Spring Recap: H-Backs

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2014 Spring Positional Recap: H-Back
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In year three of Urban Meyer's offense, the promise of the potential of the H-Back position continues to grow. After seeing how well it worked in Florida, the anticipation for the same to happen at Ohio State hasn't ceased even a little.

A year ago it looked like Jordan Hall would man the role and give it the boost that the Buckeyes needed. The three-game suspension of Carlos Hyde halted that plan, however, as Hall was needed at running back, and never really got much of a look at H-Back.

Still, Philly Brown took on the role and led the team with 63 receptions for 771 yards and 10 touchdowns. He showed how important the position is to Meyer and Tom Herman's passing game, and it's the same thing that was seen this spring with Dontre Wilson.

Wilson played the H in a limited role last season, finishing with 55 total touches from scrimmage. That number could double this season as the H-back will likely be much more involved in the Ohio State running game.

Dontre Wilson
Photo by Jim Davidson
Dontre Wilson

"We're excited about Dontre and what he's able to do, his versatility," said receivers coach Zach Smith.

"But that's not something – I don't think Philly was incapable of doing a lot of those things. We did some of them with him. But I think as the offense grows and my group gets better and we develop our offense, that will be more of a versatile position. We're excited about Dontre in that position, and Jalin Marshall."

This should be a position of strength for the Buckeyes, and a position of consternation and difficulty for the rest of the Big Ten.

Returning Starter: None

Others Returning: Dontre Wilson (5-10 190, So.), Jalin Marshall (5-11 205, rFr.)

Dontre Wilson was one of the stars of spring football for the Buckeyes, and that was primarily as a pass catcher. Given the importance of the H-Back position in this offense, Wilson is a good bet to lead the team in receptions in 2014.

It wasn't until later in the spring that Wilson was finally used in the running game a little. That role will increase this season, and Wilson says that he is ready for it.

"I'm 190 (pounds) now so hopefully I'll get a lot of backfield action in the slot," he said this spring.

He played so well that earlier this spring Zach Smith said he was the team's most consistent receiver, despite having played the position for less than a year.

"He's probably performing at the highest level in the group right now," Smith said. "I don't know if he's the focal point of the offense, but he's probably a focal point just as far as the effort and consistency goes. Definitely that."

Wilson was a mismatch against safeties this spring, and over the middle of the field the linebackers struggled to stay with him in pass coverage. As he becomes more polished as a receiver, the defensive struggles will only grow.

Like Wilson, Jalin Marshall was also making some significant noise in the spring before tearing the meniscus in his knee. He'll be back to 100% soon, but he was really coming on as a playmaker in the passing game.

Jalin Marshall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jalin Marshall

"A lot of the things that he's done so far before he got hurt were things that he didn't do last year," said senior receiver Devin Smith. "He impressed Coach Meyer a little bit before he got hurt, but I think he's one guy that could make some noise if he keeps it up."

Marshall is also new to the receiver position, but he picked it up more as the season went on last year. Redshirting as a freshman has worked out for him, and from the looks of it, he will be a useful weapon in the slot for the Buckeyes.

Both Zach Smith and Urban Meyer are excited about what Marshall can give the offense, and they expect to start seeing the results immediately this season.

Newcomers: Noah Brown (6-2 225, Fr.); Parris Campbell (6-1 184, Fr.)

While neither Noah Brown or Parris Campbell have been dubbed "H-Backs" by any of the Ohio State coaches publicly, both have the type of skill set that the position requires. Until they get on campus this summer and the coaches get a look at them, however, we won't really know if the H-Back spot is in their futures.

Brown's versatility is his biggest strength, other than perhaps his actual strength. He is as accustomed to working out wide at receiver as he is taking a handoff in the backfield and running off tackle. Ultimately, Zach Smith will put Brown where he can do the Buckeyes the most good.

"He is a big, good-looking, talented dude," Smith said. "So when he gets here, if he is what he is, then we'll be able to do a lot of things. He provides a lot of flexibility for us."

Smith has already stated that Campbell will start out at receiver, and like Brown, they'll see what he can do before they add more to his plate.

"He's gonna start out at wideout, and then we'll see what he can do, just like a lot of these kids," Smith said.

Depth Chart
Dontre Wilson (5-10 190, So.)
Jalin Marshall (5-11 205, rFr.)

Spring Links

Buckeyes Counting on More Versatility from the H-Back Position

Dontre Wilson Much Improved, But Still Progressing

Miller Likes OSU's New High-Powered Arsenal

Five for Friday: Thoughts from the First Week of Spring Practice

Noah Brown's Versatility Will Keep Team's Guessing, Including OSU for Now

Redshirt Year Behind Him, Expectations Grow for Jalin Marshall

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