Every spring, there is an under-the-radar offensive playmaker who turns heads during the annual spring game. Some never flash during the regular season, such as Taurian Washington and some become great, such as Michael Thomas. With the Buckeyes losing five of their top six leading receivers and their leading rusher, this year's spring game MVP has a better chance to take his spring success into the fall.
Unlike last season, there will be major competition at the offensive skill positions for playing time, and Urban Meyer knows it, "the value this year is greater probably than our four years here to see how these young players respond."
Saturday will be the first time that most of these highly touted true or redshirt freshman have gotten significant snaps in front of a packed Ohio Stadium. Let's see who has a chance to build a legacy like Michael Thomas, rather than just be known as a spring game star.
Torrance Gibson: The high school star quarterback turned wide receiver has the tools to shine on Saturday. He has a mix of size, 6'4, 205 lbs, and straight-line track speed that can take the top off the defense. His size and leaping ability allows him to go up and get his hands on jump balls, which will help him excel on the goalline and in traffic. There are roughly nine outside receivers who are vying for two spots and Gibson's size and pure athletic ability could put him over the top. Now it is time for the Florida native to put on a show in front of 100,000 Buckeye fans.
Mike Weber: Out of this group of spotlighted players, Weber has the least amount of competition to see the field, and he is projected to either split carries or start outright at running back.
The former Cass Tech star had an up-and-down freshman campaign, where he felt betrayed by the Stan Drayton departure, then he tore his meniscus after a solid fall camp, while tweeting out a couple of mysterious subtweets that could have been directed towards his college choice. But now with Ezekiel Elliott out of the picture, Weber has a chance to grab the reigns as a redshirt freshman from senior Bri'onte Dunn and solidify himself as the number one back in Meyer's power running scheme. A solid spring game from Weber could give him the edge in this positional battle, heading into the fall.
K.J. Hill: Last season as a true-freshman, Hill was seen on the weekly depth chart. However, he did not get a chance to see the field as a receiver. Hill made a couple of highlight-reel catches in fall camp and he was the third player of last year's class to get his black stripe removed. He mostly practiced and was placed on the outside receiver depth chart, but he possesses good quickness and he has sparingly practiced at H-back. If the logjam at the X or Z prove too much for Hill, he might have a chance to see some time at H-back with Dontre Wilson's lingering foot issue and Curtis Samuel's versatility, which could sometimes place him at running back. Hill is electric with the ball in his hands, which should show on Saturday on quick hitters, such as screens and slants.
Austin Mack: Mack enrolled early in the winter as Urban Meyer's most collegiate-ready wideout that he has recruited at Ohio State, and he made his mark early. The Fort Wayne, IN product made a very early impact this spring and he made such an impact on the coaches that his black stripe was removed, which has never been done this early.
The 6'2, 205 pound wideout arrived at Ohio State with confidence and swagger that was apparent on day one. "I asked what position he plays and he said 'X' [receiver]," starting quarterback J.T. Barrett recalled of a conversation with Mack. "In our offense at X, you've got to be a Mike Thomas, you've got to be a dog. There's a reason why his Twitter handle is @CantGuardMike. That wasn't an accident, it was on purpose. So it's one of those deals of go get a spot, because in the spring that's when you go win a job."
Mack has most certainly turned the heads of his coaches and fellow players in practice, but he has yet to play in front of 100,000 at the ‘Shoe. If Mack can perform at a high level on Saturday, he could be a top candidate to replace Mike Thomas at the X.