Last season, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon combined to procure 77 receptions for 1,370 yards and 19 touchdowns.
For the first eight games, they were splitting reps at the Z receiver spot. Once Austin Mack was lost due to injury at the X, McLaurin moved over and shared reps with Binjimen Victor.
As the No. 1 Z receiver down the stretch, Dixon produced two of his three career 100-yard receiving games, and as the No. 1 X, McLaurin put up one of his two career 100-yard games.
Last year was the second year as co-starters for the pair, and when you tally up their production over the past two seasons it comes to 124 receptions for 2,228 yards and 33 touchdowns.
But their contributions go beyond simply statistics. There is blocking, precise route running for proper spacing, more blocking, and leadership.
All of the above will need to be replaced and none of it can be overlooked.
This isn’t about just replacing Dixon or McLaurin. It’s about replacing both of them. Each year since 2014, Ohio State has had a full rotation of six starting receivers, and that will continue under Ryan Day and Brian Hartline.
Fortunately, the Buckeyes got a pretty good look last year at one of the candidates to start this season. If there was a silver lining to the Austin Mack injury, it’s that it allowed Chris Olave to see the field. There had been talk that he was going to start playing more before the injury, but once Mack went down, Olave was in the rotation with Dixon.
Now as a sophomore who had some big moments last season down the stretch, he may no longer be viewed as an inexperienced player. As such, he is carrying some sizable expectations this year.
Redshirt freshman Kamryn Babb missed last season following an ACL tear in June. He was Ohio State’s top outside receiver signee a year ago and the No. 77 player in the nation.
Speaking of top receiver signees, freshman Garrett Wilson is the highest-ranked receiver signee for OSU in decades. He is a playmaker in every sense of the word and nobody would be surprised to see him break into the rotation as a true freshman.
Another possibility is redshirt sophomore Ellijah Gardiner, who could possibly end up at Z if there is a need.
There is some question as to how healthy Kamryn Babb is. He will be about nine months removed from his ACL tear, so they may start him out slowly and pick up the pace as camp goes on. There is a one-week break after the first two of practices, so spring football is a five-week process and not exactly a short period of time.
Babb was running and catching passes back in December already, which is good news for this season. Expect him to be somewhat slowed this spring just as a precaution.
Chris Olave will likely be the top Z for the Buckeyes this spring and he will be trying to help Garrett Wilson along so that he can contribute as a true freshman. Wilson may also want to keep an interested eye on Olave in punt coverage as well.
Even though the Buckeyes are replacing two receivers in Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon, it feels like Chris Olave has already solved half of the equation. He only caught 12 passes for 197 yards last season, but what he did and when he did it spoke plenty.
Talking to Parris Campbell at Big Ten Media Days last summer, he couldn’t say enough good things about Kamryn Babb. If you watch Babb’s highlights, you’d understand why. He is a playmaker after the catch who makes decisive cuts and runs with speed and power. He will be 100% by the time the season rolls around and there is still myriad reasons to be excited about him.
Two starters has been the norm, and will likely continue to be the norm, but don’t be surprised if it maybe moves to 2.5 starters this season.