By Rusty Miller
COLUMBUS: Ohio State's wide receivers do not need to be reminded that no one expects very much from them.
And they're not very happy about it, either.
"We came in as the underdogs of this whole team," Corey Brown said, almost spitting out the words.
Asked who considered the Buckeyes' pass-catchers as the overlooked and underestimated, he said, "I guess the outside world. We never looked at ourselves as underdogs. We tried to label ourselves as the tempo-setters of the team, the guys that make the big plays, the explosive gains."
It's true that Ohio State is thin at receiver — even before one takes into account that leading returnee DeVier Posey must sit out the first five games for selling memorabilia to and accepting improper benefits from a local tattoo-parlor owner in 2010.
All of the wideouts have heard the whispers about how weak Ohio State is at receiver, not to mention quarterback, where three-year starter Terrelle Pryor left a year early to pursue his NFL dreams and to escape his own NCAA suspension.
The receiving contingent heading into the Sept. 3 opener against Akron has a grand total of 11 career catches for 127 yards and one touchdown. To put that into perspective, last year's top target, departed senior and team MVP Dane Sanzenbacher, had nine catches for 108 yards and four scores in one game last season.
So Brown gets it when someone says the guys flanked out wide are almost invisible.
"Oh, yeah, definitely. We lost TP. We lost Dane," he said. "We have all youth at the receivers, so for people to say that we're going to be down at the wideout group or the quarterback group is understandable. We don't have a lot of experience at those positions.
"But we're going to be ready."
Not everyone looks at the position as being half-empty while Posey sits out his five games.
"That position has a chance to be deeper than it has been for us in years," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "They're all newer, younger guys who have shown a lot of ability, shown a lot of potential and if they keep working like they've been working in preseason camp, I think they'll be OK."
The top candidates at the position are sophomores Brown and Chris Fields, redshirt freshman Verlon Reed and true freshmen Evan Spencer and Devin Smith.
Interim coach Luke Fickell raves at what they've gotten accomplished in camp.
"I've been impressed with the work ethic of all the wideouts," he said. "Obviously, not having DeVier in there as much, sometimes guys see the light at the end of the tunnel. But just the work ethic and the way they've gone about each and every day at practice, I can be honest with you, I've loved what I've seen."
No one had a better August than Brown.
"Corey Brown has had an awesome camp. He's made so many plays," center Mike Brewster said. "He's really using his speed to his advantage. I hadn't seen that from him."
He's not alone, either, in thinking that.
"The most impressive (receiver) in camp has been Corey Brown," tight end Jake Stoneburner said. "Last year, he dropped a few balls in games. But I think he's really stepped upped his game knowing that he has to be our No. 1 or No. 2."
Funny thing, Brown might also be the No. 1 or No. 2 Corey Brown on the team. The Buckeyes recruited two players with the same name a year ago. The other Corey Brown, from the Pittsburgh area, is a defensive back. The receiver is known as Philly, because that's his hometown.
He laughs about the inevitable cases of mistaken identity.
"Sometimes they still mix me and the other one up," he said. "But, I mean, Philly is better than whatever his name is."
Philly, the player, is also considerably better than he was a year ago.
"Every team doesn't get the chance to go up against one of the top defenses in the country every day," he said. "It's making the young guys, it's making me, elevate our games. We should be ready come game time."