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Ohio State 2017 Spring Positional Preview: Wide Receivers
By Tony Gerdeman
Who will step up for the Buckeyes at wide receiver this spring?
Photo by Dan Harker

For several reasons, the Ohio State passing game wasn't what it could have been last year. Clearly, Urban Meyer chalked it up to coaching, as there are two new assistant coaches on staff in Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day. There has also been some blame pointed at the Buckeye receivers, and if production doesn't ramp up this season, there will be more fingers aimed that way.

Receivers coach Zach Smith has a number of options to improve the situation, and most of them will be participating in spring football. A few freshmen will arrive in the summer, but the bulk of the improvements will have to come from those players already on hand. This spring is very important for the receivers because it will give both Wilson and Smith a long, hard look at who can be counted on this season and who shouldn't be.

The Players

1 Johnnie Dixon (5-11 198) Redshirt Junior
Played in seven games in 2016...caught six passes for 26 yards...has dealt with injuries throughout his career...started strong in practice as a true freshman, but has never been healthy enough to recapture the past...

9 Binjimen Victor (6-4 185) Sophomore
Played in five games last season...caught four passes for 64 yards and one touchdown...three of his receptions came in OSU's final four games...was originally going to redshirt, but played his way into the lineup in practice...will by vying for a starting spot...
11 Austin Mack (6-2 215) Sophomore
Enrolled early a year ago and started out strong in the spring...played in 12 games and caught two passes for 15 yards...much of his time was spent on special teams...expected to play a much larger role in the passing game this season...
14 K.J. Hill (6-0 200) Redshirt Sophomore
Spent most of last season in the slot and could remain there this season...played in 11 games in 2016...caught 18 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown...could he move outside as Jalin Marshall did in 2015?...
21 Parris Campbell (6-1 208) Redshirt Junior
Campbell played in all 13 games last season, starting nine times...caught 13 passes for 121 yards and ran the ball four times for 54 yards, scoring once...finished fourth in the team in all-purpose yards (759) thanks mostly to his kickoff return skills...will he stay out wide or be moved into the slot?...
82 James Clark (5-10 186) Redshirt Senior
Clark was finally healthy enough to play and saw time in all 13 games last season...caught six passes for 47 yards...also ran track for the Buckeyes last year, turning in some of the B1G's best 60m times...
83 Terry McLaurin (6-0 204) Redshirt Junior
McLaurin played in every game last season and started five times, including three of the last four games of the year...caught 11 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns...caught more than one pass in a game just once (Tulsa)...
87 Alex Stump (6-3 210) Redshirt Sophomore
Stump played in one game last season (Rutgers) and caught one pass for eight yards...
NA Brendon White (6-2 205) Freshman
White enrolled early and has already moved from linebacker to receiver...has been timed at 4.54, which is pretty good for a bigger receiver...will he stay at receiver?...

The Depth Chart

Note: Ohio State lists four different receiver positions in their game depth charts -- H-Back (which we've already covered), X, Z, and WR, so that's how we'll do it here. Where each player is listed is based off of where they were listed for the Fiesta Bowl.

X Receiver
21 Parris Campbell OR
11 Austin Mack
87 Alex Stump

Z Receiver
83 Terry McLaurin OR
9 Binjimen Victor
82 James Clark

WR
14 K.J. Hill
1 Johnnie Dixon
NA Brendon White

The Storyline

Picture, if you will, a group of veteran receivers who were too young to take part in a productive passing game, and have since languished in the outer reaches of a time and space where throwing the ball is the most difficult thing to do in the universe. Suddenly, a stranger from the west appears and with him arrives promises of a potent passing game. But will his promises be fulfilled by the grizzled veterans, or the young upstarts who have only had a taste of what it used to be like to walk uphill both ways in the snow to practice? Can the stranger change everyone's fortunes? Can these two different age groups co-exist? Can Zach Smith maximize his players and this stranger's new vision for the Ohio State offense?

Three Questions

1. Will there be more attrition here than just Noah Brown?

2. Can the veterans hold off the second-year receivers?

3. Who will actually be lining up where?

Best Case Scenario

The best-case scenario for the Buckeyes here would be the blossoming of the veteran receivers under a new approach to the passing game. The young receivers like Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack and K.J. Hill should be fine, but if this group is going to capable of winning a national title, they'll need the experienced guys to do more than just catch a couple of passes every couple of games. Terry McLaurin has had strong springs before, and now it's time to parlay that success into statistical production once the season gets here. The same can be said for Parris Campbell, who plays a ton, but has yet to really explode in the passing game.

Worst Case Scenario

The worst-case scenario would be a learning curve that has no end in sight this spring, which hinders the individual development of the players, as well as what they need to be taught and how they need it to be taught to them.

One Good Spring Prediction

Parris Campbell will leave the spring with the coaches thinking he is ready to be one of the focal points of the offense.

One Bad Prediction

Joe Burrow will ask to move to receiver because he saw how it worked out for Braxton Miller.

One Okay Prediction

Austin Mack will be anointed as a starter by Urban Meyer by the end of spring football.

Something to Watch For

Even though he didn't have huge numbers, by the end of the season Binjimen Victor was looking like a difficult matchup for defenses. It will be interesting to see if that continues this spring. How much better is he now than he was in January? He has gotten faster and stronger, so let's see how it translates to on-the-field play in March and April.

Reason for Optimism

Just look at the passing numbers that Kevin Wilson's offenses have put up over the years, and that's all you need to find plenty of optimism. Combine that with a four-year starter at quarterback and Urban Meyer's recruiting, and the optimism should be dripping out of your pores.

Reason for Pessimism

The Buckeyes don't have a single receiver on this roster who has ever averaged even two receptions per game, so this is a group that has never had to be relied upon to move the chains. Will they respond to their new-found responsibilities this spring, or will they struggle with the unfamiliar opportunities. Until you see players step up, you never truly know if they can.

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