Football

Spring Breakdown: Buckeyes Deep and Talented at Receiver

Snapshot

Only five wide receivers caught passes for the Buckeyes last year as Ohio State employed a receiving corps with just one upperclassmen. It was a young group that had to rely heavily on Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Those numbers may shift a bit this year as all five of those pass catchers return, as do a couple of others, as well as a three-man freshman class that is already on campus. The Buckeyes have used a true six-man receiver rotation in the past and it would seem that there’s enough talent on hand this year to do it again if they’d like.

Depth Chart

Z
2 Chris Olave (Sr)
4 Julian Fleming (Soph)
7 Kamryn Babb (rJr)
NA Jayden Ballard (Fr)

X
6 Jameson Williams (Jr)
13 Gee Scott (Soph)
NA Marvin Harrison (Fr)

H
5 Garrett Wilson (Jr)
11 Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Soph)
NA Emeka Egbuka (Fr)

[Note: Fifth-year WR Jaylen Harris is not listed. He missed all of last season and it is not known if he will cleared to play in 2021. Fifth-year WR Ellijah Gardiner is no longer listed in the OSU student directory.]

Three Questions

  1. The depth chart above is an educated guess based on last year, so how much movement will there be from position to position?
  2. Can any of the freshmen make a move?
  3. Are the sophomores ready to explode?

Expectations

This is expected to be one of the deepest and most productive positions on the team in 2021. There are 10 receivers listed in the depth chart and nine of them are former Top 100 recruits. The only one who wasn’t a Top 100 recruit is Chris Olave, who is going to leave Ohio State as one of its greatest receivers of all time. Junior Garrett Wilson isn’t going to be too far behind him. Those two being the experienced veterans they are, they may not need too many snaps this spring, but they still need to build an on-field relationship with the new quarterbacks. The sophomore receivers should excel this spring. They have each had a taste of playing time and are now in line for much more. All three incoming freshmen enrolled early and each of them is already producing positive returns in winter workouts. The Ohio State secondary is going to have their hands full this spring.

What Needs to Happen

It can’t just be Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson again this year. Well, it could, and it would still be productive, but it would be a waste of scholarships. Jameson Williams is now a veteran and should be more involved this season. If he builds a reliable rapport with the young Buckeye quarterbacks this spring, they’ll be more likely to look his way during the season. The same can be said for every other receiver on the roster as well. Sophomores Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, and Gee Scott all need to step up and become a second group of starters, especially if the Buckeyes are going field a six-man rotation this year. If a freshman or two forces their way into rotational talks, that wouldn’t be the end of the world either.

Worst Case

Excluding injuries, the worst case here is for the Buckeyes to be exactly where they were last year with their receivers, which is still better than anybody else in the conference. But again, that would be a waste considering the amount of talent that has been recruited by receivers coach Brian Hartline. Sophomores Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming earned a lot of snaps last year and produced at times. If they didn’t emerge even more this spring as legitimate options, that would be a huge disappointment. The same could be said for classmate Gee Scott. After only seeing snaps on offense in a few games last year, if he isn’t a game-ready receiver this spring, that would be unfortunate for Ohio State.

Keep An Eye On

Gee Scott played the fewest snaps of the three remaining members of the 2020 freshman receiving class last year, and this was despite solid reports from spring and fall camp. Given the playing time that classmates Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming received last year, don’t be surprised if the biggest jump in the receiver room this spring is made by Scott. He has the size, strength, and athleticism to handle the split end position at Ohio State, and now he’s one year older and much more up to speed on the nuances of the position. It will also be interesting to see where freshman Emeka Egbuka lines up. Egbuka is a tremendous athlete who could produce wherever he is asked. He’s got the size to play wherever. Maybe it just comes down to need?

One Last Thing

Don’t get too hung up on the positions and depth chart, as there will likely be plenty of mixing and matching which will carry through into the actual season as well. Guys like Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, and Emeka Egbuka could play any of the three receiver positions and be successful. The key this spring will be figuring out exactly where everybody excels and how to use them all together in the best way possible. Wilson and Chris Olave should have much more help this season, but it will be important for those possibilities to emerge this spring.


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