Meyer Looking for More from Braxton, Receivers
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State ranked second in the Big Ten in rushing offense this season; eighth in passing offense.
The Buckeyes scored 37 touchdowns on the ground; just 17 through the air.
While the team’s overall quarterback rating (138.86) was second in the Big Ten behind Nebraska last season, Ohio State’s passing attack was not exactly what Urban Meyer dreamt up when he took over the team back in January.
Photo by Jim Davidson
To be fair, Meyer inherited a team that had been among the worst passing offenses in college football the previous season. While his quarterback was a dynamic young playmaker on the ground, he had thrown for over 200 yards only once in his career before Meyer arrived.
He had thrown for over 100 yards only four times during his rookie season in Columbus, but it wasn’t the quarterback position that worried Ohio State’s new head coach the most heading into this past fall.
“They probably were the most unprepared group I'd ever dealt with as far as practice,” Meyer said of his wide receivers back in May.
He had already seen them practice during the 15 practices in the spring, and Meyer wasn’t looking forward to the next 29 in the fall if it was going to be more of what he saw initially from guys like Corey Brown, Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Chris Fields.
“(They) have to get our passing game in order for August,” Meyer said emphatically that day.
“That's a tall task, because it's not very good right now. If they do that, and I understand they are doing that, we have a chance. If not, no chance.”
In retrospect, the passing game wasn’t quite as bad as Meyer made it out to be. At least not compared to what it was under interim head coach Luke Fickell. That group didn’t have a single player with 15 or more catches all season, but the 2012 season saw a couple guys emerge as playmakers at the wideout position.
Photo by Dan Harker
Devin Smith won them at least three games this season with his big-play ability. His game-winning 72-yard catch against Cal may very well have set the entire undefeated season into motion.
He followed it up with a game-winning catch at Michigan State, and then he caught a pair of touchdowns in Ohio State’s 52-49 win at Indiana. As teams started to take away Smith as a deep threat, Braxton Miller found another guy he could trust in Corey “Philly” Brown.
The Philadelphia native had 12 catches in Ohio State's one-point win at Michigan State, and while it only totaled 84 yards, Brown eventually became a guy who could make a few people miss.
That hasn’t kept Meyer from aggressively recruiting guys with a little more natural wiggle to their game. He already has a pair of playmakers – Jalin Marshall and Ezekiel Elliott – committed to play for the Buckeyes in 2013, but even that hasn’t stopped him from making a strong push to land Oregon commit Dontre Wilson before National Signing Day.
All three of them appear to be guys who could come in and contribute right away, but Meyer is counting on his returning group to make another big push heading into next year.
“Monumental…that might not be the right word, but drastic improvement,” Meyer said when asked what he wanted to see this offseason.
“We’re still not where (we need to be). We’re much better than we were. We weren’t where we need to be and we’re still not.”
Meyer saw great improvements in Miller and his backup, Kenny Guiton, during his first year in Columbus. Both players made big strides in becoming the type of players and the type of leaders Ohio State needs from that position, but now the head coach is looking for “another giant step” from both the quarterbacks and the receivers.
“I asked them to make a tremendous step, I told you if they showed up in august without working in the summer, the great thing is they did,” Meyer said earlier this month.
“You can tell how much further we still need to jump. If they make a big jump again, now we’re getting pretty close to where we need to be.”
That’s probably the only way this Ohio State team can compete with Alabama and some of the other truly elite teams in college football next season.
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