The Ohio State football team is stacked at the wide receiver position for the first time in a long time. While most Buckeyes will be happy to hear this, there is one who may not be: wide receiver Evan Spencer.
He has seen a steady increase in usage during his career at Ohio State, and entering his senior season, he finally looks to be starting material. Most seasons, it would be a no-brainer to start Spencer alongside Devin Smith, but with the plethora of young talent at wide receiver for the Buckeyes this year, Spencer may have a tough time earning the starting job.
I believe that there are three other receivers in play for the one remaining starting wide receiver spot, and although Spencer entered spring practice as the favorite, I do not believe that he will emerge as the starter come football season. The three men challenging Spencer for the job are redshirt junior Corey Smith, redshirt sophomore Michael Thomas, and redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall.
Corey Smith is an interesting case. He was a hot prospect back in 2011, being recruited by many of the top Big Ten and SEC schools, but not by Ohio State strangely enough. He committed to Tennessee, but was forced to go to junior college for two years due to lingering academic issues from high school.
After dominating junior college football for two years, he was again a highly touted recruit. He verbally committed to Mississippi State this time around, but then changed his mind after a visit to Columbus, Ohio. He redshirted last season in order to give himself time to learn the offense and he enters this year with a great chance at the starting job.
Michael Thomas is a name that many Buckeye fans already know well. He was another highly recruited player out of high school. He saw the field quite a bit as a freshman, although he did not perform well during that time. He then impressed in last year’s spring game, but redshirted the season. This year he repeated his impressive performance in the spring game, and Buckeye fans hope that his performance can translate onto the field this season.
Jalin Marshall is a quarterback-turned-receiver. He was highly recruited out of high school as a quarterback, but his size and athleticism allowed for a smooth transition. He redshirted last season due to injury, which allowed him to continue to learn the offense and the new position better. Now, he seems to be in line for playing time this year, and I believe that he will impress.
My Prediction: I do not believe that Spencer wins the starting job, despite this being his senior year. There is just too much talent at the position. However, Spencer will see the field a lot this year, and his production may even increase from last season.
The man I believe will beat him out for the starting job, though, is Corey Smith. He is the best all-around player of the group. Thomas has not proven that he can play well when the pressure is on, and Marshall is just too inexperienced. Smith has years of experience under his belt, and a full season of learning the Buckeyes’ offense under Urban Meyer. With that experience and his great set of physical tools, Corey Smith will be the Buckeyes starting receiver opposite Devin Smith.
This is a change from my previous prediction, in which I still believed that Evan Spencer would win the job, but the more I think about Corey Smith in Urban’s spread offense, the more it makes sense.