Garrett Wilson is the highest-rated wide receiver signed by Ohio State in at least the last 20 years, so folks can be forgiven for having some lofty expectations for him even as a true freshman.
Buckeye fans are accustomed to hearing about the newest, hottest, latest thing in Buckeye football every spring and fall, and every spring and fall, coaches will try to temper the excitement.
This is now the situation with Wilson, who has stood out to onlookers at every opportunity they have had to see him.
He has impressed his coaches as well, but this is still a fairly deep group of receivers at Ohio State, so don’t expect a true freshman to come in and start setting records.
But given his performance in the winter and so far in spring camp, there is no reason not to expect him to be a factor for the Buckeyes this season.
“My best compliment to him, I told him, ‘You don’t act like a freshman,’” receivers coach Brian Hartline said this week. “When he first got in, he’ll tell you, it was kind of a culture change. The kid should still be in high school. He’s just doing a phenomenal job. Whether I’m throwing him at Z, at X, his mental retention is really good. He really wants to learn from the guys, he’s buying into the culture. So everything he’s doing right now is on the right track and I’m excited for him to continue to take small steps.”
It can be difficult for a true freshman to make an impact immediately, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t preparing for something significant.
Look at receiver Chris Olave last season for an example. He had two receptions in Ohio State’s first nine games, but finished in incredible fashion, catching two touchdowns in a 62-39 win over Michigan.
In talking about what he has seen so far from his team this spring, head coach Ryan Day mentioned that Wilson had flashed. When pressed for what he meant by that, he had plenty to say.
“Tremendous ball skills downfield,” he said. “He’s still learning. First day, he’s kind of getting knocked off the ball a little bit at the line of scrimmage and trying to figure that out. The first time going against real big-time college corners and then he’s working his way through it. So he’s flashed. Again, still has a long way to go.
“He’s put 15 pounds on since he’s been here, since he reported in January, so (he’s) done a good job there. But there’s a lot of competition at the wide receiver position right there. So probably six, seven, eight guys in there that will all vie for playing time. So that’s an ongoing battle. One thing, he doesn’t have a bunch of experience and he’s going to have to get that over the next few practices.”
As the lone true freshman receiver taking part this spring, there is nobody in the room with less experience than Wilson. However, there may also be nobody in that same room with his innate pass-catching abilities.
But there is much more to being a receiver than simply catching the ball. Because of the amount of work that it takes to be ready to play and contribute, Day didn’t really put expectations on what he thought he would see from Wilson this spring.
What he has seen so far, however, fits with everything he saw in Wilson as a prospect.
“I’m not sure I had really expectations,” he said. “I knew how talented he was, and we’ll see. I think after spring, I’ll have a better idea. But obviously the coverage of what we see, everything we expected him to be I guess in terms of his talent level, yeah that’s there for sure.”