Ohio State football kicks off its 2019 spring practices on Wednesday.
That will be the first chance anyone outside the program gets to see the newest Buckeyes on the field. And there is a lot of excitement around the potential of players like quarterback Justin Fields and defensive end Zach Harrison.
Wide receiver Garrett Wilson is coming in with just as much hype as those other 5-star prospects. But Fields already has a year of college experience under his belt. And Harrison plays a position where it has traditionally been easier for true freshmen to get on the field.
Wide receiver, on the other hand, is normally one of the toughest places for freshmen to really stand out.
Recently-graduated receivers Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon combined for one catch as redshirt freshman. None caught a pass during their true freshman years. Neither did K.J. Hill.
Michael Thomas caught three passes for 22 yards as a true freshman, then redshirted his second year.
So what is Wilson expecting to do this year?
“I expect to do everything that I can to put myself in position to play. So, I can’t say I expect to play, that’s not up to me. I’m going to do everything that I can to put myself in position to play,” Wilson said.
That process started back in January, when Wilson arrived in Columbus.
“You take in every detail that you get,” he said. “You take coaching well and you have a good grasp on the playbook. That’s probably the main thing. If you know the plays, you put yourself in the best position to play.”
Wilson was featured repeatedly in videos released by OSU from winter workouts. It’s probably not smart to put a ton of stock in that, but it’s all there is to go on at the moment.
That will change this week, when he hits the field for his first official practice as a Buckeye. That will give the 6-foot-1 Wilson a chance to showcase what he considers his best skill.
“Just my ability to go up and get the ball when it’s above my head. I mean, I’m not a big guy but I feel like that’s one of my better qualities,” he said.
With a strong spring, Wilson may have a chance to contribute more as a true freshman than his predecessors did.
Chris Olave caught 12 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns in his first season in 2018. That included a pair of touchdown catches against Michigan, and another in the Big Ten Championship Game.
That marked a major shift for the OSU coaching staff, to trust a true freshman receiver in big spots.
But while Olave was making the most of his late-season opportunities, Clemson true freshman Justyn Ross was catching 46 passes for 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. That included 301 receiving yards and three scores between the Tigers’ two College Football Playoff games.
Wilson comes to Ohio State with an even higher recruiting ranking than Ross had a year ago. And the opportunity ahead was not lost on him.
“Hopefully I can put myself in a position to be doing the same thing a year from now, or a year from then. Watching that, that’s super motivating to see people my age making plays on the highest stage,” Wilson said.
So is it realistic to expect Wilson to make an immediate impact this year?
“I don’t know what to expect with that,” he said. “But I’m going to just put myself in the best circumstance to play early. I mean, that’s all I can do.”