With five games already gone from his senior season, Evan Spencer never has been — and probably never will be — considered a key playmaker for Ohio State’s offense.
But that the senior wide receiver still finds ways to make key impacts throughout every game.
Spencer has made just five receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown for the 4-1 (1-0) Buckeyes, but at least one of his coaches still thinks he has the most all-around ability of any receiver on the roster.
“He’s probably our most complete receiver when it comes to understanding the offense, understanding all three positions at wide receiver, and the elements that he brings in the run game in terms of his ability to block,” co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said Monday.
And all of that understanding comes from a simple thirst for knowledge, Spencer said. Once he had learned his own duties on the field, the Vernon Hills, Ill., native said he took it upon himself to learn the job of each player on offense around him and even the schemes of opposing teams.
“Once I learned what I had on this play then I tried to learn what everybody else had,” he said Monday. “And then once I learned what everybody else had, I kind of wanted to learn what the quarterback had or I wanted to know … what kind of different plays suit different coverages and vice versa.”
Even as Spencer has been largely lost in the shuffle when it comes to targets from redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett this season — and senior quarterback Braxton Miller in years past — he hasn’t found time to complain.
“He’s a very selfless guy that never once complains openly, just goes out, does his job as good as anybody in the conference,” Herman said. “I would argue as good as anybody in the country.”
With just 42 career receptions and five touchdowns to his credit, many might not expect Spencer’s name to be mentioned when it comes to NFL prospects. But Herman said he can’t be included on the list of doubters when it comes to his potential at the next level.
“I think that he’s just happy getting W’s and he’s a team guy and a selfless guy, and he’ll have, in my opinion, should have a pretty decent career at the next level just because he’s so versatile and can do so many things,” Herman said.
Senior tight end Jeff Heuerman — who is Spencer’s roommate for the second year in a row — said the Vernon Hills High School product always finds a way to do what the coaches ask, no matter what it is, which he added is a mindset instilled by coach Urban Meyer.
“I think coach Meyer and his coaching staff, they do a great job of it’s always team first,” Heuerman said Monday. “Evan — coach Meyer’s said before in team meetings that he’s one of the … least selfish players we have.
“He does his job out there, a lot of slant cracks with corners and some safeties coming down to get some of those fast guys off of the edge. He does a really good job with that.”
While Heuerman mentioned Spencer’s selflessness, the latter said finding ways to make an impact knowing the ball might not be heading his way still “comes with its difficulties.”
“But at the same time, my No. 1 goal is to win,” he said. “And I’m the most competitive person I know and at the end of the day, if whatever I have to do to make my team win, I’m going to do it.
“And whether that means I touch the ball 100 times a game or if it means I touch the ball zero and I’ve got to secure the edge, then I gotta do what I gotta do.”
Even if making his mark on OSU’s program means holding blocks and setting picks instead of catching more than five passes through the first five games of his final season in Columbus, Spencer said his feelings for the game and thirst for knowledge are the key reasons he is driven toward success.
“I’ve always kind of had a want for knowledge,” he said. “And especially in football because … I love football, it’s been my whole life from the beginning.”
Spencer and the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Rutgers on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.