One of Ohio State’s biggest question marks surrounding the team entering the 2020 season is who will replace the talent lost in the wide receiver room.
The Buckeyes have a number of star receivers coming in from the new recruiting class, but ‘Zone 6’ only returns two major contributors from the rotation last season in rising junior Chris Olave and rising sophomore Garrett Wilson.
Olave made his mark against Michigan as a freshman, and this past season alone he grabbed 49 receptions for a team-high 849 yards and 12 touchdowns. Wilson added 30 receptions for 432 yards and five touchdowns.
Both Olave and Wilson are expected to be major contributors this coming season, but without the trio of talented receivers in K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor, and Austin Mack, the Buckeyes have to figure out who will complete the new rotation for the wideouts.
For Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, the key to that is to simply find the best six players and play them.
“We’re going to rank our top six wide receivers and figure out who are the top six,” Day said. “And whoever those top six are, they’re going to get on the field.”
Rather than try to assign players to specific positions, Day prefers to let practice run its course and then go from there.
“What you don’t want to do is just pigeonhole a guy — ‘you only play this position,’ and have three really good players at one position and only one is on the field,” Day said. “We’ll look at that here as we move into the spring.”
Ohio State certainly has a talented roster of receivers, but they lack experience. For some of the players who have been lost in the depth chart, now is the time for them to prove they deserve to be on the field.
For instance, Jaelen Gill, now in his third year in the program, is expected to have a role at H-back this season after spending the last two seasons learning behind Hill and Parris Campbell.
The wideout room also features two fourth-year players in Jaylen Harris and Ellijah Gardner. But both players only had one reception last season and have seen limited playing time in their careers so far.
Jameson Williams played in some meaningful snaps as a freshman this past season and had 6 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown, but he never made his way into the rotation and played behind Mack and Olave.
There is also Kamryn Babb, who was a former Top 100 recruit. He is now heading into his third year after missing his first two seasons with ACL injuries. The good news here is that he is now participating in all of the workouts this offseason.
Ohio State also brought in a group of highly-rated recruits when four early enrollee wideouts joined the program. Mookie Cooper, Gee Scott Jr., Julian Fleming, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba all came to Columbus in early January.
So far this month, strength coach Mickey Marotti has liked what he has seen from them.
“I mean obviously you have those four guys, are all different,” Marotti said. “You got Mookie who is 195 pound, ‘bowed-up guy that’s kind of a quick guy. You got Gee who’s kind of like Austin Mack-ish. Then you got Julian and and then you got Jaxon. So they’re all different. They’ve been great. I love their work ethic. I love their focus so far.”
But as far as what they can become, Marotti says that is up to them. All great Buckeye wide receivers who have left their marks on the program were in their shoes at one point. They came in not knowing what the future would hold for them, but worked hard for their opportunities to show what they could do on the field.
“I think they can be as good as they want to be,” Marotti said. “But the receivers that have been here in the past have put an inordinate amount of work in to get to where they were.”
The Buckeyes are looking for their top six receivers this spring, and when it’s all said and done, they may end up finding them in their six hardest working wideouts.
Any news on CJ Saunders’ sixth year of eligibility?
I believe it has been granted. But like with Justin Hilliard, it is still to be determined where.
I think Hilliard could be a good contributor next year. Particularly I think he is big enough to help with pass rush if coached up… unfortunately, he is a MLB and there simply seems to be no unseating Boreland whatsoever.
I wish Saunders all the best.
Olave, Wlliams, and Wilson feel like locks…although Williams will need to prove he is sure-handed as well as fast. His hands are a bit of a question mark.
There is no H-Back position in this offense so I expect Gill to be gone by summer. Gardener and Harris seem like likely portal guys as well especially if they graduate.
That leaves a very young but talented room that will require the backups to be coached up and gotten ready to play by fall.
Parris Campbell and KJ Hill would disagree about there being no H-back in this offense.
That would make sense to a “form over substance” guy… By any other name, the so-called “H-Back” is now purely a slot WR in a 3 Wide offense. There is no “Harvin” / Curtis Samuel rushing component to the position. Don’t be a form of substance guy.
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