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2016 OSU Spring Forecast: Receivers and Tight Ends
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — The Buckeyes have lost five of their top six pass catchers from 2015 and return just six players who caught a pass last season, half of whom combined for just four receptions a year ago.

Arguably their top two outside receivers heading into 2016 — Noah Brown and Corey Smith — won't be full go for spring practice due to injury, so that will leave an inexperienced group even thinner. It will, however, give some terrific opportunities to some talented receivers because there will be more reps to go around.

There is a distinct lack of plays that have been made by the group that you will see during this spring, save for the H-back position, but this might be the best chance any of them has had to make an impact for the offense.

As Urban Meyer will tell you, recruiting has gone very well the last few years, so there are still some very high expectations for these receivers, even without Brown and Smith.

Depth Chart

X - Torrance Gibson / Austin Mack / Alex Stump / Johnnie Dixon
Z - Parris Campbell / Terry McLaurin / K.J. Hill / James Clark
H - Curtis Samuel / Dontre Wilson
TE - Marcus Baugh / A.J. Alexander / Rashod Berry

Injured: WR Corey Smith, WR Noah Brown
Departed: WR Mike Thomas, WR Jalin Marshall, TE Nick Vannett, HB Braxton Miller
Early Enrollees: WR Austin Mack
Freshmen Enrolling in Summer: WR Binjimen Victor, HB Demario McCall, TE Kierre Hawkins, TE Jake Hausmann, TE Luke Farrell

Expectation

This is Ohio State, so the train keeps moving forward. There is no way Urban Meyer is going to allow his receivers to regress back to the 2012 "clown show" that we all remember. There may be some struggles this spring, but it would be a disappointment for Meyer and receivers coach Zach Smith if that happens. Going against nearly an entirely new secondary during the spring, the receivers should have the advantage, they just have to do something with it.

Storyline to Watch

For my money, the competition between Torrance Gibson and Austin Mack is going to be pretty fun to watch. Each came to Ohio State as one of the top athletes in their respective recruiting classes. Gibson, at 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds with 4.47 speed, is a frustrating matchup possibility for the opposition, but Mack — two inches shorter, yet plenty feisty — is an advanced receiver for his young age. Mack actually has more experience playing the position, but Gibson has been living the receiver life in a way that Mack is only now experiencing since enrolling back in January.

Quotable

"I talk to guys during workouts and tell them 'Go get you a spot'. To tell Torrance (Gibson), 'You want to be the X, go be the X.' Austin Mack, they’re going against each other, Torrance and Austin Mack. Who wants to be the X?  Austin Mack plays the X. I’ve never seen him play but he says he does. I asked what he position he plays and he said X. In our offense X, you’ve got to be a Mike Thomas, you’ve got to be a dog. There’s a reason why his Twitter handle is 'Can’t Guard Mike'. That wasn’t an accident, it was on purpose, so it’s one of those deals of 'Go get a spot' because in the spring that’s when you go win a job. Having so many positions open, you’re going to find out who wants it. You’re going to find out in off-season workouts and that’s only going to translate over to spring ball." — J.T. Barrett on receivers winning jobs this spring.

Number to Know

8. That is the number of career touchdown receptions by Ohio State's returning pass catchers, healthy or not. Five of them belong to Dontre Wilson, two belong to Curtis Samuel, and the eighth is Marcus Baugh's. That means that not a single outside receiver on OSU's roster has found the end zone yet, not even sixth-year senior Corey Smith. That zero probably won't last another game longer, but it's certainly a number to be aware of.

Question Needing an Answer

Who is the deep threat? Whoops, sorry, that's a question from 2015. The question this spring is who can move the chains? Do we see more action given to the H-backs because they will be the most experienced receivers on the field? Given how much the tight ends and H-backs are used in the spring compared to the regular season, I would expect Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel and Marcus Baugh to be pretty busy. Baugh has had impressive springs before in terms of catching the ball, so there is very little doubt about his downfield abilities.

Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario for this spring would be an improved and productive output from the redshirt sophomores. They got their first cracks as redshirt freshmen last season and didn't do much with it. Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon combined for one catch last season, and that was after McLaurin and Campbell had very good camps in both the spring and fall. They need to continue their solid practices and build up the confidence and comfort that they are going to need once the regular season finally arrives.

Anything Else?

New tight ends coach Ed Warinner will be interesting to watch with his three scholarship tight ends. I am anxious to see how much better redshirt freshmen Rashod Berry and A.J. Alexander have gotten, as well as the pecking order between the two. Both players will not only be fighting for footing in the spring, but when fall camp arrives, so do three highly-touted freshmen tight ends, so they'll also be looking for the kind of momentum that carries on into August and September.

To Answer Your Question

No, I don't know how healthy Johnnie Dixon and Alex Stump are, and I don't know if they are going to be good to go this spring.

Quarterback Forecast

Running Back Forecast

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