After being dubbed "the next Ted Ginn Jr." coming out of Glenville, Ray Small has had to deal with the expectations of fans and teammates, on top of a host of other issues that so far have kept him from meeting those expectations. Small had 20 receptions for 267 yds, and two touchdowns in 2007, but his Buckeye career has been largely spent shuttling between the training room and Jim Tressel's doghouse, with some all too brief stops on the field in between.
Small's speed and receiving ability have never been in question. He has the elusiveness and open field speed to turn a short completion into a touchdown. As fast and athletic as the Brians are, Small brings the pure speed element that can stretch a defense in a way that they don't. The injuries have been perhaps more of a problem for Small than the off field issues have. In 2006, he was racked by a brutal hit in the Minnesota game, and took some time to recover physically, and seemingly even longer to lose some of the understandable tentativeness in his play after the injury. He led the team in punt return and kickoff return opportunities in 2007, but didn't produce many of the big plays that had been expected of him.
Toward the end of last season and in the Spring Game this year, Small seemed to have his health and his aggressiveness back, and with any luck he'll also stay in the coaches' good graces, and show the world what he can do in '08.
Dane Sanzenbacher - #12 - Sophomore; 5' 11" 175 lbs. (Toledo, OH) Central Catholic H.S.
As a true freshman in his first game ever at Ohio State, Sanzenbacher scored the first points of the 2007 season when he caught a short slant pass on a third and goal against YSU. The catching part seems to come naturally for this gifted athlete from Toledo, but he had to know it wouldn't always come this easily. With Small sitting out the early part of the season a year ago, Sanzenbacher impressed the coaches by learning the offense early, and then by catching everything thrown his way. Over the course of the season, he worked mostly as the backup slot receiver to Hartline, but took snaps at the wide spots as well, and in the four-receiver sets.
Sanzenbacher finished his freshman season with 12 receptions for 89 yards, and that one early score. He has very good speed, having placed in the state track meet as a 400-meter runner. But it's the ability to find space and make tough catches in the short game that has reminded some fans of Tony Gonzalez, and will make him effective as a slot man in Tressel's system. It is to Dane's credit that he rose above the competition and played important minutes as a true freshman. He figures to be one of the first receivers off the bench for receivers coach Darrell Hazell this fall.
Taurian Washington - #5 - Sophomore; 6' 2" 179 lbs. (Orchard Lake, MI) St. Mary Prep
Washington caught everyone's eye in his Buckeye debut as a freshman last year. In the opener against YSU, he caught a short crossing route from Antonio Henton, and sprinted in untouched for a 37-yard TD. Once the Big Ten schedule came around, he had fewer opportunities to play, and he finished the season with just three catches for 46 yards, but spent a year of eligibility.
His next chance to shine was this year's Spring Game, and on that day, Washington looked like he's ready to become a star for the Bucks. He hauled in a 50-yard strike from Joe Bauserman for a score, and looked good after the catch on some other receptions, showing why every top Big Ten program offered him a scholarship. Washington had always been Buckeye fan even though he hailed from Michigan, so the decision came easily when OSU offered. Taurian Washington has given every indication that 2008 could be a breakout year for this special athlete from that state up north.
DeVier Posey - #85 - Freshman; 6' 3" 190 lbs. (Cincinnati, OH) LaSalle H.S.
Posey was a dominant high school player for LaSalle, and was one of Coach Tressel's early commitments and most prized recruits in the 2008 class. He made first team Parade All-American as a senior and was ranked as the nation's #4 wide receiver by Scout. Posey also played in the Army All-American Game along with several of his future-Buckeye teammates, but didn't have much of a chance to show his stuff. He is another of the young OSU receivers who runs extremely well (10.7 100M) and also possesses the size and overall athleticism that coaches love in a wide receiver. He's the kind of talent that will be moving up the depth chart as he begins to feel more comfortable with the offensive system, and may be able to contribute even sooner if he can make a good showing with the kickoff return unit.
Devon Torrence - #10 - Sophomore; 6' 1" 193 lbs. (Canton, OH) South H.S.
Coming out of high school, Devon Torrence was torn between a professional baseball career and signing to play football for Ohio State. When he was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 16th round of the June draft just after committing to the Buckeyes, he worked out a plan with the OSU coaches to have the best of both worlds - at least for now. Before reporting to Ohio State last fall, Torrence reported to the Astros rookie league team in Greenville, and played in 30 games as an outfielder.
Then in fall camp, a decision was made to switch his position from cornerback to wide receiver. He saw very limited playing time as a true freshman receiver last year, but had four catches for 31 yards. He is back playing baseball this summer and plans to continue the dual career as long as possible. Like a few of the other players in this talented receiver depth chart, Torrence challenges the OSU coaches to somehow get his athletic ability onto the field in the best situation possible to help the Buckeyes win.
Grant Schwartz - #6 - RS Sophomore; 6' 0" 194 lbs. (Dana Point, CA) Dana Hills H.S.
Schwartz is another gifted all-around athlete who was originally recruited by Ohio State as a safety, but was moved to wide receiver after his redshirt freshman season. He played quarterback as a high school senior, passing for 1000 yards and rushing for 600 more. Schwartz has extremely good quickness and elusiveness, to go with speed in the 4.3 to 4.4 range. His father Brian played for the Buckeyes, so there was a strong Buckeye connection with him, even though he grew up in California. In his third year, Grant is looking for chances to contribute to the team, and that could happen in 2008 on special teams as well as in the offensive sets.
Jacob Stoneburner - #11 - Freshman; 6' 5" 230 lbs. (Dublin, OH) Coffman H.S.
Stoneburner played on the same Coffman team as incoming Buckeye tackle Mike Adams and he made several of the same scouting service lists as one of the top 100 players in the country. At 6'5", 230, Stoneburner will be the biggest OSU wide receiver in memory. On national signing day, receivers coach Darrell Hazell put to rest the speculation that Stoneburner was possibly ticketed for the tight end position, given his size. Hazell is looking forward to some of the mismatches he can create with a player Jake's size, who can also run a 4.6 40 and possesses a great set of hands. Stoneburner might see more playing time early if he were getting reps at tight end, given the Buckeyes relative lack of depth at the position. Don't be surprised to see him on the field either in the slot, or in tight in multiple receiver sets or two-tight end sets. There's a chance OSU opponents could mistake him for a tackle.
One of the silliest critiques of the OSU wide receivers that you hear in preseason is that they aren't fast enough. Granted, in the LSU game in January, it was apparent that Robiskie and Hartline were not getting real separation from the Tigers' cornerbacks on the deep patterns, and LSU managed to shut down that part of the OSU passing game pretty effectively. Going up against the fastest players on the best team in the fastest conference in the country, no receivers anywhere are going to run right past LSU's corners. And while neither Robiskie or Hartline have "Ted Ginn speed", they can both turn it on, and there is plenty more of the commodity in this receiver group.
With Small and Washington and Posey getting significant playing time, there will be no shortage of burners. And though the Buckeye offense doesn't throw the ball to Chris Wells very often (5 catches for 21 yards in '07), they do plan to use Brandon Saine and possibly also freshman Lamaar Thomas out of the backfield in the passing attack. Both of those guys have run 10.3 in the 100-meters, and can leave even the fastest DB's in their dust, let alone the linebackers that will often be trying to cover them. The future is bright at this position for OSU, who will lose only Robiskie from this group going into 2009. The challenge for Coach Hazell in 2008 will be to get the most out of the deepest OSU receiving corps in recent memory, and to get some of the most talented athletes on the team onto the field in any way possible.
This is one in a series on the 2008 Buckeyes position groups. The other installments are linked below:
Meet the 2008 Buckeyes: Offensive Line
Meet the 2008 Buckeyes: Quarterbacks
Meet the 2008 Buckeyes: Running Backs