Main receiving target is still unclear

Colin Gay, Staff Writer
Buckeye Grove
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Scott Stuart

COLUMBUS, Ohio- If you had one word to describe a Kevin Wilson offense, to would be depth. At every offensive skill position, he says that he wants his team to be at least 2.5 deep. Ideally, that would mean two or three tailbacks, two or three tight ends and at least six receivers rotating at a time, usually wanting more like seven or eight.

Over the first two games of the 2017 season, Ohio State’s wide receivers have played with that in mind. The Buckeyes have had six different wide receivers catch passes.

According to coach Urban Meyer, not one receiver has really stood out to become the main target for quarterback J.T. Barrett and the rest of the Ohio State offense.

“There's not a differentiation from one through six and I think they're going to be all fine players,” Meyer said. “There's not that Michael Thomas right now where you say he's your go to all the time.”

Statistically, if that title went to anyone in the receiving corps, it would go to the player that took over the “Curtis Samuel-role” for the 2017 season. Parris Campbell, who is viewed as the h-back, but only has one rush for six yards this season, leads the team with nine catches for 163 yards. Averaging 18.1 yards per catch, the junior receiver has a touchdown reception as well.

Even if Meyer mentioned Campbell as currently the No. 1 receiver in the Ohio State offense, that does not mean that that will not change. He also mentioned names such as Terry McLaurin and Austin Mack, who he said made a good catch on Saturday.

Meyer also talked about Binjimen Victor becoming a threat as well. He only has two catches for 28 yards this season, but is one of three Buckeyes with a touchdown reception.

It is all well and good that the Ohio State offense has players who have the physical attributes to play receiver at this level. However, according to Wilson, there is another vital piece of the puzzle that these players need to succeed.

“It’s one thing to play six, seven or eight,” Wilson said. “You need guys that you can count on and be able to execute. That’s what we have to get to.”

Execution was one thing that the receivers struggled with in Ohio State’s 31-16 loss to Oklahoma. The receiving corps only averaged 9.6 yards per reception. To put this in perspective, the longest pass of the day was that 31-yard reception by Mack in the third quarter. Other than that, the longest reception was a 17-yard pass to K.J. Hill.

The major aspect of the struggles in the passing game was the inability for receivers to get open against the Sooners secondary. Despite giving up 183 yards passing, the Sooners allowed Ohio State receivers to catch only 57.6 percent of targets from Barrett.

When asked about whether his receivers could get open against the Oklahoma secondary on Saturday night, Wilson gave a clear answer.

“I don’t think so and not because they can’t run routes,” Wilson said. “We have tremendous athletes, great route runners. J.T. can throw the football. It’s me getting us in the rhythm offensively that we need to play.”

Meyer also has recognized the effort that the receivers have put in in these first two games for the 2017 season.

“They are playing their tails off,” Meyer said. “We just have to make some more plays.”

That is the mentality that Wilson has been preaching to his receiving corps heading into the third game of the season against Army West Point. According to Wilson, creating a cohesive unit, not only by position, but as an offense as a whole, will bring success going forward.

“We are moving in the right direction and we will see if we can keep the train on track and work as a complete unit, get that run, get that pass going,” Wilson said. “When we get playing with 11 guys together and get clicking, those guys will be open, the QB will make his plays, the run game will be working and we will have a good offense.”

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