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Ohio State's Torrance Gibson Looks Like College Football's Next Superstar

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterApril 18, 2016

Ohio State wide receiver Torrance Gibson plays in Ohio State's NCAA college football spring game Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Torrance Gibson found himself scoring not one, but two touchdowns during Ohio State's spring game Saturday, it didn't come as a surprise to those who followed the former 4-star prospect's recruitment.

After all, Gibson is just a year removed from being an Army All-American selection as a dual-threat quarterback, the nation's sixth-ranked athlete and one of the crown jewels of the Buckeyes' 2015 class.

But when it came to Gibson's paths to the end zone Saturday, those were perhaps less predictable for those who haven't kept up with the former American Heritage (Plantation, Florida) star since his arrival in Columbus a year ago. Having since converted to wide receiver, Gibson is no longer rushing or throwing for touchdowns but rather catching them, and during Ohio State's annual exhibition, it certainly looked like the right move.

Standing at a rangy 6'4" and weighing in at 205 pounds, looking the part has never been Gibson's problem. Rumors of a potential position switch accompanied the Sunshine State product's recruitment, given his natural athleticism and the emergence of the bigger, faster receivers such as A.J. Green and Julio Jones who are so prominent in the NFL.

And although the Ohio State staff's insistence Gibson would remain a quarterback lasted less than two months into his arrival on campus—he could first be seen practicing with the Buckeyes wide receivers last August—Saturday offered the first chance for those outside the OSU program to witness the progress he's made.

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The results? A team-high six catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns on the Buckeyes' victorious Gray team, and a whole lot of optimism for his future as a wide receiver.

"Got a long way to go," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said of Gibson after the game.

But even in the coach's attempt to temper expectations for the redshirt freshman, the next words out of Meyer's mouth provided even more honest thoughts on Gibson's potential: "It's a freak—but he's gotta go get the ball."

Perhaps Gibson has been having a harder time in practice than the spring game showed, because if Saturday was any indication, he isn't finding much trouble doing just that. Catching an 18-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Joe Burrow in the game's second quarter, Gibson looked like a natural wideout—one capable of providing the deep-ball threat missing in the OSU offense in 2015.

Erik Elken @ErikFOX45Now

.@JT_theQB4th on Torrance Gibson (@quick_tg6): "There's nothing stopping you (from being the X)." #GoBucks https://t.co/CpqjFUUYj9

"We've worked hard, me and him, especially on the deep balls," Burrow said. "He comes out here and runs as fast as he can, and I throw it as hard as I can, because you can’t overthrow the guy."

Gibson's second touchdown "catch"—a two-yard grab on a shovel pass that could have just as easily been a handoff—was admittedly less impressive. But at the very least, it showcased that he's more than just a big-bodied red-zone option. He's the type of player capable of having multiple roles in the Buckeyes offense, such as when he attempted a pass on a trick play that ultimately went for an incompletion Saturday.

But while throwing may still be in his repertoire, Gibson remains fully focused on honing his skills as a wide receiver. And although he may have looked like a natural Saturday, starting quarterback J.T. Barrett's comments after the game lent credence to Meyer's downplaying of his apparent progress.

"He shows some flashes," Barrett said. "He's got hot and cold days. Some days he's hot and he's catching everything, and some days he can't catch a cold. Being that it's a new position, I think sometimes he lacks that confidence."

Saturday, however, must have been one of those hot days, even if there is only so much one can read into a glorified scrimmage. Also promising was his apparent chemistry with Burrow, the "other" quarterback in Ohio State's 2015 class whose spring game performance was impressive in its own right.

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

It may be too soon to call Burrow-to-Gibson the connection of the future in Columbus, but Saturday showed a glimpse of what the two classmates are already capable of paired together in Meyer's spread offense.

"He'll be my favorite target here pretty soon," Burrow said.

For now, however, Gibson remains a work in progress. And while Meyer has insisted throughout the offseason that the former high school standout is "a very good young man," just as he did Saturday, Ohio State's decision not to let him speak to reporters after his performance in the spring game suggests there may be concerns about him having too much, too soon.

But after his spring game showing, the potential is too visible to ignore. With the Buckeyes replacing their three starting wide receivers from a year ago, playing time at his new position will be plenty available in 2016 as well.

After the uncertainty that surrounded his first year on campus, superstardom could once again be on Gibson's horizon—it might just come from a different path than many once expected it to.

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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