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It's time for Ohio State's Jalin Marshall to step up

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Jalin Marshall returned to action for the Buckeyes against Hawaii, can he return to form against Northern Illinois?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Jalin Marshall was part of the unfortunate group of four Ohio State players suspended for week one's game against Virginia Tech.  He returned to action against Hawaii, but didn't exactly fill up the stat sheet.  The Buckeyes will need to find a way to take advantage of Marshall's versatility and get him more touches against Northern Illinois and future opponents, especially as they look for greater consistency on that side of the ball.

The Stats

Year: RS Sophomore

Height: 5'11

Weight: 205

Current stat line: 3 rec, 48 yards; 2014: 38 rec, 499 yards, 6 TD

The game situation

Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are not easy to replace. Combine that with a preseason injury to sophomore Noah Brown, whom the coaches raved about all off season, and it was clear that wide receiver was a place where the Buckeyes would need some players to step up. Through just two weeks, Michael Thomas has proven he can be the go to guy there, but he can't do it alone.

This is where Marshall comes in. Absent Thomas, he may very well be the most experienced wideout on the roster, although most of that experience was in a H-Back role. Marshall, a former high school quarterback, is as good of athlete as anyone on Ohio State's roster. Can he master the little things, like perimeter blocking, that are so vital to the Ohio State offense?

Additionally, Marshall will be featured as the Buckeyes' primary punt returner -- a role he was up and down in all of last year. Ohio State has struggled on special teams so far this season, and some explosive plays, or even just plain ol' consistent production, would be very welcomed there.

What to watch for

Urban Meyer understands that when you have dynamic players you have to find ways to get the ball in their hands. Look for Marshall to be featured in numerous different ways against the Huskies.

In his primary role as a WR, Marshall will need to develop a trust and rhythm with whomever is playing quarterback. While he's proven he can make circus catches like below, he still needs to eliminate frequent drops.

Also look for Marshall to be used frequently in the backfield as a decoy or on the jet sweep. We did see him take some snaps from the wildcat in 2014, but it would appear Braxton Miller has taken over that role this season.

The Northern Illinois defense features an experienced and talented secondary - including All-MAC selection Paris Logan - but it lacks the ideal size and athleticism to hang with Marshall for four quarters.

As a punt returner, Marshall will have an additional opportunity to impact the game. And he's proven that when he catches the ball (in fairness he does most of the time), he can be a legitimate threat to take it to the house every time.

The conclusion

It's safe to say the Ohio State offense wasn't exactly clicking against Hawaii. Urban Meyer admitted post game he wanted to throw it around a little more than they did and look for Marshall to be a big part of that this week.

He's too valuable and too dynamic to get just three touches on offense. And while the Buckeyes do have a wealth of options to spread the ball around to, Marshall has proven he can produce at opportune times. He's also shown a ruggedness and strength that has been conspicuously absent in some skill-position players on the roster.

If he can do the little things (block!) with more consistency and cut back on some mental mistakes (dropped passes and punts), then 2015 represents a huge opportunity to breakout for Marshall. Look for him to start filling up the stat sheet this week with receptions, rushes and punt returns.