When the Buckeyes returned the vast majority of their receivers from last season, they entered 2018 way ahead of the curve.
Because there are established playmakers at each of the three receiver positions, there won’t be much of a learning curve to deal with.
And the deepest of the three receiver spots appears to be H-back.
Not only do the Buckeyes return their top two pass catchers in K.J. Hill (56-549-3) and Parris Campbell (40-584-3), but also C.J. Saunders (17-221-1) and Demario McCall. Together, the four of them give the Ohio State offense something unique no matter who is on the field.
Hill was the most consistent receiver for the Buckeyes out of the slot last year. Campbell was a big play waiting to be called on the ground or in the air. Saunders is a walk-on, but showed a real ability to get open and catch whatever came his way. McCall was a running back a year ago, but has now made the full transition to receiver. He will give the Buckeyes more of a running back option, which they haven’t had at the position since Curtis Samuel’s departure following the 2016 season.
This is a wide range of talents and skills all playing the same position, and will only get wider when 5-star freshman Jaelen Gill arrives in the summer.
According to OSU receivers coach Zach Smith, what they ask the H-back to do has always depended upon what the players are capable of doing. That was the case early in Urban Meyer’s tenure with guys like Jake Stoneburner and Philly Brown, and continues today with Campbell and Company.
“That position has always been based on personnel,” Smith said. “It’s not like we walk in and say ‘the H-back position is some hybrid running back’ which a lot of times people say and think, but Curtis (Samuel) did a lot in the throw game too. We motioned him into the backfield some, but when you had Mike Weber two years ago it’s not like we were looking for a running back.”
In fact, Samuel’s 74 receptions were the most for a receiver under Urban Meyer at Ohio State. He was probably the prototype for the position, but he’s not the only kind of player who can succeed there.
“Curtis was just a playmaker and we were trying to get the ball in his hands as much as we could,” Smith said. “We probably did that less last year than previous years, but Parris can do all of the stuff that Curtis did. There’s nothing that he can’t do.
“It’s just a matter of what we want to be on offense. We brought in two new coordinators last year. We still did some of it, but not as much. That was their influence on the offense. We found other ways to get Parris the ball. It’s all still there.”
With Campbell, Hill, McCall, and Saunders, the Buckeyes have the potential to do anything they want with the H-back position. Each of them are playmakers in their own rights, but together they give the Ohio State offense whatever it needs on any given snap.