He wasn't complaining at us, he was complaining with us.

That was the explanation from Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith about some gripes that receiver Michael Thomas expressed on Twitter shortly after the Orange Bowl, when he pointed out a lack of production from OSU receivers in the last two losses of the season to Michigan State and Clemson. While top receiver Philly Brown had a combined 13 catches for 169 yards in those two games, the Buckeyes' other starting receivers, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, combined for three catches for 16 yards, all from Smith.

Thomas has long since deleted the Tweets, which were preserved and explained in a few places. But among his words were "there was 2 people on the field that combined for 200+ plays past 2 games only brought to the table 3 catches 16 yrds" and "Is it throwing people under the bus? Or is it telling it how it is? You watch tv you see the same stuff... You just sugar coat it" and "they are considered starters at Ohio State!"

It may not be the best means of expressing displeasure, but Thomas did have his facts right.

"It was probably perceived as more taking shots at position people, whatever, but Mike was as frustrated with any lack of production or any lack of success as anybody," Smith said when I asked him about it Wednesday at National Signing Day. "But as I told you, he prepared to play. He was as much a part of the team as anyone else."

"A lot of those were on our group, not my group," Smith said, making the distinction that he felt Thomas was lodging the complaints and including himself in the issue, not taking shots from the outside at Smith's players.

And as Smith pointed out, Thomas didn't play last year, when he redshirted during his second year as a Buckeye, because those players who didn't put up stats at the end of the year beat him out.

"Mike knows at the end of the day he could have beat out anybody and offered more production, but he didn't," Smith said. "Those guys beat him out."

Smith said he did talk to Thomas about how his Tweets looked to everyone who read them.

"I know the kid really well, and it was more frustration with himself and us as a unit and our team and our offense, not winning the last two games, those things," Smith said. "He needs to understand how things are perceived vs. how they are meant."

Here is perception, and reality. The Buckeyes need more production from some of their receivers in 2014, with Smith (44 catches, 660 yards), Spencer (22 catches, 216 yards) and Dontre Wilson (22 catches, 210 yards) the leading guys who are returning. While there are new faces from the 2014 class jumping in, players like Thomas and junior Corey Smith, who were both healthy, older redshirts last season, will have every chance to win starting jobs this season, when sitting out won't be an option.

"You don't want to take away from what guys like Devin Smith and Evan Spencer have done for us the past year and the year before," Smith said, "but at the end of the day, we were better as unit but we're still not where we need to be. So there's no position in my room that's locked down or even where anyone has an edge.

"I'm not confident that there's any delineation between any other wideout. The way the younger guys develop, by the end of the year I think it's going to be a dogfight to see who starts and who gets the ball. Nobody' spot is safe.

"But you have to recognize what guys have done the past two years. Evan has done a lot for us, and Devin has done a lot for us. So they're not starters right now, but they definitely have an edge because of what they've done for us the last two years."