Jaelen Gill came to Ohio State from faraway Westerville South High School, which is about a 20-minute drive from the north rotunda of Ohio Stadium.
Gill, who grew up a Buckeye fan, was the No. 30 player overall in the 2018 recruiting class and the No. 2 all-purpose back in the nation.
As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,553 yards, but missed most of his junior season with an injury. As a senior, he was featured in a role more like the one he will have at Ohio State.
Gill did not enroll early, and as an H-back, he enters OSU at one of the Buckeyes’ deepest positions.
What To Like
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds, Jaelen Gill will add weight and get stronger so that he can be the complete H-back that Urban Meyer wants. This means lining up out wide, in the slot, in the backfield, and anywhere else a football can go. And he can make something happen from every single angle.
Fast and smooth, Gill has a natural athleticism that allows him to adapt quickly to whatever he is asked to do.
You can see this just in his highlights from his freshman season.
Gill has experience running the ball inside and out, and is also a very skilled receiver who catches the ball with his hands. He is fluid with and without the football, getting to top speed quickly.
And his top speed is pretty good.
The similarities to current Ohio State H-back Parris Campbell are striking, and what you see from Campbell this year will give you an idea of what you’ll see from Gill down the road.
The difference between the two, however, is that Gill is a much more advanced receiver than Campbell was when he arrived. Gill has spent almost as much time at receiver as he has running back. There won’t be nearly the same difficulty in moving from high school running back to college wide receiver.
You can see his pass catching skills on display here.
Having seen Gill in person, he tracks the football exceptionally well and times his jumps perfectly. He also used these same skills as an outstanding safety. Gill was usually the best athlete on the football field and showcased his skills with a dynamic consistency. Eventually, that should be the case as a Buckeye as well.
Curtis Samuel was the perfect H-back for Ohio State’s offense. Jaelen Gill should fall somewhere between Samuel and Parris Campbell. He may not be as fast as either, but he’s clearly fast enough.
He will need to get stronger, but that process has already begun. With Campbell, K.J. Hill, Demario McCall, and C.J. Saunders ahead of him currently on the Ohio State depth chart, there won’t be a need for him on the field this season. That doesn’t mean he won’t be there, however.
Urban Meyer wants the ball in the hands of his best playmakers, and it doesn’t matter what the depth chart looks like at any one spot. If Gill is one of the 10 or so guys who need to touch the ball, he’ll be out there. That’s a lot to ask of a true freshman at a position where no true freshman has yet succeeded. None of them have been as refined in both running and receiving as Gill, however.
The Bottom Line
Jaelen Gill is one of the most talented skill players in the entire 2018 recruiting class. Meyer will say that he doesn’t want to redshirt him, and receivers coach Zach Smith will say that players redshirt themselves, not coaches. Both statements will be true.
Neither coach will want to waste a year of eligibility with a small number of snaps, so if he’s going to play, they are going to try to make it worth everyone’s while. Special teams will come into play this year as well. Likely in kick coverage, but also possibly in the return game.
Ultimately, Gill should become a complete receiver for the Buckeyes. He projects to H-back, but also possesses the ball skills to eventually move outside if the need arises.
Here is a glimpse of what you can expect when he finally does see the field.