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To Do List: Buckeye Receivers Coach Zach Smith
By Tony Gerdeman
K.J. Hill is just one Buckeye receiver expected to step up this season.
Photo by Jim Davidson

It was not a stellar year for the Buckeye receivers last season (unless your name was Curtis Samuel) and the overall lack of production at the position was just part of the perfect storm of 2016's problems with the Ohio State passing game.

Despite returning the same quarterback, and a reliance upon an unproven receiving corps, the expectation here is only for improvement. With Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day as the Buckeyes' new offensive coordinators, it is believed that Ohio State will once again be in possession of an offense that will put fear into defenses nationwide.

A change like that won't just happen, however. It takes a consistent message and teachings from coaches to players, and it requires execution from every single person. In order for that to happen in 2017, the Buckeyes need to step up in a considerable way, and receivers coach Zach Smith needs to have his receivers ready in order to properly fill their roles.

How will he get them ready? Methodically.

Our proposed to-do list for Smith gives you some thoughts on all of this.

1. Get the H-Back situation settled.

Considering the importance the H-back has in this offense, figuring out who the options are as quickly as possible is at the top of this list. Every position will be manned by more than one player, but is the H-back going to mainly be one guy? Two? Several? Last season it was Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson with K.J. Hill mixed in. Does Hill move to the top of the list now? No, he's not a ball carrier, but not every H-back in Urban Meyer's offense carries the ball. Does Demario McCall move over, and if he does, will he pick up being a receiver fast enough to become "the man?" There is also Eric Glover-Williams, who is moving over from defense. He was an offensive player in high school, but how long will it take him to get the little things down? Does freshman J.K. Dobbins get involved here? He's got the kind of versatility to do whatever is asked, but he's been a running back his entire life, and even eventual H-backs stay at running back as freshmen. As you can see, there is a lot to do just at this position.

2. Put the finishing touches on Parris Campbell.

Who knows, maybe the solution to the first item on this list involves the second item. Parris Campbell hasn't yet emerged as the outside threat that the staff was hoping for, but he possesses all of the speed and athleticism you could ever want in a receiver. Could he move to the slot, much as he was in high school, and create matchup issues that could help him emerge as a potent weapon in this offense? Or is he simply ready to emerge now on the outside. Keep in mind that even though Campbell is now entering his fourth year in the program, he's a year young for his grade, so there was always expected to be some developmental delays. But now it's time to put an end to those delays and get Campbell up to full speed because his full speed is fuller than most.

3. Find an 'X'.

The Buckeyes had Michael Thomas at the X receiver for two years and then Noah Brown was there last year. The position is now wide open and that opening needs to be filled. All of Zach Smith's receivers learn each of the receiving spots, so this could be a matter of trial and error for quite a while. Austin Mack showed some promise there a year ago and is only going to get better with a second spring camp under his belt. Is this where Parris Campbell ends up? Is this where Binjimen Victor makes his home for the next couple of years? A rotation will eventually emerge, but as Urban Meyer has said in the past, this is OSU's go-to receiver position, so before they can find two or three, Smith needs to make sure he can find one.

4. Just figure out your top three receivers and then go from there.

Tied into what was just said above, there is so much turnover and question with this position going into 2017 that finding six players for a rotation shouldn't even be a priority until you're sure that you've found three who can be relied upon. That means Zach Smith needs to find his top three, then see if he can stretch it to four, then five, and so on. Every position group needs leaders to follow and if a group has no leader then that's a bad situation to be in. Smith needs to find his leaders and put them on the field for everyone else to follow.

5. Prepare the younger guys for what's about to happen.

The 2017 offense is going to be fueled by a bunch of receivers who didn't do a whole hell of a lot last year, and those guys need to be prepared for what they are about to engage in. Yes, there is going to be more playing time, which will make them happy, but the pressure that they are about to step into is going to be pretty serious. Last season they were all heroes because they weren't the ones on the field when the offense was struggling. To this point they are blame free, but that's about to change and they need to be prepared for it. They are taking a large step up when it comes to responsibilities and visibility. That's why they all came here, but that doesn't mean they'll all be able to handle it. Zach Smith will work to make sure they can.

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