By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – Can lightning strike twice for Ohio State at wide receiver? Or even better, can it strike two or three times a game?
Two years ago OSU receiver Devin Smith changed his number from the No. 15 he wore as a freshman and sophomore to the No. 9 he wore in high school at Massillon Washington.
Tuesday night, OSU sophomore receiver Jalin Marshall went back to the No. 7 jersey he had at Middletown High School after wearing No. 17 his first two years with the Buckeyes.
Smith became one of the best deep threat receivers ever at Ohio State with seven touchdown catches of 50 yards or more and 20 scoring plays of 30 yards or more. In the postseason last year he had catches of 39, 42 and 44 yards against Wisconsin, 40 and 47 yards against Alabama and 45 yards on his only catch against Oregon.
Finding a replacement for him has been one of the biggest issues for an Ohio State offense that ranks 46th nationally in scoring at 34.5 points a game after being fifth in the country last season at 44.8 points a game.
The hope is that someone like Marshall might step up and fill that role. After catching his first touchdown pass of the season, a 37-yard throw from Cardale Jones, in a 38-12 win over Western Michigan last Saturday, Marshall talked about the importance of replacing Smith.
“If you don’t have someone who can replace Devin Smith then you don’t have this offense,” Marshall said.
Could he be that guy? “I’m not that fast but I think I can make the corner miss, get open and catch the deep ball,” he said.
Marshall has gotten off to a slow start this season (6 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD) after being suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules. Last season, he caught 38 passes for 499 yards and six touchdowns and also became OSU’s punt returner.
The former high school quarterback said, “I think I’m pretty balanced. I think I can go deep but I can also go underneath. Going deep – we’re going to have to find that. I think Corey (Smith) and I can do that.”
The beginning of Marshall’s college career was delayed a year by a concussion and a torn meniscus. He also did some things off the field that coach Urban Meyer didn’t like as a younger player.
“He’s a guy who it’s never been easy for and that’s all his own doing,” Meyer said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday.
“He’s starting to grow through the immaturity we experienced when he first got here. I like the trajectory he’s on now and we’re very pleased with the way he’s working,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.