- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice in the books and Ohio State heading into its offseason conditioning program, BuckeyeNation is looking at the players who boosted their stock with the program the most during those 15 workouts. The offense will go first this week, followed by a handful of defenders who will be in line for heavy workloads this fall, as well.
No. 1: Chris Fields
Who: The Buckeyes aren't yet in a position to feel truly comfortable about their depth at wide receiver, but they certainly can rest a bit easier at the end of spring practice -- and not just because a talented group of signees will be arriving this summer in time for training camp. Ohio State apparently had another potential starter under its nose the entire time, and Fields finally presented himself as a target worth throwing out with the first team with 15 productive practices that clearly caught the eye of coach Urban Meyer. Fields has only sporadically contributed much of consequence heading into his senior season, and while the Buckeyes might not have gone undefeated without his overtime-forcing touchdown last year against Purdue, that's the only score of his career at this point. It appears he has positioned himself for a chance to improve that production considerably.
Spring progress: The relative lack of bodies on hand at receiver in spring gave Fields plenty of chances to show what he could do as a weapon in the spread offense, but he also benefited from a minor injury to Jordan Hall that opened up some reps at H-back and gave the Buckeyes yet another option to consider. Fields offered steady hands as a target, appeared much more comfortable with his routes and responsibilities and showed good speed and elusiveness once he had the football in his hands -- whether it got there through the air or if he took it as a rusher, as he did on a 6-yard touchdown carry in the spring game.
Jockeying for position: Evan Spencer might have posted better numbers a year ago and Michael Thomas could have the greater upside as a target in the passing game, but neither left camp with Meyer calling them a starter. Fields took that honor, and if the Buckeyes had to play a meaningful game in April, he would be listed along with Devin Smith and Philly Brown as the first-team wideouts on the depth chart. That's a pretty remarkable development and a tribute to the work Fields has done since chipping in just 4 catches last season, though more competition is on the way.
He said it: "Chris Fields, I’m going to name him starter today. I told him I would if he finished the spring, and Chris Fields has earned a starting spot on the offense -- which is amazing. He’s a wonderful guy. Last year was very inconsistent, but I know [offensive coordinator] Tom Herman feels the same way. He’s earned a starting spot." -- Meyer after the spring game
Closing number: Fields pulled some double-duty in the closing exhibition in Cincinnati, and that heavy workload helped him pile up some yardage and continue to catch Meyer's eye heading into the summer. In all, Fields caught 5 passes for 37 yards and added 9 more yards on 2 carries with a touchdown to put a wrap on his productive camp.
2dJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy