“If the power to do hard work is not a skill, it’s the best possible substitute for it.” – James Garfield
The 20th President of the United States, James Garfield hailed from Moreland Hills, Ohio, a small village in the Cleveland area. While Garfield only served as President for about 200 days before being assassinated by Charles Guiteau, his historical significance is that he is the only President to be elevated to the office while being a sitting member of The House Of Representatives.
No matter how historians evaluate Garfield, the quote above struck me as something that could be applied to the next position group in the 2018 Spring Overview series — the wide receivers.
While 2017 was a step forward for the Ohio State passing offense, there is still much work that can be done to continue to elevate the entire group going into 2018. Even Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer would like better production from the wide receivers, as he said on the first day of spring practice.
“Receiver, we’ve been good. We’ve not been elite. I think we’ve been really good. We were elite in ’14. We were elite. We looked at much more than just catches. We’ve been good. Last year, very good group. Maybe not the first-rounder that was making the ridiculous catches all the time, but we look at the blocking. We look at more than just that. So that’s the position I want to see those guys develop into being. There’s some elite people that are potentially in that group.”
Over the next few weeks, I will be writing articles that will examine the various position groups within the team, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Game, scheduled for April 14th. These pieces will look at the position groups from positions of least concern to greatest concern, based upon the returning players, incoming recruits, and performances that were seen throughout the 2017 season. With spring practice, the threat of injury is of paramount concern, and the possibilities of transfers during/following spring practice can have an impact upon the position rankings. As always, it is my sincere hope that these articles will spark discussion and dialogue, and I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I look forward to writing them. Onto the subject at hand, the 2018 Ohio State wide receivers.
Players Lost: Trevon Grimes (transferred to Florida after the 2017 season)
Players Returning: Parris Campbell (Redshirt Senior), Austin Mack (Junior), K.J. Hill (Redshirt Junior), Jaylen Harris (Sophomore), Binjimen Victor (Junior), Ellijah Gardiner (Redshirt Freshman), Terry McLaurin (Redshirt Senior), Johnnie Dixon (Redshirt Senior)
Why did I rank the wide receivers as an area of low concern? Look at the group of players returning. They are bundant with redshirt seniors and juniors. The wide receivers come into 2018 with experience across the board.
Looking at Ohio State’s 2017 season statistics, the only player with at least 10 receptions who will not be on the 2018 Ohio State is departing senior tight end Marcus Baugh. The top three receivers: K.J. Hill (56 receptions, 3 touchdowns), Parris Campbell (40 receptions, 3 touchdowns), and Terry McLaurin (29 receptions, 6 touchdowns) all return for the Buckeyes.
Hill will be withheld from spring practice as he rehabs a shoulder injury. Of the receivers returning, Johnnie Dixon (18 receptions, 8 touchdowns) and Binjimen Victor (23 receptions, 7 touchdowns) return as the best red-zone options for the Ohio State passing attack.
Let’s get back to James Garfield’s quote. Even with the return of so many experienced wide receivers, 2018 represents a dramatic opportunity for the position group to move collectively forward.
No matter who emerges as Ohio State’s starting quarterback in 2018, the possibility/probability(?) is that Ohio State will utilize a passing attack that stretches opposing defenses beyond what fans have come to expect during the Urban Meyer era.
While OSU has been using the wide receivers in a rotational manner, a player to keep an eye on during the spring practices is rising junior Austin Mack. Mack (24 receptions, 2 touchdowns) is a roommate of quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and could emerge as a go-to target if Haskins is the starting quarterback.
Of the incoming freshmen, none were early enrollees for spring practice. Despite missing spring practice, it will bear watching to see which true freshmen, if any, are able to move up the wide receiver depth chart. Ohio State will be losing a significant number of receivers after the 2018 season, so any experience gained this year would be welcomed.
Jaylen Harris (2 receptions in 2017) and Ellijah Gardiner (redshirted in 2017) will look to the spring practices to solidify their places on the wide receiver depth chart before these freshmen arrive on campus this summer.