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Ohio State wide receivers know the path to playing time is by doing the little things

To see more time on the field in games, Urban Meyer expects his wide receivers to contribute in other areas.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

“I think we’re all good at it.”

Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill on blocking via Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State might be sitting with a loss on this year’s record right now had it not been for the blocking by wide receivers Austin Mack and Terry McLaurin on K.J. Hill’s game-winning touchdown catch against Penn State on Saturday night. The efforts are nothing new though from the receiving corps, as the group knows they won’t see the field if they don’t show their commitment to blocking.

For the wide receivers, to earn playing time on they field they first must cut their chops on the special teams unit. Binjimen Victor is the latest example of a Buckeye earning respect for his play on special teams and turning that into key production on the field. Thanks to Victor starting on the kickoff return unit, with his play giving the coaches more trust in him to allow him to be on the field for his key 47-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to start the comeback for the Buckeyes on Saturday night.

Urban Meyer’s favorite example of an Ohio State wide receiver earning playing time by blocking and doing all the little things is Evan Spencer during the 2014 season. Spencer caught just 15 passes in 15 games, but he was a key part of Ohio State’s offense for the blocking that he did.

The biggest testament to Spencer’s versatility came during the College Football Playoff Semifinal against Alabama, when he not only threw many key blocks, but he also threw a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas, and recovered an onside kick.

It’s simple for Ohio State wide receivers. You have to earn your playing time. If you aren’t willing to buy into doing the little things to help the team succeed, then you won’t see the field that much. So far, this year’s receivers have bought into what head coach Urban Meyer and new interim wide receivers coach Brian Hartline are teaching them, and they are only getting better.

“We changed the whole philosophy — bend-but-don’t-break, we don’t do that. With that comes some risk. We want to challenge every throw, and that’s what we do.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via Marcus Hartman, Dayton Daily News

It’s pretty hard to find fault with a team that is ranked third in the country, but if there was one knock on Ohio State so far this year, it is that the Buckeyes are giving up too many big plays. Ohio State has given up 23 plays on defense of at least 20 yards this year, including two that went for over 90 yards for a touchdown.

A big reason that Ohio State has given up so many big plays, especially through the air, has been because of the press defense that the Buckeyes prefer to play. Unlike past years when Jim Tressel was head coach, as well as the first couple of years under Urban Meyer’s reign in Columbus, the Buckeyes are utilizing more of a press defense rather than a zone.

With the press defense coverage, the smallest lapse in judgement, or taking the wrong angle on a tackle, could be the difference between a short, harmless gain or a long, painful touchdown. Even with the spotty coverage at times this year, Meyer and his coaching staff aren’t looking to make any changes to their philosophy. The players don’t seem to have any issue with the scheme that the coaches are using, instead knowing that they have to tighten up what they are doing on the field.

“I just want to be on the field and help the team.”

Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade via Bill Landis,

Switching positions is nothing new for Ohio State’s Shaun Wade. After growing up playing football as a running back, Wade was switched to cornerback in ninth grade. While the move was met with apprehension from his father, Wade embraced the role and wound up turning into a five-star defensive back and ending his high school career with four straight state championships.

Now, Wade is making another change in where he is playing, but this one won’t take him to the opposite side of the football. After the season opener against Oregon State, co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch approached Wade about a change from cornerback to safety. Since that discussion, Wade has been practicing with the safeties.

Ohio State has been searching for a reliable compliment to Jordan Fuller at safety, but so far hasn’t quite found what they are looking for. So far Wade has been playing at nickel corner for the Buckeyes this year, but with the first half suspension that Isaiah Pryor will serve against Indiana for a targeting penalty he was called for in the second half against Penn State, it could give the coaches a chance to see what they have at safety with Wade.

In moving Wade from corner to safety, they are thinking that they might have a situation similar to what they had with Damon Webb, where the move showcases his athleticism. With Wade’s coverage skills, if Ohio State does put him on the field with Fuller, it would likely be at field safety. That would give Wade more coverage responsibility, which would play to his cornerback strengths, as well as allow Fuller to play more of a center field position.

If Ohio State was ever going to explore the move and see how Fuller and Wade would play together, this would be the week to do it. If it doesn’t result in the dividends that Ohio State was hoping, there wouldn’t be much harm with Pryor returning in the second half of the game. Either way, it seems like Wade’s future is at safety. Whether it is sooner or later, that still remains to be decided.

“I think we have gained a lot of respect the past year making it to the Frozen Four. Teams are not going to underestimate us anymore, which is what we want. I think Colgate is a great team, so this weekend is going to have two solid games. Both teams are going to come out and hit the ice. We are going to play aggressive because we know we have to play hard to beat them.”

Ohio State forward Tatum Skaggs via Brian Nelson, The Lantern

After going to the Frozen Four last year, Ohio State’s women’s hockey team started off their 2018-19 season last weekend with two 3-2 wins over Quinnipiac. Now the Buckeyes will open up their home schedule this weekend with two games against eighth-ranked Colgate, who went to the national championship game last season.

The biggest takeaway from Ohio State’s two games last weekend was the play of goaltender Amanda Zeglen. After serving as the backup last year, Zeglen entered this season as the starter with only seven starts under her belt. Even though she allowed four goals over the two games, Zeglen was in control and put Ohio State in the necessary position to win those two games.

This weekend’s games against Colgate will give Ohio State an idea of where they stand early in the campaign. If Ohio State is able to take at least a game off of Colgate, it will ramp up expectations even more for a Buckeye team that is expected to be in the thick of the national title race. Win or lose, teams are now having to respect Ohio State and that is what the Buckeyes have been working for.