Football

No. 10: Catching up with the Receivers

Buckeyes gearing up for the 2013 Spring Game on Saturday, April 13th.
Buckeyes gearing up for the 2013 Spring Game on Saturday, April 13th.

April 4, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State went outdoors for its 10th spring practice of the year Thursday afternoon. Coach Urban Meyer directed his team through a spirited, two-hour workout outdoors under somewhat sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s...making for a pleasant practice for those working up a sweat.

The team wore Buckeye gear - helmets, shoulder pads and shorts - and operated under thump conditions in front of dozens of high school coaches who annually stop by an Ohio State practice when their schools are on spring break.

Some notes on the day: The loudest cheer of the day came at the end of practice when Kenny Guiton connected with a heavily covered Michael Thomas for a 42-yard touchdown. ... Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year John Simon watched practice for a time, wearing a scarlet shirt with the words "don't just win, dominate" on the back. ... Ryan Shazier was not wearing an orange jersey but he did not compete in any drills where hitting took place. ... OL Ivon Blackman continues to practice along the defensive line. Co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner is working with a group of 13 offensive linemen.

Tuned into the Receivers
Afterward, members of the receiving (and blocking) corps - receivers and tight ends - and their coaches, Tim Hinton and Zach Smith, respectively, met with the media to address the spring drills to date.

This time last year these two groups of players were questions marks. Junior tight end Jeff Heuerman was beginning his second season after a freshman season that saw him catch all of one pass. Sophomore Nick Vannett was entering his second season as well, and he red-shirted his first year. And the most experienced tight end, the now-graduated Jake Stoneburner, was making the move to the receiver position.

 

 

And the two leading receivers entering last season - senior Corey Brown and junior Devin Smith - led the team in receptions in 2011 with the 1960s-like total of 14.

What a difference a year makes. There are a combined 44 starts at these two positions now with all seven of the top players - Brown (21 starts), Smith (10), Heuerman (9), senior Chris Fields (8), junior Evan Spencer (3), Vannett (2) and sophomore Michael Thomas (1) - having made starts, and there are now lots of plays and experiences in their rear views. Consider:

  • The senior Brown is coming off a breakout year in which he ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 5.0 receptions per game (60 total) with five touchdowns scored, including two on big-play punt returns of 76- and 68-yards vs. Nebraska and Wisconsin, respectively.

  • Smith, who can separate, had three touchdowns over 60 yards last season and he has averaged 39.3 yards per catch on his 10 career touchdown catches.

  • The two tight ends have 18 combined catches, a total that doesn't include Heuerman's last-second, game-tying two-point conversion catch the sent the Purdue contest into overtime.

  • Spencer was fourth on the team in 2012 with 12 receptions for 136 yards.

  • And Fields didn't let four DNPs affect his play last year: he expertly cradled and caught at ground level the touchdown pass against Purdue that put the Buckeyes in a position to tie with three seconds to play.

    Some thoughts from the group follow.
    Corey Brown on the pace of this spring: "Everybody is flying around faster this year and it is definitely more up-tempo...on both offense and defense because everybody is more comfortable with the schemes."

    Corey on Corey: "I am really confident this year. I'd like to be able to do more...help the team more than I did last year, and I'm really looking forward to playing in this system now that I am more comfortable in it."

    Chris Fields on his changes: "I personally changed my routines off the field in order to allow me to be the best player I can be on the field. I stopped allowing myself to get sidetracked in order to concentrate solely on football and getting my degree. And that is the reason I think I have been improving. I'm focused solely on the things I need to get done that are going to make me the best player and person I can be." Note: Fields is on a tract to graduate this December with his degree in sociology.

    Jeff Heuerman...now that Jake is gone: "I think I have improved the most in the passing game. Last year Jake [Stoneburner] was the focus of the passing game with regard to the H-back/tight end players. This year in practice I'm seeing more balls. I'm running more routes. And I like it."

    Nick Vannett on adjusting to the scheme: "Last spring we were putting in a new offense, with the new coaching staff coming in, and so the emphasis for me was on figuring it out, learning it and getting confident with it. Now I've got that whole year behind me where I understand it and I can just go out and play the game and be confident. And I am definitely more confident this year than I was last spring."

    Student Appreciation Day
    The team's practice on Saturday will be the second Student Appreciation Day. It begins at 11 a.m. at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Ohio State students with a valid BuckID (and since this is "Sibs & Kids Weekend" on campus, their sibs/parents who have an official "Sibs & Kids" wrist band) can enter the Woody through the Biggs Lobby beginning at 9:45 a.m.

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