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How Will Ohio State Replace...Noah Brown
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — The 2017 Buckeyes lost their top outside receiver threat recently when Noah Brown decided to forego his final two years of eligibility and enter the 2017 NFL Draft. Brown finished 2016 with 32 receptions for 402 yards and seven touchdowns.

Despite the early entry, it wasn't exactly the season that most had expected from Brown, who had been earning comparisons to former Buckeye Michael Thomas for more than a year. Following a four-touchdown performance against Oklahoma in the third week of the season, Brown would only reach the end zone twice more all season. Also, nine of his 32 receptions came in the first three games of 2016, and he managed just 23 receptions over the final 10 contests.

The production should be replaced well enough, but first the Buckeyes need to figure out who is able to be relied upon.

The Candidates

Noah Brown played the 'X' receiver position, which is the same position Michael Thomas excelled at in the past. It is basically OSU's go-to receiver position out wide and requires somebody who can pick up tough yards and move the chains. Rising redshirt junior Parris Campbell (6-1 208) split reps there with Brown in camp, but the lack of consistency and production has been an issue. Campbell managed just 13 receptions last season despite starting nine times and playing plenty each week.

Binjimen Victor (6-4 185) and Austin Mack (6-2 215) are a pair of rising sophomores who will need to be watched this coming season. Mack had a pretty good spring last year, at least for a while. He showed a ton of promise and got some playing time in 2016, but wasn't able to put it all together. Victor, meanwhile, had some good moments later in the season. Both have the size to play the 'X', and the experience they received as true freshmen needs to pay off this spring.

K.J. Hill could also be a guy to watch. He doesn't possess the ideal frame (6-0 200) for the position, but Ohio State needs production and they're going to look for it everywhere they can. Hill has mostly been a slot receiver, but remember, OSU moved Jalin Marshall from the slot to the outside in 2015.

The Buckeyes are also bringing in at least three freshmen receivers that fit the kind of frame OSU is looking for here. Trevon Grimes is arguably the best receiver in the 2017 recruiting class, and at 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds with 4.47 speed, there's certainly a spot for him somewhere just based on his potential. Grimes could be more of a deep threat than a chain mover, but they'll find a role for him wherever they can.

Brendon White (6-2 200) is already enrolled and he was playmaker in high school at a number of positions. Jaylen Harris (6-6 192) will arrive in the summer and is the tallest OSU receiver since the failed T.Y. Williams experience a few years ago.

Spring Outlook

When looking for receivers to step up at Ohio State, the recruiting is such that you should never have to look too hard or too far. There is plenty of potential on the Buckeyes' 2017 roster, but production out wide is something that still needs to be cultivated.

Expect everybody mentioned above to get a good look in spring camp, save for the freshmen who won't yet be enrolled. There are quite a few names listed above, but those names will be paired down quickly in order to get more focused and get the depth chart situated by the time the spring game rolls around.

Best Bet

If the old adage about the amount of improving from a player's freshman to sophomore year is going to be accurate here, then go ahead and put your money on Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack to emerge as the rotation at OSU's go-to guy out wide. Victor looked very comfortable in the rotation in the Fiesta Bowl, and Mack learned a lot from some very good Buckeye cornerbacks as a true freshman. These guys should both blossom in 2017.

Prediction

Receivers coach Zach Smith wants at least six receivers in his rotation, and Mack and Victor will both be there, as will Campbell and Hill. Terry McLaurin and possibly James Clark would figure in on the other side. Smith wants his receivers to rep at each receiver spot, or at least learn them, so there will be some mixing and matching throughout the spring. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Hill getting work out wide while Campbell is inside at H-back.

There is still plenty of movement that needs to take place, but I expect Mack and Victor to emerge this spring as two very important pieces of the passing game.

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