The No. 5 player on this list is entering his third year as a starter for the Buckeyes but missed a good chunk of the second half of last year after proving himself a popular target for quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
No. 5 — Austin Mack, Senior Receiver
Austin Mack has 20 starts over the last two seasons, splitting reps with classmate Binjimen Victor at the X receiver position.
Mack has only shown glimpses of his playmaking ability to this point, but was beginning to be more than just a chain mover last season when he was injured and lost for the year.
He caught a contested 48-yarder against TCU last season, which was the lone reception of 40 or more yards of his career.
At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Mack is a strong, solid target. He was moved from X to Z in the spring, which means he will be playing the position left vacant by Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon.
What He Does Well
Despite some drops against TCU last season, Mack is a reliable target who can provide a substantial window for a quarterback.
He is bigger and stronger than most defenders and is a technician in and out of his breaks.
It’s unfortunate that he didn’t have an entire 2018 season with Dwayne Haskins because he no doubt would have grown from it and would have more opportunities to make plays before and after the catch.
Had he stayed healthy all year long, he may have had an NFL decision to make.
There have not been as many big plays as Mack would have liked so far in his career, but he is looking to change that heading into the 2019 season.
Austin Mack In 2019
If Austin Mack stays at Z all season long, he will be involved all over the field. He won’t be tied to the sideline as much as some Xs can be.
He will need to show that he has the consistend deep speed to be effective downfield as well as the ability to track the ball.
Mack could be an interesting screener as well. A quick screen to a guy capable of breaking a tackle out in space or making a defender miss entirely is a nice combo to have.
Having Mack this high on the list is a projection based on the requirements of the position, the growth he showed a year ago at this time, his natural abilities, and overall skill set as a wide receiver.
He has only shown a fraction of what he expects to show this season. Mack knows there is plenty riding on the season, both for him and the Buckeyes. Making as many plays as he’s capable of would help all involved.
Remember the expectations for Noah Brown prior to the 2015 season? Those would probably not be out of place for Mack, who is a much more polished and productive receiver than Brown was when he was the talk of camp way back when.
What They Are Saying
“Once you’re at 99 percent of your capacity, getting that last one percent is really hard. Austin Mack, he’s working on his details, it’s really hard versus a guy that maybe hasn’t earned time yet.” — Receivers coach Brian Hartline on who caught his eye early in spring.
“He’s great. Smart. He’s able to make that transition because, in the end, I need to get the best three guys on the field at all times. So to have Ben and Austin in the same position, that doesn’t help anybody. So moving often over there, get three guys, three seniors on the field and play ball is good.” — Brian Hartline on how Mack has handled the move to Z.
“Man, just be hungry and be able to make the impact I should have for the last couple of years. Obviously, the injury was a disappointment to me but now it’s time to make a difference and be the player I should have been the past couple years.” — Austin Mack on his expectations for this year.