Redshirt Year Behind Him, Expectations Grow for Jalin Marshall
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2013 season did not go the way receiver Jalin Marshall had planned, nor did Marshall perform as his coaches had expected him.
A five-star signee out of Middletown, Ohio, Marshall came to Ohio State as a wide receiver, but had never played the position in high school. Instead, Marshall was one of the more dynamic option quarterbacks in the entire nation, rushing for more than 4,000 yards in his career.
Photo by Jim Davidson
When evaluating Marshall, it was easy enough to project him as a receiver. He had good showings at camps, as well as the Under Armour All-American Game, but for the first time in a long time, football did not come easily to Marshall.
The transition to playing wide receiver in college was quite difficult for him. Marshall made some plays early in fall camp, but had a setback when he suffered a concussion. That put him behind the rest of the receivers, and he was never able to catch up.
Despite the injury, and the decision to redshirt, Marshall never stopped working.
"By the end of the year I saw what we wanted and what we saw in recruiting," receivers coach Zach Smith said.
"At the beginning of the year I didn't see it at all. I knew it was in there, obviously. He's a great kid, he's gonna work hard. He was probably a little out of position coming from quarterback to receiver and the transition there. But he showed flashes by the end of this past fall. We said, 'Okay, we've got to get him going in the spring, and then next fall he'll contribute.'"
Now that the spring is almost here, they'll want Marshall to hit the field running, literally.
Urban Meyer has done a fantastic job of increasing the speed and athleticism of the skill players at Ohio State, and even though Marshall has yet to see the field, he still has the potential to be a very explosive playmaker in this Buckeye offense.
Marshall has the strength to break tackles, and the elusiveness to avoid them altogether. Having a year under his belt learning his new position, he should be very far ahead of where he was last year.
According to Smith, not seeing the field last year wasn't simply a matter of one or two things for Marshall
"I think it was a combination of everything," Smith explained.
"It was the adjustment from high school to college, the speed of the game, the complexity of the offense, going from quarterback to receiver. That's a big jump for a guy that's used to taking a snap and running around, to now he has to run routes, understand coverages, catch the ball and do things that he's never done.
"And then obviously he got injured in fall camp and then got injured again in the middle of the year. So I think it's a combination of all of the above. Minor setbacks and then the transition."
Those setbacks and that transition is a calendar ago for Marshall, and the plan now is to move him all over the field to find out what he does best. If he shows that he is as capable of making plays as his coaches thought he would be he could be very involved in the offense in 2014.
But just where might he play? He seems like a natural fit in the slot, which is where he played last fall before his injury. Zach Smith, however, has no desire to pigeon hole any of his receivers.
"I train all of my guys to play every position because the worst thing that I can be is handcuffed," he said.
"The last thing I'm ever gonna do is let a guy run a route and say, 'Man, I wish I could've had Philly there.' No, if I wish Philly's there, Philly's there. If I wish Devin there, he's there. They learn the offense conceptually, and then I put them at whatever position that I want."
As long as Marshall has the concepts down, physically, the game should come right back to him. There will be more receivers on the field for the Buckeyes this season than a year ago, and the expectations are that Marshall will be one of those receivers in the mix.
Where he will ultimately line up, however, is anybody's guess, which is exactly how Zach Smith likes it.
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