Ohio State Buckeyes: Corey Smith

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Almost as soon as it arrived, spring camp at Ohio State wrapped up. Time isn't likely to fly by quite as quickly in the offseason with the summer months sure to drag by until the 2014 campaign finally opens in August. The Buckeyes have plenty of work to do to get ready for their debut against Navy on Aug. 30, and to help pass the time, we're looking at some of the most pressing positional questions they'll have to answer to make another run at a championship.

Who will be catching the passes this fall?

There is no shortage of speed on the perimeter. After emphasizing the addition of skill players on the recruiting trail over the last couple years to boost the passing attack, Urban Meyer appears to have enough depth to work with as well heading into his third season with the program.

[+] EnlargeDevin Smith
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsDevin Smith looks poised to build on a junior season in which he had 44 receptions, including eight for touchdowns.
But how exactly the Ohio State coach will tap into that athleticism and who he'll be trotting out in the starting lineup remains a bit of a mystery even after spring practice, and not even his top returning wideout was assured of a first-team job when camp closed.

Devin Smith will almost certainly wind up leading the way for the Buckeyes as they again try to balance their potent rushing game with more production through the air, and the senior is poised for both a heavier workload and more diverse responsibilities as the coaching staff moved him around to different positions throughout March and April. He is a proven commodity as a deep threat and has become a regular in the end zone, but Ohio State is still trying to tap into his potential and develop him into a more consistent, complete receiver. Getting involved in the short to intermediate passing game is a logical next step for Smith, and shifting him around the formation seems to be the start of that process in preparing him to make a big impact in the fall.

Smith figures to be joined by Dontre Wilson in the starting rotation after yet another head-turning set of workouts, and the sophomore's move to the wide receivers' meeting room on a full-time basis should allow him to get a better grasp on the playbook than he had a year ago when he was largely surviving solely on his natural ability. Wilson still will be involved at times as a rushing threat in the hybrid role made famous by Percy Harvin at Florida, but he's shaping up to be a matchup nightmare in the slot for opposing defenses -- a threat to take screens the distance with his track-star speed or burn linebackers tasked with covering him deep down the field.

So while Meyer didn't name any official starters, those two players are locks to be significant contributors, leaving competition between a handful of candidates to grab a third spot. The Buckeyes have a traditional, physical target in Michael Thomas coming off another big spring, an unselfish, experienced veteran in Evan Spencer who is a willing blocker on the perimeter, and there are also speedy options such as Johnnie Dixon or Corey Smith who could help stretch the field.

Ohio State didn't need to make a decision about any of them during the spring and it didn't rush into one, leaving the competition open for the offseason conditioning program and training camp. Meyer might have a better idea of his pecking order than he lets on and appears to have two clear-cut building blocks to work with as the passing game undergoes its renovation, but it looks as if the project is going to spill into the fall.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Both head coaches met with the media on Thursday morning in the final press conferences before Friday's Discover Orange Bowl. Here are some highlights from the session with Ohio State's Urban Meyer:

• Safety Christian Bryant's request for a medical redshirt and an extra year of eligibility has been denied by the NCAA. The senior broke his ankle late in the win over Wisconsin in September. NCAA rules state that a player can compete in no more than 30 percent of a team's games -- bowl games not included -- to be eligible for a medical redshirt. Bryant's injury occurred in Ohio State's fifth game. Meyer said there may be room to appeal the ruling but added "appeals haven’t been real good to the Buckeyes here lately." Ohio State just lost an appeal to the Big Ten over Noah Spence's three-game suspension.

• Speaking of Spence, sophomore Jamal Marcus is poised to take Spence's defensive end spot in Friday's game. Meyer said Marcus has practiced well this week, and the coach is expecting big things out of a guy who played sparingly in the regular season.

"Jamal Marcus is going to be a disruptive guy," Meyer said. "He's one of the more talented guys on our team. I'm anxious to watch him play. We had a staff meeting this morning at 7 a.m. and [defensive line coach] Mike Vrabel made that comment to me. He's a quick-twitch guy. This is his kind of game."

• Linebacker Ryan Shazier is from Fort Lauderdale and will have many friends and family in the Sun Life Stadium stands. Meyer said Shazier, who took over Bryant's No. 2 jersey number after he went down, has also assumed a lot of Bryant's leadership responsibilities.

"He has done a really magical job at that," Meyer said. "He was not a leader a year ago. He was a very good player -- by the end of the year a great player. He's been a very good player this year, but he's done a nice job leading, leading by example, practicing hard and even being more vocal."

• Not surprisingly, Ohio State is using this trip to Florida as a way to recruit. Meyer and his staff plan to visit powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Thursday night. That's the same school that produced current Buckeyes standout Joey Bosa.

"I can list at least two dozen high schools right in this area that are loaded with talent," Meyer said. "We have not good relationships but great relationships with these high school coaches. A lot of them came to visit us at a bowl practice.

"We attack it. It's a primary area for us. Because we have so much experience down here, it's nothing new. We know most of these coaches. And the good thing is, people know Ohio State."

• Shazier and quarterback Braxton Miller have big decisions to make about whether to enter the NFL draft. Meyer admitted that NFL decisions have created distractions for teams "hundreds of times." But he said he knows this group of players well enough to spot potential distractions and "I haven't felt that at all. I've had a couple conversations, many about, 'Hey, we'll discuss this afterwards. Let's go win this game.'" Meyer also said he had no idea what to expect from Miller's postgame decision process even though he has a great relationship with the quarterback.

• When asked what young players have stood out during bowl practices -- something Ohio State didn't have the luxury of using last year -- Meyer named the following guys: Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Joshua Perry, Chris Worley, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, Michael Thomas and Billy Price.

• Meyer's most famous former player, Tim Tebow, agreed this week to serve as an analyst on ESPN's new SEC Network this fall. Meyer said he and Tebow still talk frequently, and he hopes the former Heisman Trophy winner hasn't finished playing football yet. Meyer said he's never had a serious conversation about Tebow joining him in some capacity at Ohio State.

"I don't want to disrupt his dream," he said. "His dream is to go play quarterback in the National Football League, and I don't think we're there yet in his mindset that he's done."

WR Johnson decommits from Ohio State 

November, 11, 2013
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When Lonnie Johnson (Gary, Ind./West Side) committed to Ohio State on Mother’s Day -- May 12 -- the four-star wide receiver did it with enthusiasm and excitement.

Eric Glover-Williams (Canton, Ohio/McKinley) knows all about the fact Ohio State has a chance to notch win No. 850 this season. He knows the Buckeyes are the favorite to win their 35th Big Ten title and, if the cards fall right, he knows an eighth national championship isn’t out of the question.

The ESPN Junior 300 athlete took pause after an improbable 13-10 win where his squad converted a fake field goal to win on the last play of the game, to look at Ohio State past, present and future.

Named the face of the 2015 recruiting class, the 29th-ranked junior in the nation pointed to the big numbers Ohio State has put up in the last 100 years and alluded to the fact it has had 78 consensus All-Americans and 369 first-team All-Big Ten picks as a big draw to become a Buckeye.

“You know you’re going to a place that always has a winning tradition and one that is known for winning championships and being in the big game,” Glover-Williams said. “They’re almost always great.”

But the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Glover-Williams wasn’t just talking about the teams of the past. Since he has been on the Buckeyes' radar the last 14 months, he has paid extra close attention to the school.

He saw a team bounce back from a 6-7 record in 2011 to become the only BCS team without a loss last season.

He knows the Buckeyes have won 18 games in a row and hold the nation’s longest winning streak among BCS teams with Alabama (10) its next closest threat.

He has also seen Ohio State hold on for wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern this season when both teams were nationally ranked.

“They can be great,” Eric Glover-Williams said. “I think they have a chance and I would like to see them play Alabama in the national championship. That’s something I hope I can see them do.

“Their success is all about the personnel on the field. They have to find whoever is clicking and keep doing what they do to win the game. I still think the same about Ohio State win or lose, but those games, they’re finding ways to win.”

While the Bulldogs standout loves to talk about Ohio State past and present, it only makes sense to talk about the future as he’s set to be a Buckeye in 2015.

Barring something strange happening, Glover-Williams knows players like Devin Smith and Braxton Miller will be out of the lineup at Ohio State when he gets there. That doesn’t mean the stable will be empty with J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones or Stephen Collier at quarterback.


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Collier ready to kick the Ohio State tires 

September, 17, 2013
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Stephen Collier Tom Hauck for Student SportsStephen Collier is salivating about being put in the helm of the Ohio State offense someday.
Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Lee County) sat at a restaurant on Saturday and started drooling, but it wasn’t over a dozen wings or a Screamin’ Nacho Burger.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Collier was seeing just how good Ohio State’s offense can be under Urban Meyer in a 52-34 win over California. That got the 2014 Buckeyes pledge thinking about a few years from now, when he could be leading the offense.

“Oh man, it’s going to be like a kid in a candy shop, and I’ll be that kid,” the quarterback said. “I’m so excited to play with that level of talent. It’s not every day you’ll be able to play with those kind of guys.


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From official visits past and future to a commitment, the Big Ten was buzzing with headlines this week.

Here’s a look at a few programs that highlight a busy week in this week’s Big Ten storylines.

Boiler Up


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Ohio State picks up commitment No. 18 

September, 9, 2013
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The one thing that is becoming abundantly clear is that Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class is all about speed.

Urban Meyer dipped into his bag of zoom yet another time Monday evening and picked up four-star athlete Noah Brown (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII).

After finishing up on an official visit in Columbus on Sunday, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Brown didn’t waste much time in picking the Buckeyes over Rutgers.

He is the 18th member of the Ohio State class and the sixth wide receiver/athlete in the class.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: reasons for LSU fans to be patient, Ohio State's start, and Sonny Dykes reloading.


Patience is a virtue for LSU

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Ohio State picks up commitment No. 17 

August, 16, 2013
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Urban Meyer loves speed. He just can’t help himself.

What the two-time national champion picked up on Friday, when four-star athlete Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus) became Ohio State’s 17th commitment in the 2014 class, will have Meyer smiling for the next four years. Erasmus assistant coach Ray Lizzi confirmed the commitment.

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Position preview: Wide receivers

August, 6, 2013
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Breaking down the Ohio State roster as training camp starts to heat up and the program turns its attention to the opener on Aug. 31 against Buffalo.

WIDE RECEIVERS

[+] EnlargeDevin Smith, Isaiah Lewis
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDevin Smith looks to get help from some newcomers this fall.
Top of the depth chart: Philly Brown and Devin Smith on the perimeter with Chris Fields in the slot

Next in line: Michael Thomas might not have been able to crack the starting lineup with another impressive spring camp, but the sophomore is certainly knocking loudly on the door thanks to a complete package of size, willingness to take on contact, speed and an ability to make difficult grabs with his strong hands. Evan Spencer has also shown flashes of productivity, and he could be a nice addition to the rotation if Ohio State needs to throw another body in the mix.

New faces: The lack of depth at receiver was no secret, and Urban Meyer and his staff attacked that potential weakness on national signing day by loading up at the position and landing some of the fastest targets on their board to beef up the passing attack. Depending on how smooth the transition is for Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and James Clark, the Buckeyes may have instantly turned a spot that could have been easily tripped up by a couple injuries into a group capable of moving on without missing a beat.

Recruiting trail: Brown could find himself in elite company if he leads the team in receptions for the third straight season as expected. But he’ll have to be replaced in the offseason, and while there are already candidates to fill that void on campus, the Buckeyes are chasing recruits at receiver with the same urgency they did a year ago to make sure the pipeline is full. Four-star commits Lonnie Johnson (Gary, Ind./West Side) and Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral) are already in the fold, and both bring the type of game-breaking speed Meyer so covets on the perimeter.

Flexibility: The Buckeyes are much more capable of spreading the ball around in the passing game this season, and neither Meyer nor offensive coordinator Tom Herman are shy about using every weapon available to them. That should take some of the pressure off Brown, but he and Devin Smith will still be the top attractions and favorite targets for Braxton Miller after another season of absorbing the playbook and developing physically. Brown, in particular, should benefit from his improved ability to make something happen after the catch, which figures to significantly improve his yardage total as a senior.

Notable numbers:

-- Brown certainly isn’t likely to match his 46-catch improvement from his sophomore year to his breakout junior campaign, but he does have room to build on his yardage. Criticized early last season by Meyer for not making defenders miss any tackles, Brown steadily improved but still finished the season averaging 11.1 yards per reception -- and boosting that was a top priority in the spring.

-- Devin Smith has proven he can strike from just about anywhere, but perhaps more important for the Buckeyes, he’s also been able to do it when the team needs him to deliver most. On his 10 touchdown grabs through two seasons, Smith has averaged a robust 39.3 yards on his scores -- and three of them have gone down as game-winners.

-- Devin Smith and Brown combined for 90 receptions last season, and while the Buckeyes might take that total again from the starters without much complaint, they’d definitely prefer it to account for a smaller percentage of the overall production. In all, the tandem made 56 percent of the receptions for the offense and only one other returning player finished with double-digit catches last year with Spencer’s 12.

Big question: How much help can the newcomers provide?

The Buckeyes can be reasonably certain they know what they’re getting out of Smith and Brown. They have plenty of optimism for the improvements Miller has made as a passer, and they also are confident in the combination at tight end with Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett capable of expanding the game plan through the air. But Ohio State could use at least one and probably two targets who either haven’t had a chance to shine yet or weren’t on campus a year ago to add some diversity, depth and danger to the WR unit. Thomas is a likely option moving into his sophomore campaign, but the three newcomers will also be watched closely this month to see if they’ll be able to jump right in that mix or if the Buckeyes will have to continue to lean heavily on the veterans.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Observations and notes from a brief glimpse at the Ohio State freshmen during a split-squad practice that opened training camp on Sunday morning:

Meyer locked in

The Buckeyes coach made clear he was ready to turn the page from all the offseason chatter and get back to focusing on football, and he obviously enjoyed being on the field and working with his players.

Urban Meyer
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteUrban Meyer was energetic in working with the Ohio State newcomers in the first practice of training camp.
From the start, Meyer was energetic and engaged frequently with the young players he was finally getting to coach for the first time. And if for some reason the newcomers weren't aware of the high expectations and the standards for a program that will enter the season ranked second in the nation, Meyer called a pair of huddles in the first 20 minutes of the workout to impress upon them what he's looking for and expects in the buildup to the opener on Aug. 31 against Buffalo.

The message was hard to ignore, and Meyer certainly had been impatiently waiting to deliver it.

Speed it up

The periods open for media viewing didn't provide much of a look at the talented freshmen actually playing football, and because they were limited to just helmets and no pads as well, there's only so much that could be gleaned from their first morning on the practice fields at Ohio State.

But when they had a chance to dial it up and stretch their legs, the emphasis on acquiring more speed on signing day in February does appear to have paid off for the Buckeyes. Dontre Wilson seems to glide around and makes everything look smooth, and touted newcomers such as Vonn Bell, James Clark, Corey Smith and Gareon Conley all looked the part of burners capable of providing that upgrade Meyer and his staff were looking for on the recruiting trail.

They all still need to put pads on and compete against the veterans to show what they can truly do, but lack of speed shouldn't be an issue.

Special deliveries

Running backs coach Stan Drayton repeated himself over and over to drive home the point. Anybody looking to make an impact right away had better be ready to lend a hand in the kicking game.

"Fastest way you get on the field," Drayton said. "Special teams."

The Buckeyes give those units top priority and treat it as a responsibility earned instead of scraps for players not contributing on offense and defense. Drayton stressed that numerous times for anybody within earshot as the youngsters started practice. Ohio State appears to have already tabbed three guys as potential options to help out by getting their hands on the football, with Wilson, Clark and Jalin Marshall all taking turns simulating punt returns.

Missing in action

Donovan Munger wasn't on the field Sunday morning, and he might not be for a few more weeks as he apparently deals with an academic issue before he can report to the team. The Buckeyes still expect the 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman to be part of the squad this season and he was listed on the latest roster, but he'll likely have some ground to make up and will be missing valuable reps that could have potentially helped him push for a spot in the rotation.

New punter Cameron Johnston also didn't practice with the morning bunch, with Ohio State instead opting to have him work with the veterans in the afternoon. The Australian is expected to slide into the starting spot right away after his signing this summer, and working later would give him a opportunity to build a rapport with the returning long-snappers.
Throughout the next few months, BuckeyeNation will look further into those juniors offered by Ohio State. We’ll give as much detail as we can and go behind the scenes to see why these Class of 2014 standouts are so attractive to the Buckeyes. Next on the list of wide receivers is Terry McLaurin, who blew the doors wide open after a runner-up finish at the SPARQ championships at The Opening earlier this month.

Vitals: McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral) is 6-foot and 180 pounds.

Status: After camping on June 9 and June 21 at Ohio State and finally picking up a coveted offer, he committed to the Buckeyes on June 23.

ESPN.com ranking: McLaurin is ranked as the sixth-best player in Indiana No. 94 receiver in the country. While he’s not ranked in the ESPN 300 right now, his status could change when the rankings are updated.


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There’s a stretch in every recruiting cycle where the class takes shape.

Last year it can be argued a three-week stretch that began in mid-December and stretched to the first week of January was the key time period, as ESPN 150 targets Gareon Conley, Mike Mitchell, Trey Johnson and ESPN 300 lineman Donovan Munger committed. However, nabbing ESPN 150 targets Dontre Wilson and Vonn Bell in the final week, while holding onto ESPN 150 running back Ezekiel Elliott and nabbing four-star recruits James Clark and Corey Smith, was big for the Buckeyes.

As the 2014 recruiting class nears the halfway point, there’s still plenty of time to go. But an eight-day stretch, when ESPN 300 defensive end Jalyn Holmes committed and was followed by quarterback Stephen Collier, wide receiver Terry McLaurin and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, could define the 2014 class.

Here’s a look at the four commits and what they meant:

Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor)

Vitals: 6-foot-5, 235 pounds

When he committed: June 20

Why he chose Ohio State: Holmes fell in love with the family aspect, but it was the education he will receive that really won him over. He already has a great relationship with line coach Mike Vrabel and that factored in as well.

Who else was in the mix: Florida State and Clemson

What it means: Life after Noah Spence will be all right. Holmes is being recruited to play the viper role for the Buckeyes and his athleticism and length should transition well to the college game.

Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Lee County)

Vitals: 6-3, 205

When he committed: June 21

Why he chose Ohio State: Like Holmes, he felt like Ohio State was home. He also believed the coaching staff could push him to new heights. He mentioned the chance to compete for a national championship as playing a role.

Who else was in the mix: Auburn, Cincinnati, Harvard and Wake Forest

What it means: The belief is a quarterback should be taken every year, and Collier is a good one. He’s coming out of a spread offense, so the transition should be easy. He’s got great size and can run, which helps in the move from high school to college as well. Collier is also very smart and can make quick decisions.

Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral)

Vitals: 6-foot, 180

When he committed: June 23

Why he chose Ohio State: The idea of playing for Urban Meyer and winning a national championship was big. He felt strongly about the Buckeyes as he worked out at the June 9 and June 21 camps and picked up a coveted offer.

Who else was in the mix: Missouri and Purdue

What it means: Fans saw what it meant at The Opening when McLaurin finished second to only Speedy Noil in the SPARQ Championship. Though underrated, McLaurin is as fast as they come, can leap to a high point like no other and has the shiftiness to get open. This was a steal for Ohio State.

Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle)

Vitals: 6-4, 300

When he committed: June 27

Why he chose Ohio State: Championships and Meyer go a long way with recruits and they did with Jones as well. He also has a great relationship with line coach Ed Warinner that played into his decision.

Who else was in the mix: Michigan and Michigan State

What it means: A ton. With four starters gone after this season and Jones coming in, he could make the depth chart as early as next year. He’s not coming in and starting, but Jones’ impact could be felt sooner rather than later.

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Competition drives 2014 WR commit 

June, 26, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Most wide receivers coming out of high school look at who is going to be throwing them the ball and use it as part of the decision-making process.

Lonnie Johnson (Gary, Ind./West Side) isn’t one of them.

He sees how good Ohio State’s wide receivers are going to be in the upcoming years and can’t help but think scarlet and grey all the time.

The Buckeyes landed the No. 1 WR class in the nation in 2013 with Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto), Jalin Marshall (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) and Corey Smith (Akron, Ohio/East Mississippi Community College), respectively. Throw in four-star wideout James Clark (New Smyrna Beach, Fla./New Smyrna Beach) and the future looks very good.


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Why Meyer takes patient approach 

June, 11, 2013
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Some coaches come out in flurry. Some like to wait and close the door behind everyone else.

While Michigan and Ohio State go at the recruiting process differently -- or more to the point, Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer -- both strategies work.

Hoke has the No. 1 2014 recruiting class right now. Michigan held the same distinction at this point last year before falling to No. 6. And no one closes quite like Meyer.


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