Every since the departure of speedsters Ted Ginn Jr., Santonio Holmes, and Anthony Gonzalez, the Buckeyes' Achilles heel has been their receivers.
Touchdown passes have decreased over the past few years, from Troy Smith's 30 in 2006, to Todd Boeckman's 25 last year, and only 17 combined touchdowns threw the air via Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman this year.
While the Buckeye's main priorities have transferred to the ground instead of threw the air, the once acclaimed "Wide Receiver U" has recently lacked that vertical threat to draw double teams and leave others open.
Brian Robiskie has been the leading receiver the past two years, but his statistics dropped dramatically with the change of pace at quarterback. He is the only Buckeye receiver going to the draft, but pending his decision, junior wide out Brian Hartline might make the jump.
The Buckeyes would lose leadership and experience if Hartline left, and without him, quarterback Terrelle Pryor would be without a clear go-to-guy.
Pryor has a lot of work to do on his passing game this offseason. In his two losses as a starter, Pryor threw no touchdowns and one interception.
He is said to have already gotten a jump on improving his arm strength and accuracy. With his ability to elude defenders on the ground already under control, he can spend more time getting in tune with the following receivers who will greatly contribute to the 2009 Ohio State Buckeyes:
Assuming he returns, Hartline will be a good possibility for the number-one receiver. He hasn't been the best "big-game" receiver, managing only three combined catches in the games against USC and Texas. He would bring a great amount of leadership back to the team. Hartline is fast, and would keep Pryor comfortable with a sense of familiarity. Hartline can also return punts and kicks.
While his main job this year was returning punts this year, Small's elusiveness and top-end speed make him a good possibility for a leading receiver next year. Small's lone touchdown of the year was a 62-yard punt return in Week Two against Ohio. Once highly recruited by other schools such as USC, Small has gotten into some trouble during his tenure at Ohio State.
He is considered a "poor-man's" Ted Ginn Jr., and has not proven himself as a stand out receiver. But with his all-around skills and athletic ability, Small will be able to get open and have Pryor hit him in stride many times.
Tied for the second-most receptions on the team, Sanzenbacher is another wide out, when in open space, can create a lot of havoc with the ball. While he is slightly shorter than the ideal wide receiver, Sanzenbacher has great hands and vision, as he played both defensive back and receiver in high schools.
DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas
Despite few receptions each, the two "freshman phenoms" have been highly touted and are expected to have breakout seasons. Thomas showed great balance and toughness as a kick returner, while Posey asserted himself as a possible deep threat.
One thing really good about the Buckeyes' young receiving corps is that they are very deep. Incoming freshman Duron Carter, the son of former Buckeye receiver Chris Carter, is the 18-rated receiver in the nation and an ESPNU 150 prospect. Other receiving possibilities include: Devon Torrence, Taurian Washington, Jake Stoneburner, James Jackson, Chris Fields, and others.
What to Watch
Marlon Brown, the highly touted wide receiver prospect out of Tennessee, is a great vertical prospect, at six-foot-five. He is the third-rated wide out in the nation. If he were to commit to Ohio State, it would give Pryor a tall target to throw to down the field and in fades.
Speed seems to be the universal quality with the Buckeye receivers, and whether it is known or not, it should help out the passing game and take some of the load off the running game. This class of Buckeyes seem to be very underrated and unproven, but come September 5, all of Pryor's offseason work will be on display as he looks to pick apart the Naval Academy's secondary.
The receiving attack Jim Tressel brings to the table should be very auxilerating, unique, and dangerous. So get ready and catch those receivers if you can.
Oh, and don't forget the running game.