Over the last two seasons, Ohio State wide receivers have caught a total of 42 touchdown passes. That might sound like a lot, but compare that number to the 33 they caught in 2014 alone, and you can see a downward trend that nobody with the Buckeyes is satisfied with.
A receiver’s connection with the end zone should never be overlooked. Instead, those 4,800 square feet worth six points should be embraced, which is what the Ohio State receivers did a few years back when they dubbed themselves “Zone 6.”
The problem with such a name, however, is that the end zone has to become a home and not some far off place talked about in the past or future tense. You can’t just be a pen-pal with the end zone, you have to be a resident.
The Buckeyes as an offense didn’t get that done last year, and there were sweeping changes made because of it.
“I feel like change is good for everybody and we had a lot of change this year,” said junior receiver Terry McLaurin. “We’re changing from where we practice on the field to our warm-ups, walk-throughs, everything is changing. I feel like it’s eye opening for when you have a smack in the mouth like we did. But everybody can just step back and reflect and take that next step forward because now we know what it takes to get past that next step. There’s just more urgency I feel like and we’re not going to let anything get by us this year.”
While the Ohio State offense isn’t changing, there are some… adjustments being implemented. Tempo has returned with a vengeance, and putting the receivers into better opportunities to actually reach the end zone are once again thought to be in play.
“Definitely,” McLaurin said. “They’ve got some really nice concepts that get us into space. The deep ball as well. It’s just more emphasis on that and some rub routes that we’re doing. Just their tempo and their mentality coming to it is just attack. We want to be attacking a defense and we don’t want to be predictable. I just feel like, getting feedback from the defense, we’re just not as predictable as we were. I feel like they brought that type of mentality to the offense this year.”
Remember watching the offense last year and shaking your head at what you were seeing? You weren’t alone, and based on the results this spring, the dejected head shake may be giving way to the emphatic nod.
“Swagger is coming back to our offense I feel like,” McLaurin said. “When we make a big play, it’s not just, ‘Oh, it’s another play.’ The offense, we stop practice and it gets hype in here because we make big plays. Because those are game-changing plays. Coach (Ryan) Day says all the time, if we make a big deep route, those are game-changing plays. Those help you win games. Coach (Kevin) Wilson and Coach Day, they’ve been a great addition to our offense. We’re building great relationships with them right now.”
There were many issues with the passing game last year, be it lack of separation, inaccuracy, poor routes, bad timing, inconsistent pass protection, or what have you. It led to a lack of trust in an area where such a thing is paramount. There is no singular fix, which is why it takes more than just a new coach or some new plays to get things righted. It also requires a new mentality and a confidence that was missing last year.
“I feel like there was a little bit of a gap,” McLaurin said of the receivers’ confidence. “But at the same time, I just feel like we have the players to do it. It’s just that consistency that we need. And now there’s such a clear objective of what is expected from the head coach, offensive coordinator, from Coach (Zach) Smith. Now it’s our job to do it as players. And if you don’t, then you’re just not going to play.”