COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final couple minutes were ticking off the clock, most of the starters had long checked out of the game and the score never even mattered in the first place.
It would have been easy for Ohio State to just move on when the deep shot to the back of the end zone slipped away from Torrance Gibson and dropped to the turf, and most of the fans left at the Horseshoe late in the spring game hardly seemed to care.
But in the ongoing development of the converted quarterback to wide receiver, every rep counts. And Urban Meyer wasn’t going to let the moment simply pass, leaving his spot behind the offense between plays to chase down Gibson and deliver some hands-on coaching.
“Go up and get the ball,” Meyer barked. “Go make a play.”
The fact that the freakishly athletic redshirt freshman had already made a couple earlier in the scrimmage didn’t matter in the moment, and Meyer is never one to let a teaching opportunity pass him by, even with spring camp is about to come to a close.
But the Buckeyes and their record-setting crowd, for the most part, had every reason to feel encouraged about the progress Gibson has made in his transition from throwing the football to catching it. And his six catches for 50 yards with a pair of touchdowns in the exhibition restarted the hype, which began shortly after he arrived on campus and after he was quickly moved to wideout in order to capitalize on his 6-foot-4 frame and 35-inch vertical leap.
“Torrance had good days and bad days, good reps and bad reps,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. “He was a typical freshman that moved from quarterback to receiver. He’s as talented as anybody in the country. I mean, his ceiling is unbelievably high. It’s just all about consistency for him, so it’s going to be a big two or three months before two-a-days and all that to get ready.
“Will he be ready? We’re trying to get him there. But when he does get ready, he’s going to be really good.”
The Buckeyes obviously wouldn’t have complained any if Gibson had got to that point last fall, because they could have used somebody who could stretch the field and provide a deep-ball threat capable of terrifying defensive backs. After the departure of Devin Smith to the NFL and the training-camp injury to Noah Brown, Ohio State was never able to really find somebody capable of doing it despite seeing some tantalizing plays from Gibson in August.
But Gibson wasn’t ever able to break through and find that consistency Smith needed to put him on the field, didn’t “earn the right to dress” for a game against Penn State in the middle of the season due to an academic issue and ultimately wound up redshirting last year. Those kinds of growing pains aren’t exactly uncommon, particularly when a player is making the kind of positional move Gibson did -- incidentally, one that Ohio State is increasingly familiar with after successful transitions for Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall.
Can Gibson follow in those footsteps and develop into an NFL-caliber wide receiver? Meyer obviously thinks so, otherwise he wouldn’t have spent any time in the final few minutes of the spring game getting so worked up over an otherwise meaningless drop.
“He’s got a long way to go,” Meyer said. “But he’s a freak, and he’s got to go up and get the ball. ... We’re going to teach him how to use that [body].
“He’s a very good young man, and he’s trying really hard.”
So for his part, Meyer is going to keep coaching him really hard to tap into all that potential -- every chance he gets.