Ohio State Football: Young Pass Catchers Ready to Break out
Ohio State's offense was bad in 2011.
24.5 points per game (72nd in the country). 318.2 yards per game (106th). 4.8 yards per play (96th). The Buckeyes' normally stout defense kept games close and helped them to six wins, but the offense was downright ugly at times.
Who is the most important pass catcher for Ohio State in 2012?
A large reason for that was the passing game. Braxton Miller and Joe Bauserman couldn't be relied upon, and as a result the Buckeyes had to rely on the run (65.93 percent of their plays were runs, 10th-most in the nation), causing the offense to be predictable.
If Ohio State is going to find more success under Urban Meyer, the pass game is going to have to be better, or at least more consistent.
Let's take a look at players ready to make that happen.
Devin Smith, WR
This offense regaining that "wow" factor is going to start with sophomore Devin Smith.
The youngster led the Buckeyes with 14 receptions and 294 yards and was second with four touchdowns in 2011, but believe me, considering his skillset, there's still plenty of room for him to break out.
Early indications of Smith turning into the guy for Ohio State are good (via Rivals):
Sophomore wideout Devin Smith ran a route that was so breathtaking and unlike anything Meyer had seem from any of his new pass catchers, that the Buckeyes head coach couldn't help but mention it in his post-practice press conference.
"I mean it was ridiculous," Meyer said of Smith's streak route. "My gosh, do we need a guy like that to do something."
As evidenced by his 21 yards per catch as a freshman, Smith clearly has the ability to be a true downfield threat. He just needs to show more consistency, and the national acclaim will start to come for this exciting young stud.
Jake Stoneburner, TE
As a junior, Stoneburner actually took a step back in terms of receptions (14, down from 21 as a sophomore) and yards (193, down from 222), but be became much more of an important part in the offense.
Half (!!) of his catches went for touchdowns and his yards per catch average increased by over three from his sophomore year.
The huge 6'5" target will continue to be an absolute force in the red zone, but don't be surprised if he becomes more of a threat in between the 20s, especially on all-important third downs, which the Buckeyes were 75th in the nation at converting in 2011.
Verlon Reed, WR
Due to a torn ACL, Verlon Reed only played in four-and-a-half games as a freshman in 2011.
He still finished seventh on the team in receptions (nine) and fifth in yards (132). That's pretty impressive for 35 percent of a season.
Early reports from camp are that Reed is close to being fully recovered from that injury (via the-ozone.net's Brandon Castel):
WR Verlon Reed said he is at 95% right now. Running full go, but still not full contact.— Brandon Castel (@BCastOZone) August 12, 2012
Much like Smith, Reed is a big-play guy, and should this offense open up a little more under Urban Meyer, expect the former quarterback to establish himself as one of the best pass-catchers on the team.
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