The No. 8 player on this list didn’t see the field much as a true freshman last season but is slated to be Parris Campbell’s replacement this year.
No. 8 — Jaelen Gill, Redshirt Freshman H-Back
Jaelen Gill was the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2018 recruiting class and the No. 30 player overall. He came to Ohio State from nearby Westerville, where he was ranked the No. 2 player in the state of Ohio.
Gill played both running back and receiver for Westerville South, which prepared him well for his eventual role as an H-back for the Buckeyes.
Gill did not enroll early last season, and having to learn the intricacies of being a receiver meant his learning curve was steeper than most.
He ended up playing in a game or two and caught one pass for 11 yards.
He maintained his redshirt, but now will be counted upon to be an impact player for the Buckeyes.
What He Does Well
Jaelen Gill may be the fastest Buckeye on the team this year, but he is far more than just a straight-line runner. In the spring, he showed plenty of shake, routinely producing missed tackles in space.
As an H-back, Gill is more in the line of Parris Campbell than Curtis Samuel in that he is an outside runner like Campbell, rather than an inside runner like Samuel. He ran between the tackles quite a bit in high school, so he has experience with that, but that isn’t necessarily what the Buckeyes are looking for in Ryan Day’s offense.
Gill is not a raw receiver by any means. The footwork and route-running is always a difficult master-class, but his ability to track the football is a natural skill. He is also a fantastic outfielder, which uses some of those same innate skills. He has very good hands, great speed, and the vision and agility to make life miserable for nickels, safeties, and linebackers.
Jaelen Gill In 2019
Jaelen Gill is one of three H-backs on the roster this season along with fifth-year seniors KJ Hill and CJ Saunders, so there will be some semblance of a rotation here. Gill, however, is the most similar in skill set to the departed Parris Campbell, who led the team with a school-record 90 receptions last season.
Gill is a playmaker after the catch. He can take a quick screen and go far, or do the same with inside routes over the middle. Gill can also add something to the passing game that the Buckeyes didn’t have last year, and that’s a deep threat in the slot. For whatever reason, the Buckeyes didn’t do much of that last year, but they showed some of it in the spring, and it was effective.
Gill should be quite present this season for the Buckeyes, and in terms of this entire list, he may be the most underrated. In fact, he could very well end up in the top three when the season is over.
What They Are Saying
“He’s definitely making plays. He made plays last year, but I feel like he’s polishing up to be a receiver now because he was a running back, coming in from high school he was a running back. So now he’s been a receiver, and when you’re comfortable out there, you can start playing faster, knowing what you’re doing, having plans at receiver on the line, off the line, stuff like that. I feel like he’s playing at a high level right now and he can keep enhancing it.” — Senior H-back KJ Hill on Jaelen Gill’s growth since last year.
“Great strides. He’s one of the guys that have made probably the biggest jumps. He’s playing fast, he’s at my hip, he wants to learn and learn, he’s doing a great job with his academics off the field. There’s still things he needs to clean up and he knows that and we’ll keep that between us, but in the end, he’s doing a great job on the field and I’m excited for him.” — Receivers coach Brian Hartline on the strides made by Jaelen Gill.
“He’s a really explosive player. If he gets the ball in his hands, he has a shiftiness to him that he can move side to side really well and make people miss. He’s getting a lot better with his hands, which is really impressive and a big part of receiver play. His routes, being able to clear guys and get into his routes, so I’m really impressed with how far he’s come in that area of his game.” — Senior H-back CJ Saunders on what he’s seen from Jaelen Gill.