's showed flashes of at times, he's really done consistently," Smith said.
"He's probably the one receiver that I'm most pleased with the step he took. That's not to take away from Philly or Devin or guys like that that have taken steps, but Evan has really taken a bigger step."
Adding Spencer to Smith and Brown makes this unit much more formidable, and the infusion of each other's game into their own repertoires will make them much less predictable than a year ago.
The amount that these three receivers have grown since last season should excite fans much more than the freshmen who have been brought in. After all, it's not going to be the freshmen who are carrying this passing game, it will be the veterans.
The better the vets, the better everything on offense will be. Take it from a defensive coach.
"The development of Evan Spencer and Devin and Philly is visible," said cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
"It's palpable when you're on the other side of the ball, so we have a lot of work cut out for us every day."
While the talk of the electric freshmen is certainly real, the ultimate fate of this Ohio State passing game will be determined by the same guys Braxton Miller threw to last season.
The good news is that every report out of camp has been nothing but positive.
"I think it's been a long process, but it's not something that could have happened over night," Smith said.
"I think that where we're at right now is 'Okay, we've taken a step, we're no longer dysfunctional, now lets really go be the best receiver unit in the country', so that's the next step we have to take, consistent domination as a group. When we take that step, I'll be really pleased."
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