Coming into this season, I was a little worried how the Ohio State wide receiver room would shake out.
I thought for sure Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon were gone to the NFL draft. Along with them, I would not have been shocked if K.J. Hill and Terry McLaurin left as well. You add these four guys to the loss of tight end Marcus Baugh and the Buckeyes would have been very inexperienced in the pass catcher department.
Luckily for their new quarterback and Buckeye Nation as a whole, all four of those experienced wide receivers decided to return to Columbus. While talking about starters with this group is kind of a waste of time because they rotate so much, let’s take a look at who will be catching the ball for Haskins.
At wide receiver there are roughly six players who can claim some sort of starting status and all of them were a big part of the team last season.
At the WR-X spot, you have the young guys Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor. Mack was the guy who seemingly came up with huge catch after huge catch last season. His best game of the season came against Penn State where he had 90 receiving yards on six catches, but his two biggest catches were against Oklahoma and Michigan.
If anyone in this group truly “breaks out,” my money would be on Austin Mack…but I think that may have to wait until next year.
Backing him up is the extremely talented Victor, who had seven touchdowns last season on only 23 catches. For the past two seasons, Victor has tantalized us with his speed and height but when will he put it all together? The two X receivers combined for 692 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last season.
While the younger guys (who are actually now juniors) are at the X spot, the crusty old veterans occupy the WR-Z spot as Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin look to build on their 2017 seasons. Dixon was really one of the best stories of the season for the Buckeyes.
He was a guy who came to Ohio State with plenty of accolades and yet was seemingly looking at retirement after he battled injury after injury at OSU. He fought through the injuries and stayed healthy last season, catching eight touchdowns and averaging almost 24 yards per catch.
Much like Dixon, McLaurin had the best season of his Ohio State career as he caught six touchdowns and racked up almost 500 yards receiving. These veterans in the Z spot combined for 858 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
At H-back, the Buckeyes have two ultra-talented veterans who are both more of the traditional slot receivers, as opposed to the Curtis Samuel type of hybrid running back.
Parris Campbell came to Ohio State as a wide-eyed 17 year old. After waiting his turn behind guys like Braxton Miller and Samuel, Campbell finally got his chance to shine last season as he combined for 716 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns.
Behind him is the best wide receiver of the bunch (my opinion, but I’m right), K.J. Hill. As the “backup” last season, Hill racked in a team-high 56 catches from the slot.
I’ve been begging for him to get moved outside and start next to Mack and Campbell, but to this point Meyer has not cared. I’ll keep you posted if this changes. These two slot guys combined for 1,133 receiving yards on 96 catches last season. Expect those impressive numbers to get even more impressiver this season.
The tight end spot looks to be filled by Luke Farrell, as he was named the starter at the conclusion of spring camp. With that said, I fully expect this battle to continue into fall camp. Farrell was a four-star recruit and will give Dwayne Haskins a huge target to throw to at 6’6” and 250 pounds.
With six “starters” it’s hard to really have a backup article, but with the talent and depth at wide receiver there are still guys waiting for their opportunity. Number one on that list is Demario McCall.
In a world where there is no Hill or Campbell, I am ready to jump on the McCall train and drive straight to Heismanhypeville. During the spring game, McCall had 165 receiving yards and two touchdowns. During the 2018 season we will mostly see him at the returner spots and little glimpses on offense to make us salivate until next year.
Joining him in the slot is former walk-on C.J. Saunders. Although undersized, Saunders showed a lot of talent in limited appearances as he caught 17 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown last year. With Campbell, Hill, and McCall in front of him, it will be hard for Saunders to see that much consistent playing time.
On the outside, redshirt sophomore Jaylen Harris and true freshman Kamryn Babb look to fill out the depth chart. Both of these future stars are former four-stars and will patiently wait for the depth chart to open up big time next year.
At tight end you have two pretty talented guys fighting for the starting job behind Farrell. Rashod Berry was the backup last season and showed some insane ability and was expected to start this season. Surprisingly, he did not come out of spring with the job, but I think this battle is far from over.
Another person fighting for the starting job is the number one high school tight end, Jeremy Ruckert. At 6’5” and 240 pounds, Ruckert already has the size to compete right away. Even if he doesn’t earn the starting job, Ruckert will see some playing time this year.
PREDICTED DEPTH CHART
- Austin Mack
- Binjimen Victor
- Johnnie Dixon
- Terry McLaurin
- Parris Campbell
- K.J. Hill
- Luke Farrell
- Rashod Berry
PREDICTED WR AND TE STATS
If I’m completely off in any of these articles, I’m fairly certain it will be this one.
You can look at historical data points for the QB play and the RB play because you know who is getting a majority of the playing time. With the Buckeyes WRs, you never know who will play the most in any game. One game, Austin Mack can catch six balls and the next he could easily have no targets.