It was a fourth-quarter pass from Gunnar Hoak in the Miami game when Buckeye fans got their first good look at the potential possessed by receiver Jameson Williams.
Then just a freshman, Williams ran an in-route on second and six and Hoak hit him right at the hashes. Williams had to go up for the catch, and when he came down, he planted his right leg and reversed course to the sideline he had just come from. The corner was playing over top of Williams and was closer to the middle of the field than Williams, which meant that he was out of position as soon as Williams planted and turned upfield.
It was over in mid-air. As soon as he decided to plant the leg and reverse course, as the great Brent Musburger would have said, “This baby’s over, this race.”
Williams hit his top speed pretty quickly and went untouched as a pair of corners could only wish him well on his travels.
Any time a freshman does that early in his career, the possibilities start to get imagined.
Despite that 61-yard touchdown in the fourth game of the season, Jameson Williams finished with just six catches for 112 yards and one touchdown. He caught passes in just two games, but such was life for a receiver playing behind Chris Olave and Austin Mack.
Williams did see more time while Mack was dealing with injuries, but that initial flash wasn’t seen again in 2019.
The lack of plays after the Miami game wasn’t a surprise. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day even said on signing day over a year ago that Williams — who didn’t enroll until the summer — may need a year of seasoning before he’s truly ready.
Day was right, but Williams made the most of that seasoning by learning from Mack, Olave, Binjimen Victor, KJ Hill, and more. On both offense and special teams.
“It’s a really big learning curve,” Williams said recently of his freshman season. “I took a lot of mental reps from watching the older guys. Every practice I was watching the guys. I’d watch KJ one play, Chris one play, Ben one play, Mack one play. Watching everybody. So it was a real learning experience on the offensive side. On the special teams side, it was a whole lot of fun. I go hard on special teams for my brothers. They got me, I got them.”
Williams very nearly made an impact on special teams a time or two, just missing a block here and there. He did play on the coverage team last year, finishing with a pair of tackles.
Whatever he could do for the team, he was willing to do. Some of it was harder than others.
“I started off on scout team during camp,” he said. “That’s one of the hardest things I ever did. Running routes against Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade. Trying to go against Josh Proctor. Trying to run a route on them for me was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. But it made me better. It has helped me. I learned things that I can do to win those battles.”
Along with Chris Olave, Jameson Williams is expected to be one of the top two Z receivers this year for the Buckeyes. Everyone saw Olave blossom in his sophomore season.
After catching 12 passes as a true freshman, Olave responded as a sophomore with 49 catches for a team-high 849 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Can Williams have a similar jump in his sophomore season? As the top two Z receivers for the Buckeyes, he and Olave will look to provide big plays down the field for quarterback Justin Fields. As the two fastest players on the team per Williams (he says he’s No. 1, by the way), Fields could do worse when it comes to deep threats.
And just as Buckeye fans saw that first big play from Williams last year and want even more this year, nobody wants that to happen more than Williams himself.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell you to expect, I’ve just got to show it.”