New, Yet Veteran Faces Should Bolster OSU Passing Attack
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was an up-and-down season for the Ohio State passing game last year, and during those ebbs and flows, there were three Buckeyes receivers who had to sit back and watch it all happen.
Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Jeff Greene had all tasted previous college football experience, and yet for various reasons, each of them sat the season out while they redshirted.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Thomas had played the year before at Ohio State, and was one of the stars in each of the past two springs. Smith was a junior college signee who was expected to help out immediately. Greene, meanwhile, was the only receiver who knew that he would redshirt coming to Ohio State.
Greene, who at 6-foot-5 and 220-odd pounds, could pass for a defensive end, sat out the 2013 season as a transfer from Georgia Tech. He had played in 25 games in his first two season with the Yellow Jackets, leading the team with 18 receptions in 2012.
He chose to walk on at Ohio State and attempt to earn a scholarship with his play on the field. According to OSU receivers coach Zach Smith, the Buckeyes don't have anybody else like Greene, and he's interested to see how the redshirt junior progresses.
"He's a bigger receiver," Smith said.
"We don't have a lot of long, tall, physical receivers like he is. He had a good fall, but he obviously couldn't play because of his transfer. I'm excited to see him in the spring. The development when a kid first gets here, that first calendar year is night and day. I'm excited to see what we've got in the spring because it should be even a greater version of himself."
For Corey Smith (6-1 191), the transition from junior college to Ohio State was a bit slower than anticipated. The Akron native may have gotten a rough start in Columbus, but he ended up making the progression that his coach wanted to see.
Photo by Dan Harker
"Corey had as good of a fall as you can have without playing," Smith said.
"He came in and was not anywhere close to being ready to play. By the end of the year he probably could have been playing, but at that point it was too late and you're not going to waste a year on a kid with only two years left.
"I'm really excited about him in the fall, as long as he continues down the path that he's on. If he doesn't...obviously that's my job to make sure he does. So I'm really excited about him. He'll provide a lot of competition and depth and hopefully be able to go and compete for a spot."
Michael Thomas (6-3 202) began the 2013 offseason with significant expectations, both from himself and the coaches. Despite his efforts, however, he was never able to break through and see the field, but even though he didn't play a single snap last season, he was listed on the depth chart as a back-up to Devin Smith all season long.
"Corey and Mike were guys that redshirted, but I prepared them every week to play," Smith said.
"Because we redshirted so many players this past year, there wasn't an opportunity to just redshirt them and let them have a year to develop. They were preparing to play because one injury and they're in. So they got the benefit of preparing like they were playing, but they didn't waste a year.
"The strides they made this past fall, I was very pleased. They made phenomenal strides. They've got to continue it in the spring so that they can really get in the mix."
That preparation to play should help Thomas and Smith pick up right where they left off last season, but this time around they'll actually be looking at getting some game action.
Greene, meanwhile, got to spend last season deconstructing himself from a receiver in a triple-option offense, to a receiver that will be asked to do more than just run block. Rest assured, however, he will still be asked to run block.
It's rare for a player to redshirt in the middle of his career, and the hope is that each of these three players will be much more ready to contribute than they were a year ago.
Despite having so many receivers on the roster that didn't play last season, the Buckeyes would seem to have three who will be able to blend in rather seamlessly because of their previous experiences on the field.
If the Ohio State passing game is going to take another step, the Buckeyes will need help from their receivers, and if they can get it from their veterans, then that's even better.
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