July 3, 2013

The Replacements: Jake Stoneburner

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The start of fall camp is nearly a month away, but the Ohio State football team is already focused on putting together its second consecutive undefeated season. To do that, however, the Buckeyes will be forced to replace some key contributors to their 2012 squad that accumulated a perfect 12-0 record.

In the coming weeks, we'll take a look at the voids that OSU will try to fill, and the candidates who will attempt to do so. Today, we continue with the Buckeyes' third wide receiver/slot position.

What they're replacing

One of the more flexible positions in the Ohio State offense, the Buckeyes' slot spot can been used for wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, and hybrid players. Last year, the majority of the reps at the position were taken by Jake Stoneburner, a wide receiver-turned tight end-turned wide receiver again who is now with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent.

In 2012, Stoneburner tallied 16 receptions for 269 yards and four touchdowns. This season, OSU head coach Urban Meyer figures to use the position differently, factoring in a number of players who can play the Percy Harvin role that he utilized during his time at Florida.

The frontrunner

Leaving spring practice in April, it was wide receiver Chris Fields who had solidified his spot in the Buckeyes' slot, impressing the OSU coaching staff after a disappointing start to his college career. The fifth-year senior has only tallied 15 catches during his time in Columbus, but the Buckeyes coaches believe that he's finally turned a corner and is buying into the OSU program.

Whether or not Fields will be able to hold off a number of contenders for the slot position throughout fall camp remains to be seen. Either way, there stands good reason to believe that Fields will play a factor in the Ohio State passing game, or at least more of one than he has in the past four years.

The X-factor

While it was Fields who left spring practice penciled in as the Buckeyes' starter in the slot, it was Jordan Hall who has entered each of the past two offseasons expected to play that role. Multiple injuries, however, prevented him from doing so last season, and this offseason, more injuries -- as well as grade issues -- kept him off the field longer than Meyer would have liked.

A running back during his first four years in Columbus, Hall moved to the wide receivers meeting room this offseason, in an effort to better learn the Harvin role in Meyer's offense. As always, any success for the Jeannette, Pa. native will be predicated on if he can stay healthy, which has been a big "if" so far in his college career.

Other candidates:
Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, Michael Thomas, Evan Spencer.


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