Thursday, November 29, 2012
Year in review: Steady progress for WRs
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by rewinding to look at the improvements made by the targets in the passing game and a few memorable entries on the highlight reel.
Corey "Philly" Brown was explosive on offense and led the Buckeyes with 60 catches for 669 yards.
Most valuable player: The production was steady from start to finish, even if Corey "Philly" Brown could have perhaps provided more yardage with all of his catches in the early stages of the season and saved himself from some good-natured jokes from coach Urban Meyer about making a tackler miss. The junior had the last laugh down the stretch, extending receptions by juking defenders and using his speed to pull away for longer gains than he was contributing during the first month of the season. He was at his best on special teams, though, busting loose for a pair of important punt returns for touchdowns that complemented his team-high 60 grabs on offense.
By the numbers: After getting repeated reminders about the ineptitude of the passing game a season ago and having no problem reciting the low reception totals, Brown and sidekick Devin Smith made sure there would be no discussions about that heading into their next offseason. Just in case anybody forgot, the team-leading total for the season before the arrival of coach Urban Meyer and his spread offense was just 14 -- a number that only took Brown three games to eclipse and was more than doubled by Smith.
Best moment: Narrowing it down to one is no easy feat, even if the choice is only for the best catch of the season by Smith. The sophomore still isn't the most consistent weapon yet, but when the degree of difficulty is at its highest and the Buckeyes really need him to come through, Smith was as clutch as could be. He added two more deep bombs that effectively went down as game-winners, but it was his leaping, adjusting, one-handed snag in the corner of the south end zone during the season-opening victory against Miami (Ohio) that should go down as the most impressive athletic play anybody made at receiver all season.
Preseason question: Who is ready to step up as the go-to guy on the perimeter?
Postseason answer: The Buckeyes found two capable targets to lean heavily on, though it was clear from the first week of the season that Brown would be the first choice for quarterback Braxton Miller. Smith came though in a couple of the toughest spots the Buckeyes found themselves in and averaged a touchdown for every five receptions, which can't be overlooked. He wasn't nearly as reliable in terms of hanging onto the football as Brown, but assuming he gets there and the Buckeyes can develop another option or two, the passing attack should really open up.
Looking ahead: Smith and Brown will be back, and the Buckeyes will have pretty much every other receiver back and looking to take the aerial attack to another level in Meyer's second season. Jake Stoneburner will be the only piece Ohio State will have to replace, and his 16 catches and 4 touchdowns were certainly valuable on the road to perfection. But young guys like Evan Spencer and rising sophomore Michael Thomas, for example, should be ready for expanded roles behind the tandem at the top.