Receivers standing out as Ohio State retools passing game
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday that Parris Campbell is distinguishing himself at receiver, and K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin and Binjimen Victor are right behind him as the Buckeyes try to breathe some life back into their passing game this spring.
The four wide receivers, along with Austin Mack and Johnnie Dixon, all saw playing time and showed flashes of talent last year, but none broke out as a top playmaker or reliable deep threat as expected. Meyer needs that to change next season, especially after the departure of the team’s two top receivers, H-back Curtis Samuel and wideout Noah Brown.
Campbell, a rising junior who had 13 catches for 121 yards last year, is working at the hybrid running back/receiver position vacated by Samuel. Campbell, Meyer said, “is that guy right now.”
“He’s one of my favorite players,” Meyer said at the halfway point of the team’s spring practice, which culminates in the spring game April 15. “He’s so unselfish, he goes so hard. He deserves a great year. He’s one our best playmakers right now.”
COMPETITION AT RUNNING BACK: Mike Weber, a 1,000-yard running back as a freshman last year, is still locked in as No. 1 on the depth chart, but there has been some movement behind him this spring.
Freshman and early enrollee J.K. Dobbins has leapt sophomore Antonio Williams into the spot behind Weber.
Dobbins, a four-star signee from La Grange, Texas, is battling sophomore Demario McCall for practice reps as Williams continues to recover from a hamstring injury, Meyer said.
“The best thing that can happen is competition,” he said. “We didn’t have any last year (at running back).”
SPEAKING OF INJURIES: Meyer said freshman linebacker Baron Browning suffered a shoulder injury and will have surgery. But Browning is expected to be 100 percent by June and should be good to go for the fall. He’s a highly touted early-enrollee from Kennedale, Texas, who is expected to push for playing time in an experienced linebacker corps.
Defensive tackle Davon Hamilton has a broken foot and will be out of action for several months.
SHEFFIELD LOSES STRIPE: Kendall Sheffield, a junior-college transfer competing to start at cornerback, was the first rookie to lose the black stripe on his helmet. That means he’s worked hard enough to be considered a full-fledged Buckeye.
Sheffield had enrolled at Alabama and red-shirted his freshman season before transferring to Blinn Community College in Texas in search of more playing time. He emerged as the top-rated juco cornerback in the nation.
His maturity may bode well for an Ohio State defensive secondary that lost three of its four starters to the NFL draft.
Based on practice Tuesday, Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette are the top two cornerbacks, with Damon Webb and Erick Smith working at safety. Sheffield is in the corner rotation along with early-enrolled freshmen Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah.
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