The Buckeyes return 209 of their 212 receptions by wide receivers from last season, which gives you a pretty good idea of the depth that Ohio State has at the position. Even with this much experience returning, however, there are still question marks. The Buckeyes may have had twice as many 50-yard completions (8) as anybody else in the Big Ten last season, but they know they left too many plays on the table. This spring was spent making sure those plays get made in 2018.
21 Parris Campbell, rSr OR
14 K.J. Hill, rJr
30 Demario McCall, rSo
80 C.J. Saunders, rJr
11 Austin Mack, Jr OR
9 Binjimen Victor, Jr
15 Jaylen Harris, So
83 Terry McLaurin, rSr OR
1 Johnnie Dixon, rSr
87 Ellijah Gardiner, rFr
K.J. Hill led the Buckeyes with 56 receptions last season, but missed this spring due to a rotator cuff injury that he suffered in the Cotton Bowl. He will be fine this season, but his absence was noticeable. Actually, his presence was also noticeable because he was usually attached to a tire.
This tire appears to be broken. pic.twitter.com/bRTgizratG
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) March 8, 2018
“For us, we just need to be more consistent. We need to make big plays when plays present themselves in big games. We did that at times, it just wasn’t as consistent as we wanted it to be. That’s really what it is. We had a good year, just not an elite year, so that’s where we’re at. Just in the throw game, in the run game, and in every aspect of our game, we just need to take another step.” — Receivers coach Zach Smith
Sophomore Jaylen Harris went through his first spring as a Buckeye and had his moments. He got bigger and stronger over the offseason, and now measures in at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. He showed some nice hands in the spring game with a 25-yard touchdown catch that he snatched out of the air as the ball was passing him by. Sophomore cornerback Marcus Williamson is probably still trying to figure out how that happened. It will not be easy for Harris to get on the field, but as Zach Smith said this spring, every job is always up for grabs if you’re good enough to take it.
Parris Campbell was a Third-Team All-Big Ten selection last season as a receiver, piling up 716 yards from scrimmage and scoring four touchdowns. That’s not a bad season for a guy splitting snaps with K.J. Hill. This season, however, Campbell is looking for more than just third-team honors. In order to get there, he knows he needs to become a more consistent pass catcher down the field. He has put in the work to get there. He didn’t get a chance to show that in the spring game, but he did display his game-breaking ability to turn a 6-yard pass into a 60-yard pass.
Demario McCall has been an H-back for all of about five months now, and yet in the spring game he looked like he had been there his entire life. That doesn’t happen for everyone, and it’s certainly something for McCall to gloat about. He looked comfortable and happy to be at a new position. Sometimes, position changes will lead to a player taking a step backwards due to a lack of confidence or simply because of the difficulty of learning a new position. McCall went through his struggles in bowl practice and the offseason, but this spring he sure looks the part of a playmaking H-back.
Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin are the Buckeyes’ designated deep threats, and their improvement is key to turning the Ohio State offense into its best self. Dixon caught 18 passes last year, and a full third of them went for at least 30 yards. McLaurin, meanwhile, had 11 more receptions than Dixon, but half as many 30-yard gains. And of his 29 receptions, only one went for more than 40 yards. Dixon and McLaurin may be considered the deep threats on the team, but they will need to continue proving it if they want to make defenses respect the OSU downfield passing attack.
Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack are the two X receivers who will need to step up and help carry this Ohio State football team. One area where they could be incredibly effective is in the red zone. The only thing holding Victor back is consistency. Once he gets that taken care of, he is going to be even more of a regular in the end zone than he already is (7 TDs in 2018). Mack is a very good blocker, but needs to become a playmaker in 2018. He made some great catches last season, but he only scored twice. Together, Mack and Victor should both find the end zone plenty in 2018, leading to quite a bit of showboating in the process.