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Ohio State’s wide receivers have all the tools for a bounce-back season in 2017

An increase in tempo and a lot of young talent could see the Buckeye passing attack greatly improved this year.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a receiver with as high a ceiling as he has. He’s a 6-5 kid with a 7-foot wingspan who can run. He’s loose. He can get in and out of breaks. He plays physical at times. He still has to grow up and mature. But he has a skill set where he does some things and you’re like ‘Whoa’.”

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith on Binjimen Victor via Steve Helwagen, Bucknuts

It won’t be hard for Ohio State to top last year’s output from their wide receivers, but there are a couple of receivers who could help the Buckeye passing game return in a big way this year. Towards the end of last year, Binjimen Victor started to see more playing time, and it is likely that he’ll be one of Ohio State’s featured wide receivers this season. When asked who he patterns his game after, Victor quickly responded that he tries to play like Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. If Victor is able to mirror any of what Green did not only at Georgia, but has done in the NFL with the Bengals, you’ll see Ohio State take to the air far more this year than they did last year.

Another wide receiver who could be primed for a big season is K.J. Hill. After redshirting during the 2015 season, Hill made a little noise last year, hauling in 18 catches for 262 yards and a touchdown. With Hill entering his third year in the program, he is one of the more senior wide receivers, and Smith believes that Hill can build on what he did on the field a season ago.

Both Hill and Victor should benefit from the hiring of offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who is likely to have Ohio State push tempo this year. With opposing defenses having to try and keep up with the pace Ohio State will look to push this year, it should allow Victor, Hill, and the other wide receivers to slip into open spaces in the secondary for possible deep-ball opportunities. If the wide receivers are able to execute this plan, it will make Ohio State fans forget quickly about the ineffective passing attack the Buckeyes sported last season.

With his career on the football field long over, former Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez might be ready to step onto the political field. There is talk that the Cleveland-native could be ready to run for a seat in Ohio’s 16th congressional district, after Gonzalez recently met with the National Republican Congressional Committee. The district in northeast Ohio includes Cleveland’s southern suburbs, suburbs in Akron and Canton, and all of Wayne County. Republicans Christina Hagan of Stark County and Tom Patton of Strongsville are likely to be opponents of Gonzalez if he decides to join the race.

Gonzalez made a name for himself with Ohio State not only for what he did on the field, but also for what he was able to do in the classroom. The wide receiver was not only a Big Ten and Academic All-American at Ohio State while majoring in philosophy, but he received his MBA from Stanford after his playing career was over in 2014.

Gonzalez had a breakout season with the Buckeyes in 2006, when Ohio State lost to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game, catching 51 passes for 734 yards and eight touchdowns before declaring for the NFL Draft. Gonzalez was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round with the 32nd pick, but his NFL career was marred by injuries. The best year of Gonzalez’s five-year NFL career came in 2008 when he caught 57 passes, but was only able to haul in five passes in the following three seasons combined. After becoming a free agent following the 2011 season, Gonzalez signed briefly with the New England Patriots, but was released in May 2012, just two months after he signed with the team.

“He’s getting a lot better. He’s improved so much from last year. He understands the plays more. He’s more violent. He’s just overall a much better offensive lineman.”

Ohio State left guard Michael Jordan on offensive lineman Branden Bowen via Edward Sutelan, The Lantern

Even though he didn’t get a lot of time on the field last season, offensive lineman Branden Bowen appeared in all 13 games for Ohio State, serving primarily as right tackle Isaiah Prince’s backup. Reports are that Prince has improved greatly in the offseason, so it’s not likely that Bowen will be taking Prince’s spot anytime soon. With Billy Price having moved to center to replace Pat Elflein, Ohio State has added Bowen to the mix of candidates who are in the running to win the vacant starting right guard spot.

Even if Bowen isn’t able to beat out Malcolm Pridgeon, Matthew Burrell, and Demetrius Knox at right guard, it is giving the Buckeyes some versatility on the offensive line. Bowen has been practicing at both guard spots and both tackles spots during the offseason, which is helping to improve the depth Ohio State has on the offensive line.

The Buckeyes’ new-found depth on the offensive line is giving position coach Greg Studrawa a chance to breathe a little easier, as after last year, there wasn’t a whole lot of confidence in the backup offensive linemen.

The competition at right guard will be something to watch as Ohio State prepares for the season opener later this month at Indiana, with hopefully the competition bringing out the best in the offensive linemen involved.

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