Ohio State Football 2018 Freshman Report — HB Jaelen Gill

Jaelen Gill Ohio State H-back Buckeyes

[This is the 16th in a series where The-Ozone looks back on each member of the 2018 signing class and the impact they had this past season, as well as the impact they could have this coming season.]

Jaelen Gill came to Ohio State from nearby Westerville South High School, where he was ranked the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2018 class and the No. 30 player in the nation overall. He signed with the Buckeyes over offers from Michigan, UCLA, Oklahoma, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas, USC, and many others. He gave some Ohio State fans a bit of a heart attack on the day he committed.

2018 Season

The adjustment period and learning curve involved in becoming an H-back at Ohio State is never an easy or smooth transition. Only Dontre Wilson has ever been able to make an impact at the position as a true freshman, and that was mostly because the Buckeyes were desperate for speed, which he had plenty of.

Generally, the process of a freshman becoming an Ohio State H-back goes how it went for Jaelen Gill last season. Because of the new redshirt rules, Gill did see action in two games, with one catch (11 yards), but ended up redshirting. It didn’t help that he was playing the deepest position on the team, with Parris Campbell, KJ Hill, Demario McCall, and CJ Saunders all in front of him.

Even though Gill played a very similar position in high school, he didn’t need the technique then that he does now. Learning how to be a receiver and the literal and figurative steps involved was a time-consuming process.

“I was comfortable coming in because of stuff I did in high school,” he said after the Rose Bowl. “But as far as breaking down routes and stuff, that’s the part that got me. I’m used to running back steps and all of that, so that was a struggle, but I’m getting a lot better on that. I’ll work with Coach Hartline on that stuff in the offseason.”

So Now What

The departure of Parris Campbell to the NFL helps Jaelen Gill because he is the most similar physically and athletically to Campbell. Many of the very effective plays designed for Campbell the previous two seasons could now be called with Gill in mind.

The H-back position is still going to be very deep this season, with the return of KJ Hill, CJ Saunders, and Demario McCall, but each player is unique in what they do, so there should be a role for each of them.

Contributing at H-back as a redshirt freshman is a rarity, but so is Jaelen Gill. He is one of the fastest players on the team and has previous experience both as a running back and a receiver. More importantly than that, he now has a year under his belt as an Ohio State receiver and everything required therein.

Due to the depth at the position, there may not be an overly large number of touches available for Gill this season, but that will change in 2020. Even still, he should be expected to have an impact on the Buckeye offense this season with whatever touches he ends up earning.

9 Responses

  1. Hopefully we get away from this mentality that only guys 215 lbs or more can contribute at RB. This is college… not pro! There are MANY good RB in the 190 to 205 range. Schools like U$C, FSU, Clemson, etc often have really good RBs that aren’t “Big” RBs. In fact, we have had a lot of success with regular sized RBs in the past and guys like Boom Herron, Antonio Pittman, M. Wiley, P. Pearson, Robert Smith, Butler Bynote, Carlos, Snow etc. come to mind.

    Guys like McCall and Gill should be given a chance to play RB! Maybe they will be a part of a thunder and lightening combo or 3rd down change of pace. But to flat out take them out of the backfield and make them slot receivers who MAY get an occasional rush is nonsense.

    1. Not sure what you think a “big” running back is. Almost all of the former players you mentioned were big in terms of thickness and packing a punch. Those same players, minus Wiley, were as big or bigger than Barry Sanders. Actually as I am typing this I am wondering what I am arguing and what the heck your point was. Too many competent backs to feature them all. If they want to go to a school at a loaded position then they may have to do other things to see the field.

      1. Lol. So you’re saying Pittman, Pearson, Herron, Smith were all 215 lbs or more? What a goofball

        1. Flip side of that coin, the backs they chose to go with, Dobbins and Weber, neither were over 215 lbs either, so neither fit your definition of a “Big back”.

          1. Dobbins certainly ballooned up north of 215 lbs in year two. What was Weber listed at exactly?

            1. Dobbins was listed at 212 and Weber 214 last year.

        2. I’m not committing to anything, because in hindsight I am not sure what your point was. Btw, “goofball” is a bit mean.

          1. to be expected in these comments. They either complain about nothing at all to read about, or when there IS something to read, they complain about the “substance” or lack thereof of the article.
            If one doesn’t accept blindly that Tuf Borland is a horrible LB, or that DeMario McCall isn’t being given the opportunities, on their say-so, then yes, one is a “goofball”. No need to even use facts to make a possible argument to the contrary. Borland wasn’t slow last year due to coming off an Achilles rupture in the Spring, and attempting to come back too soon after (although standard NFL recovery time from the very same injury is almost always a year or more). No, it’s because he’s always been too slow, and he only gained the position due to nepotism. Even though he stole the job from some incumbent 4th year juniors as a True Freshman. Run DMC wasn’t given an opportunity to shine on the field because he doesn’t fit some supposed “Big Back” mold (as well as more blatant nepotism). No room for speculation that maybe, just maybe, things never clicked for him like they did for everybody else who started ahead of him. You’re a “goofball” for even thinking it. If you don’t agree with these guys, you’re (me too!) an idiot.

            PS: freshman year, JK Dobbins was among the top 10 fastest guys on the team in 10 major categories, and ahead of Weber in all but a couple of those (and only behind one of the fastest guysin last year’s NFL Draft), but if you ask a certain comments expert, Dobbins “lacks sufficient burst to be a featured back” and I’m a goofball for ever thinking otherwise.

        3. I think Pittman hit 210 lbs. Close enough.

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