Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State, we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is sophomore wide receiver Julian Fleming. Yesterday it was offensive tackle Dawand Jones. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.
No. 4 | Wide Receiver | 6-2 205 | Sophomore | Southern Columbia High School | Catawissa, Pennsylvania
How’d He Get Here
The Michigan Wolverines offered Julian Fleming back in March of 2017, and a little over a year and a half later, he’d get to watch the Maize and Blue in person as Ohio State beat Michigan 62-39 in Columbus in Urban Meyer’s final regular season game with the Buckeyes. About seven months after that game, he committed to Ohio State over offers from everywhere. Fleming was the No. 1 receiver in the 2020 recruiting class — and the top overall player in the nation according to ESPN’s rankings. Alabama and Clemson were contenders for Fleming, but it was Penn State who was Ohio State’s biggest threat. Eventually, Fleming decided to head west and leave his home-state of Pennsylvania. He was a two-time Class AA State Player of the Year and also a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for Pennsylvania. As a junior, Fleming caught 78 passes for 1,524 yards and 22 touchdowns. As a senior, he posted 72 receptions for 1,582 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Julian Fleming played the fifth-most snaps among the Ohio State receivers last year and finished with the fifth-most catches. He caught seven passes for 74 yards last year, but played his best game in his only start. Due to a positive COVID test, starting receiver Chris Olave had to miss the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern. Fleming started in his place and was immediately a focus of the Buckeyes’ offense. He caught four passes for 53 yards in the game and showed some glimpses of a future to come. It’s not a stretch to think that Fleming saw himself starting at the Z receiver this year. He was the backup to Chris Olave at that spot last year and so he was likely a bit surprised when Olave chose to return for his senior season. Fleming was held back a bit this spring because he was getting an old shoulder injury taken care of. He will still likely be the backup to Olave once again, but expect a much greater involvement in the offense this year.
What to Like
As Ohio State receivers coach Brian Hartline said this spring, the size and speed combination that Julian Fleming possesses is rare. He’s big and he’s fast, which are two things that can carry a guy a long way in football. He got good experience last year and produced when given the opportunity. He’s a year older now and will be fully healthy this fall, which is something he hasn’t been since high school. Fleming comes from a school that required a lot of blocking, which is also a plus since that is no different at Ohio State. He’s a physical receiver and is only going to get more physical, but is athletic enough to also showcase a finesse side when needed.
What’s the Ceiling This Year?
With Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave on the team this year for the Buckeyes, it’s going to be difficult for anybody else to go off. That doesn’t mean others can’t be productive, it just means their respective ceilings are limited by opportunity, not talent. Julian Fleming has the necessary talent to have a big year, but he’s going to be the fifth or sixth option in the passing game this year. That will limit his production, but don’t be surprised when there are a handful of big moments from him this season. Fleming is going to be part of the rotation, so he will play quite a bit. It will just be up to the the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback to look his way from time to time.
The Buckeyes will likely be losing Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson after this season, which is going to have Julian Fleming in line to be the next big thing on the outside for Ohio State. Fleming will get to show what he can do in a number of different scenarios this year, but next year he’ll be able to thrive in them. As a starting receiver in 2022, Fleming can expect 50-80 catches for 800-1200 yards and 10-15 touchdowns. Those are the expectations that Olave has set in Ryan Day’s offense, and those are the expectations that Fleming is talented enough to meet. If he’s not an All-Big Ten player next year, then something has gone wrong. And if everyone is right about Fleming, All-Big Ten accolades are just the tip of what is ahead for him down the road.