Was Ohio State wide receiver Evan Spencer, drafted in the sixth round by the Redskins last week, really the most valuable player for the national champion Buckeyes?
No less an authority than Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said that he was.
"Unbelievable," Meyer said of Spencer after the Buckeyes beat Alabama to advance to the national title game. "He's the MVP. He's the MVP of our team. He's the leader of our team. He's the guy that at the right time, I'll probably make an executive decision and make him a captain. He's a wonderful kid.”
Meyer was talking about a player who was ninth on the team with 15 receptions on the season. But Spencer contributed in other ways, to say the least.
Spencer was involved in two key plays in his team’s 42-35 victory. Late in the first half he took a pitch and then fired a touchdown pass to wide receiver Michal Thomas. Then with time running down and Ohio State clinging to a seven-point lead, Spencer blocked two defenders at the point of attack to clear the way for Ezekiel Elliott’s game-clinching 85-yard touchdown run.
His teammates were not about to disagree with their coach.
"Because he really is the MVP," linebacker Joshua Perry said. "You turn on the film and he doesn't get targeted a ton, doesn't have the most touchdowns on the team, most receptions, most yards or whatever. But great special teams plays, clutch plays when we need them, great leadership, selfless player. When you have a guy as talented as him who does all those things even though he's not getting the stats that he wants, that's why he's the MVP."
Spencer may have been under the radar nationally until that national semifinal game but he was no secret to the Redskins. His brother Cole works as an area scout for the organization. When the Redskins decided to select Evan his brother picked up the phone to give him the news.
“I was sitting here on the couch and then I picked up the phone and notice a Virginia area code,” Spencer told reporters in a conference call moments after Washingotn selected him. “I picked up the phone and heard Cole’s voice, and he was like, ‘Hey man, we’re getting you.’ I didn’t know how to react and I didn’t even know what I said, honestly, but I probably started freaking out.”
It’s apparent that Jay Gruden was as impress with Spencer as Meyer was. One aspect of his game particularly caught the attention of the coach of a team that needs a lot of help on special teams.
“We know a lot about him obviously, but he brings a different type of mentality to the receiver room,” said Gruden. “He’s a different type of player, he’s a physical player. Excellent special team player – excellent, excellent, excellent – and he’s going to make that room better. Very, very good, positive, tough football player.”
It all sounds great but Spencer has some work to do. The four wide receivers returning from last year, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, Andre Roberts, and Ryan Grant, aren’t going anywhere. The team also drafted wide receiver Jamison Crowder from Duke in the fourth round and he would seem to have an inside track on the fifth roster at the position.
Gruden kept only five wide receivers last year but it’s certainly not unusual for a team to carry six. If his performance during the preseason justifies it, perhaps they will keep Spencer as a special teams player instead of, say, an extra linebacker.
Spencer certainly doesn’t lack confidence and it looks like he will do whatever it takes to make it.
“Honestly, as far as the toughness that I bring and the leadership that I bring, I feel like I’m one of the tougher receivers out there that are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and win football games,” he said. “Whatever that entails, that’s what I’m willing to do, and I think that’s one thing that I think probably appealed very well.”