Smith says there are no starters at WR

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Last updated: 02/22/2014 2:14 AM
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Zach Smith on the OSU Receivers: "There Is Not a Starter In My Room."
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rarely does a team return two starting wide receivers and the receivers coach reacts as if he has been banished to the darkened realms of square one, but here we are.

That's not to say that Smith isn't excited about what he has returning, but the level of performance of last year's starters isn't enough to keep others from challenging their positions.

Devin Smith and Evan Spencer each started 12 games last season, combining for 66 receptions, 876 yards and 11 touchdowns. By comparison, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago.

Devin Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Devin Smith

While Smith isn't looking for Watkins-type production from his receivers, he is looking for something more than what the Buckeyes have given him so far.

Case in point: in Ohio State's last five games in 2013, Smith and Spencer combined for just seven total catches.

"I told my guys after a workout that I'm not confident that there's any delineation between any other wideout," Smith said recently.

"The way the younger guys develop by the end of the year, I think it's gonna be a dogfight to see who's gonna start and who's gonna get the ball and who's gonna do those things. Nobody's spot is safe, but you also have to respect what guys have done the last two years. Evan's done a lot for us, Devin's done a lot for us. They're not starters right now, but they definitely have an edge because of what they've done for us for two years."

Zach Smith's words might be a bit of a surprise given that Devin Smith has 22 starts to his credit and 1,572 career receiving yards, but the Buckeyes are expecting better. If Smith can't give that to them, then they will look for somebody who can.

"I've got a group of guys that are fighting for spots, Devin included," Smith said. "There is not a starter in my room."

"Devin needs to consistently make plays. He also needs to take that step from being a really good receiver to try to push to become a great one. He has the ability, but he hasn't done it yet. He's made a lot of plays and showed flashes, and was much more consistent this year than last year. But to be the player he should be and needs to be, it needs to be on every down. It needs to be every time."

There will certainly be a number of other receivers to choose from, such as upperclassmen like Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Jeff Greene. Another that Smith will be keeping his eye on is redshirt freshman James Clark, who had a leg injury last year which cost him his season.

"He's doing well," Smith said of Clark. "He's walking around and doing everything. Hopefully in spring ball he'll be able to do some stuff and we'll see where he's at."

Smith isn't necessarily looking for certain types of receivers to emerge and fill roles, rather he's just looking for players who will make plays. Everybody learns every position, which then allows Smith the freedom to put his best play makers in the best spots to make those plays.

Basically, Zach Smith doesn't care who is running his routes, just as long as they do something big with the football immediately afterward.

"You want great players on the field," he explained.

"I don't care if they're 5-foot-1 and 110 pounds, or if they're 6-foot-5 and 220. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that they're a great player and they're ready to go make a play, and when the game is on the line they will make the play.

"I like electric guys that are going to take the football and put it across the end line. I want it in the endzone. I don't care how big you are. It doesn't matter. Just get it in the endzone. It's nice to have size, but I like playmakers."

Smith says that he doesn't currently have any starters in his room, but if one or two of his receivers start making plays, then he can be expected to change his tune pretty quickly.

At least that's what he's hoping.

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