The No. 2 player on this list scored a 47-yard touchdown on the very first touch of his college career and is now just 48 receptions away from breaking David Boston’s career receptions record at Ohio State.
No. 2 — KJ Hill, Fifth-Year Senior Receiver
Following an official visit to Alabama in January of 2015, KJ Hill decommitted from his home-state Arkansas Razorbacks. He eventually signed with Ohio State over the Crimson Tide and redshirted as a true freshman.
Earning playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2016, Hill scored the Buckeyes’ first touchdown that season. Quarterback JT Barrett found him on a seam route from the slot for a 47-yard touchdown against a woefully overmatched Bowling Green secondary.
It was one of just four receptions of 40 or more yards for the Buckeyes that season.
Hill led the team in receptions in 2017, finishing with 56 catches for 549 yards and three touchdowns. There weren’t many explosive plays, however, as evidence by his under-10-yard-per-reception average. He had no receptions over 30 yards and just seven over 20.
Last year with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, however, business picked up quite a bit for Hill.
He finished second on the team with 70 receptions for 885 yards. He added six touchdown passes, which amazingly was only good for fourth on the team.
Where he really improved, however, was the number of explosive plays. As a slot receiver, Hill produced considerable damage on routes over the middle. He led all Buckeye receivers with 15 catches of 20+ yards, which was also one more than electric Purdue freshman slot receiver Rondale Moore.
With 144 career receptions, KJ Hill is now just 48 receptions away from making David Boston the second-most-prolific pass catcher in OSU history.
What He Does Well
If KJ Hill was at a job interview and he was asked what his flaws were, he would say, “Sometimes maybe I care too much,” and the interviewers would nod in complete belief.
As a playmaker, KJ Hill isn’t going to be Devin Smith down the sidelines, or Parris Campbell taking a jet sweep 60 yards.
What he will do, however, is get open, catch the ball, and then get as many yards as he can. And then do it all over again on the next play.
Hill is tremendous finding the open areas over the middle of the field and maintaining concentration on the football. No matter how big the situation is, he stays locked in.
Remember in 2017 when Dwayne Haskins came in against Michigan and found Austin Mack for the big pass play down the field? Don’t forget, Haskins also hit Hill for two big gainers on third down after that.
He isn’t just a guy who runs mesh routes, however. His game-winner at Penn State last season was a 24-yard quick screen that showcased his ability to make people miss (and Terry McLaurin’s ability to make people mist).
And don’t think he can’t go deep, because he can, just as he showed the first time he ever caught a pass in Ohio Stadium.
KJ Hill in 2019
KJ Hill is the leader of the Ohio State receivers this season and is playing the H-back position which receives the most targets.
The Buckeyes won’t throw the ball as much as they did last year, but Hill is still going to be a very busy receiver.
Can OSU’s new starting quarterback be as accurate on those crossing routes as Haskins was? If so, then Hill will be able to continue running in stride after the catch. If not, he’ll have to work a little harder to get the extra yards, but that’s not a problem for him.
Hill is the likely receptions leader for the Buckeyes this season and a 1,000-yard season isn’t all that unlikely.
He will be one of those receivers defensive coordinators hate dealing with because he does everything correctly and has the best hands on the team.
What They Are Saying
“I really came back because I wanted to make sure I did everything I could. I only get this chance once in a lifetime. I just wanted to finish it out, do everything I can in school and on the field. I’m just taking this as my last go-around. Doing the little things right, trying to do everything right. Since I’m older, I’m wiser and I know there’s more things I’ve learned on the road and I can just emphasize those things.” — KJ Hill on what he can still prove.
“I don’t think there’s anything he doesn’t do. To me, he’s not going to be a Parris Campbell burner but there’s a lot of things that he does that Parris maybe didn’t do and he’s being a great leader, he’s growing up and I think that it’s an absolute pleasure and we’re blessed to have him back this year and I’m glad that he came back, to not only lead this group, stay on my hip and just get better. K.J. Hill’s in a phenomenal spot and he’s a staple right now in our receiver room.” — Ohio State receivers coach Brian Hartline on KJ Hill.