With the Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s departure to the NFL, Ohio State’s trio of star receivers Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and JSN have all finally (and sadly) left Columbus. The Buckeyes enter the 2023 season with a fresh roster of wide receivers ready to make their mark. Led by the dynamic talents of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, and bolstered by emerging stars such as Carnell Tate, the Buckeyes’ wide receiver corps, led by Brian Hartline, is poised to continue their new tradition of producing first round draft picks.
Obviously, leading the pack is Marvin Harrison Jr., who was a unanimous All-American last year, and is arguably the most highly touted receiver prospect of the last decade. Following in his dad’s footsteps, Marv brings elite route-running ability, terrific hands, and a football IQ of an NFL veteran. With his route running and freakish one-on-one ability, Marv is going to be the top target of maybe the best collection of skill weapons in America. Whether it is McCord or Brown at quarterback, Marv will most likely finish his career with another tree and then as a top five pick next spring.
While Marv is the obvious number one, Emeka Egbuka has a chance to play himself into the first round. I think he is their most gifted athlete with the ball in his hands and if he can just become more consistent, he will be held in the esteem of Wilson, Olave, JSN, and other recent greats. Marv’s presence will demand constant attention, so Egbuka should get plenty of opportunities as the number two.
Now, keep an eye on Jayden Ballard. With his combination of size and speed, I think Ballard has the potential to become a reliable deep threat for the Ohio State offense, which it really did not have last season. His ability to create separation with his speed and make contested catches makes him a potentially dangerous third receiver. He needs to have an outstanding offseason and training camp but I think he looks ready to make an impact. He showed good ball skills at the open practice as well as the spring game.
Julian Fleming and Xavier Johnson round out the non-freshman, and I think both will play a good bit. Johnson is the most interesting one to me, because he is a much better athlete than I ever gave him credit for and I think he could be a very productive player. You can line him up in the backfield and use him as a Swiss Army knife type of a player like they did in the Georgia game. I think they should try some of the things the 49ers use for Deebo Samuel with him (he isn’t Deebo, but you know what I mean).
Fleming is an interesting one. On the one hand, he has been a reliable receiver at times and he played decently against Georgia. But, he has largely been inconsistent throughout his entire Ohio State career, both as a receiver and as a blocker. We have all been waiting for him to take a leap and elevate his game to the level of at least Egbuka, but it just hasn’t happened. The injuries that he’s endured certainly haven’t helped, but at some point the light does have to come on or you will be fighting for snaps.
Brandon Inniss and Carnell Tate. You better get used to hearing those names. I do like Julian Fleming, but he is going to have a heck of a time keeping those guys from taking reps. Both of them were dominant players in south Florida, Inniss especially, and they have the talent to play immediately. Tate already had a dominant spring and he looks ready to play. I saw some shades of, dare I say, Garrett Wilson in his game. He plays with a smoothness that you just do not see from 18 year old kids. Inniss is more of a Jaxon Smith-Njigba type, to me at least. As the season progresses, don’t be surprised if these two find themselves playing meaningful snaps.
Whoever starts at quarterback is inheriting a Ferrari of receiver talent, there is no other way to put it. We haven’t even discussed the receiving threats in the tight end room yet *cough* Joe Royer *cough, but that is another article for another day. Essentially, McCord and Brown just need to not drive the car into the ditch. That’s it. They won’t need either of them to be Stroud or Fields right away. Just take care of the football and distribute the ball to these freak shows and let them make plays.