COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State Buckeyes hit the practice fields of the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex at 9:30 a.m. Thursday for practice No. 5 of the young season and the first that truly represents the start of camp. The team was in full pads for the first time for a two-hour workout under blue skies and temperatures in the low 80s.
Post-practice, wide receivers coach Zach Smith and a collection of his receivers met with the media to discuss preseason practice so far. Smith, who has seen six of his players selected in the NFL Draft over the past three years (Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown), has six lettermen returning from last season with the top three in terms of production:
§ So. K.J. Hill (18 receptions for 262 yards and one touchdown in 2016);
§ Jr. Parris Campbell (13 for 121); and
§ Jr. Terry McLaurin (11 for 114 and two touchdowns).
Campbell has played in 21 games and started 12 times. McLaurin has played in 25 and started four times.
The other returning lettermen are rejuvenated and healthy senior Johnnie Dixon and true sophomores Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor. Only Hill, with four, and Victor, two, had receptions over 20 yards last season.
One of the Top Units, Already
Head coach Urban Meyer had nothing but praise for the wide receiver room when he met with the media on Monday.
“It’s one of the best groups we’ve ever had culturally,” Meyer said about the receivers. “They believe in the four-to-six [seconds], A-to-B, plus-two mentality that we have here and there are zero issues. It’s just show up and go to work, be at your body weight and give your very best. They are unproven, but those kind of players usually turn out to have very good careers.”
The top two receivers last season – Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown – each declared for the NFL with eligibility remaining with Samuel selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by Carolina and Brown going in the seventh round to Dallas. The duo combined for 106 receptions and 14 of the team’s 26 TD catches. Samuel led the way with 74 catches for 865 yards and seven touchdowns.
Zach Smith Thoughts …
Zach Smith, now in his sixth season as coach of the Ohio State receivers, met with the media after practice and shared these thoughts:
On when you can tell if a young player has it all together…
“It shows through the course of practice. If he’s tough, if he’s going to fight through, if he’s going to finish, when he’s dead tired is he still going to go hard and make a play? That’s when you know that, in the fourth quarter on third-and-eight, which guy is going to get open, go get the football, and make a play.”
On what a freshman has to do to get on the field in this offense…
“You have to be tough to handle the tempo; we do a lot of running, and you also have to be able to block and get open. We play the best DB’s in the country every day. So if you struggle in practice, we can’t put you on the field. You have to be able to get open in practice every day. And if you can do that here, you’re going to be able to get open against anyone else in the country.”
On how many wide receivers he needs each season to be successful…
“I need six. Every year I have to have six. Every year when we have guys up on the video board I say there needs to be six guys up there. There’s not a starting X, if there is we’re going to be really bad. There needs to be two; there needs to be two H’s and two Z’s. I have to have six, and that seventh guy needs to be ready because if there’s an injury, now he’s the sixth guy.”
On Parris Campbell…
“This is Parris’s time to go be that guy. He’s always been a role player, always been a really good player, but he’s never had to be the guy. We had Michael Thomas, we had Curtis Samuel, now it’s Parris’s turn to be the guy on offense.”
On if Austin Mack and Ben Victor will have larger roles in 2017…
“Has to happen. There’s no scenario where it’s not going to happen. They have to be a major part of this offense. I don’t even want to plan or think for if they’re not, because it’s that necessary.”