Ohio State head coach Ryan Day hasn’t confirmed the return of receiver Chris Olave officially, but according to his Buckeye teammates, the talented junior pass catcher will be back on the field for OSU this weekend against Clemson.
The return couldn’t be happening at a better time.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had his worst game as a Buckeye his last time out, as Northwestern held him to 12-of-27 passing for 114 yards with two interceptions and – for the first time in his OSU career — not a single passing touchdown.
The passing total was Ohio State’s lowest in three years, matching the 114 yards that JT Barrett threw for in his final game as a Buckeye in the 24-7 win over USC in the 2017 Cotton Bowl.
Not coincidentally, Fields’ lackluster performance came in the same game that was missing Olave, who was out due to COVID protocols.
Olave is of course one of Fields’ two favorite targets. Even having missed the last game, Olave’s 36 receptions are only bested by Garrett Wilson’s 38. And nobody has more touchdowns than Olave’s five.
Averaging 105.6 yards receiving per game and being a threat to score from anywhere, Olave’s presence is always felt, which means so is his absence.
Now that he’s back, however, he’s got some very happy teammates.
“I just missed Chris being out on the field. He’s a great leader for the receivers,” Fields said. “Of course, he’s a great player. I think having him back will make our offense better as a whole. I think me and Chris have a great chemistry on the field. So just having him back out there will definitely improve our offense.”
In Olave’s absence last week, the Buckeyes turned to freshman Julian Fleming who caught a career-high four passes for 53 yards. He showed flashes and gave everyone a glimpse of the future, but it wasn’t quite the same, at least not for Fields. And certainly not for the Northwestern defense who didn’t have to worry about Olave’s unique set of skills.
Without Olave to be concerned about, the Wildcat defense could focus more of their attention on stopping Garrett Wilson, who was held to four receptions and a season-low 49 yards.
You can chalk Wilson up as being another Buckeye happy to have his running mate back this week.
“Yeah, Chris being a great player, he’s gonna open everything up in the offense,” Wilson said. “So in that case, DBs can’t lean one way or the other without feeling it a little bit. So Chris just opens up the whole offense. You can attack people downfield. He runs the full route tree. So Chris being back, that’s gonna be huge.”
It will also be huge for Olave, who certainly didn’t want to miss this game. Not with the way last year’s game against Clemson ended.
Even before it was scheduled, this game was circled on Olave’s calendar, which means that nobody is happier about his return than he is.