Today’s Topic: Who Is Playing Where At Receiver For Ohio State?
Whenever we’ve written about the receivers here, we throw letters around like “X”, “Z”, and “H,” but we don’t always explain who is where and what each position does.
The H-back has been the premier receiver spot for most of Urban Meyer’s career, and that was certainly the case last year when H-backs Parris Campbell and KJ Hill combined for 158 receptions, 1,928 yards, and 18 touchdowns. They control the middle of the field for the most part, stretching and straining a defense east and west.
Campbell is gone, but Hill is back and will be counted on heavily.
“So KJ is the most productive guy coming back,” head coach Ryan Day said recently. “He’s our H. He’s really come back strong. Probably our best route runner and again, most productive guy. He’s really good. The defense that we’re seeing, it’s a little bit different than we’ve seen in the past, so maybe not getting as many targets, but that’s more about the defense and that will come throughout practice. But he’s H.”
The X and Z are the two outside positions. The Z is the speedier guy generally. Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon are two examples. Deep threats — like Devin Smith. They are also thrown quick screens, which you’ll probably see even more of this year. And this spring they’ve also been running some speed sweeps when the quarterbacks have been under center.
“At Z, we’ve been working — Austin Mack’s kind of going back and forth, X and Z,” Day said. “And then Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are also working at Z.”
The move of Mack from X to Z was done in an effort to get the three best receivers — Mack, Hill, Binjimen Victor — on the field together. Generally, the X is usually the bigger frame, which is where Mack and Victor played last year. You can call them “possession receivers” if you like, but don’t do it to their faces.
Think of an X like a post player and think of the first-down line as the paint. The bigger receivers post up against smaller defenders and fight for the ball on third-and-8.
At Ohio State, the receivers need to learn all of the positions, which is why McLaurin was able to move to X last year when Mack went down, and Mack is able to play Z this spring and not miss a beat.
“Then going back to the X position, Binjimen Victor’s been playing X,” Day said. “Austin can play X. Jaylen Harris can play X. So that’s been kind of how it’s worked. CJ Saunders is working at H as well. We’ve been using Jeremy Ruckert as an H in 12 (two tight end) personnel some. Ellijah Gardiner’s been working at the Z. Garyn Prater’s been working at X and then Jaelen Gill’s also working at H.”
Even though Austin Mack doesn’t resemble Terry McLaurin or Johnnie Dixon, Day is confident that Mack and Victor can operate together on the field at the same time.
“Yeah. Austin, he’s played so much X, he knows that position really, really well,” Day said. “At any point he could go back. It’s kind of like what Terry McLaurin did. He knew Z really well and then midway through the season, he jumped over to X. It gives him more value. It gives him more versatility, like anything else. We can always put him back at X, but we want to try to get the best receivers on the field at once, so that gives him this spring to learn Z, so he has that in his back pocket.”