[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.
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.