When Urban Meyer officially took over as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes in January 2012, one of the first problems he identified was the team's lack of playmakers at the wide receiver position.
At this point last spring, Meyer was just looking for anyone to step up.
“I just wish we would make more plays,” Meyer said to the Akron Beacon Journal. “Some guys just make some plays.”
The Ohio State football team was coming off one of its worst seasons in school history. The Buckeyes put together a miserable 6-7 record in 2011 mainly because of an anemic and unimaginative offense.
The leading receiver—Devin Smith—caught just 14 passes for 294 yards. By comparison, USC's Marqise Lee eclipsed both totals in just one game last season, when he caught 16 passes for 345 yards against Arizona.
Of course, Meyer wasn't looking for that kind of bizarre production from his receivers. In reality, he just wanted a guy who could catch the ball with some consistency and make a few plays in space.
Smith and Corey Brown emerged in 2012 as the reliable targets Meyer wanted. The two combined to catch 90 passes for 1,287 yards to go along with nine touchdowns through the air.
Smith became Ohio State's big-play receiver in the first half of the season, catching go-ahead touchdown passes of 72 yards and 63 yards against Cal and Michigan State, respectively. Smith slowed down when the Buckeyes hit the meat of their Big Ten schedule, though, hauling in just 11 passes in Ohio State's final seven games.
Brown had 60 catches in 2012, but the speedy receiver wasn't able to shake free for a Ted Ginn-like play in the passing game. None of Brown's receptions last season went for over 40 yards, and he failed to register a single 100-yard receiving game.
Now, in the second year of running Meyer's spread offense, Ohio State's receivers are ready to break out.
"I am really confident this year," Brown said, according to OhioStateBuckeyes.com. "I'd like to be able to do more...help the team more than I did last year, and I'm really looking forward to playing in this system now that I am more comfortable in it."
Familiarity will be huge for both Ohio State's receivers and quarterback Braxton Miller this year. The Buckeyes, while drastically improved from the year before, were still operating a brand new offense that was much more elaborate than the archaic product put on the field by former offensive coordinator Jim Bollman.
Talent isn't lacking with Ohio State's current wide receiver group. Buckeyes wide receiver coach Zach Smith sang the praises of one his players after practice Thursday.
"You're not going to find a more talented guy than Devin Smith, so he has to take his game to the next level," he told Ben Axelrod of Rivals.com.
Confidence is one thing, but turning that into production on the field is key for this group. Outside of Smith and Brown, receivers Michael Thomas, Evan Spencer and Chris Fields have all stepped up this spring.
When you combine them with the dynamic group of freshman receivers coming in this year, Ohio State could have something special in 2013.
"When we get clicking, there's nobody that can stop us. Guarantee," Brown said to Tony Gerdeman of TheOzone.net. "Number one in the country. If—IF we play like we should."
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio state football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!