We wrap up our spring To-Do lists with a look at the wide receivers for the Ohio State football program. The Buckeyes return every receiver who was on the team over the second half of last season. That’s 211 receptions, 2,982 yards, and 31 touchdowns coming back, which is a ridiculous amount of production and experience.
And yet, there is still plenty of room for growth. That process began well before spring ball, but continues at a more determined pace over these final three weeks of camp.
For several of the OSU receivers, spring will be refresher course. They can’t take it easy, however, because there are still players looking to break into a rotation that has been on lockdown since last spring.
With so many players returning, and so much potential still waiting to emerge, goals and tasks can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. In order to keep that from happening, here is a handy-dandy to-do list for receivers coach Zach Smith.
1. Work on Binjimen Victor’s consistency.
After having at least one catch in Ohio State’s first seven games last season — and totaling 18 receptions for 245 and four touchdowns — Binjimen Victor finished with just five catches for 104 yards and three touchdowns over the Buckeyes’ final seven games. There were some drops in there, and as the competition got better, Victor wasn’t as productive. Of course, all receiving numbers dipped over the second half of the season. This can be attributed to poorer weather, better competition, or quarterback play. It’s most likely a combination of all three, and it pre-dates J.T. Barrett. Receivers who are more consistent, however, could help things greatly. This isn’t just a Binjimen Victor issue, as inconsistency has been an issue for just about everybody one time or another.
2. Improve the deep ball.
Improving the deep ball is a goal every spring for the Ohio State football program. That will continue this spring, but the focus should also be on actually coming down with the ball. Last year, the concern was simply getting the football thrown accurately. That will be the case this spring as well, but the need to improve on bringing the ball down is a necessity. Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell have had issues in the past, and as two-thirds of OSU’s leading receivers, they need to be more reliable when it comes to stretching the field.
3. See what the young guys have.
The Buckeyes brought in three wide receivers in the 2017 recruiting class, but lost one when Trevon Grimes transferred back home to Florida. Jaylen Harris played in a few games last season and caught two passes, while Ellijah Gardiner redshirted. Together, they are both big targets. Harris has people excited about what he can do. Gardiner, however, is still a mystery, which is why he intrigues me. He’s a 6-foot-3 200-pound track guy, so I’m interested to see how he has progressed since being brought in as essentially a big, fast, project.
4. Find specific roles for each player.
One of the great things about New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick is how well he can find specific roles for each of his players. They will sign free agents that other teams don’t want because he sees something that they can do very well, so he’ll sign them to just do that one thing. With so many returning receivers — and more guys wanting to break into the lineup, perhaps Zach Smith can figure out the various niches for each of his guys. C.J. Saunders mentioned something similar a couple of weeks ago. He specifically knows that he will probably be a niche guy, but he is always on call and ready to go. Finding what players excel at may not lead to “micro” changes, but it will allow the Buckeyes to better coordinate the offense when it comes to knowing who does what and how well they do it. This could be an area where Ryan Day gets involved as well.
5. Keep Demario McCall busy.
With K.J. Hill out this spring and a heavily-experienced Parris Campbell not needing the kind of snaps that others do, there is an opportunity for redshirt sophomore Demario McCall to get a huge number of reps this spring. McCall moved to H-back at the end of the last season for the Buckeyes, so he is still learning the craft. He is more comfortable by the day, but this is a chance for him to build his confidence and consistency. McCall has the potential to be one of the best playmakers for Ohio State football this season. If that is going to occur, this spring will play a significant role in making it happen. I say just let him see what he can do and let the hype build.