The Ohio State wide receiver group quickly evolved over the last few years. When Urban Meyer promoted former Ohio State wide receiver Brian Hartline as the position coach, things took a turn for the extreme. Hartline became the program’s best recruiter overnight and brought in a boatload of talent to the position.
But over the last two years, the Buckeyes have lost valuable veterans, like Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, and K.J. Hill. While the experienced leaders will be playing on Sundays now, the future of the position is as bright as it has ever been.
Ohio State Wide Receiver Position Breakdown
The most experienced player in the group is Demario McCall, who is actually listed as a running back. For most of his Ohio State career, he has been a kick returner and special teams player.
As a running back, McCall has carried the ball 89 times for 6.2 yards per carry. He has 19 receptions for 14.4 yards per reception.
The bulk of his snaps came from special teams, even though he doesn’t have nearly as many touches. He has returned 22 kickoffs and 16 punts over his career. In 2019, he was responsible for 10 of the teams’ 13 kickoff returns for a career-high 23.2-yard average. He also returned eight punts for an average of 8.1 yards, which was the highest average among Buckeyes with more than one attempt.
While McCall has played out of the backfield on offense for his entire career, during spring practices he moved to the slot.
But the starting running back in 2020 will either be redshirt sophomore Master Teague or true sophomore Marcus Crowley. McCall, a fifth-year senior, will still get plenty of carries despite the position change.
The only upperclassman that’s a true wide receiver is junior Chris Olave. The team leader in receiving yards and touchdowns only has 13 games as a starter under his belt.
Olave will be Fields’ number one target without question. He is the only skill position player on the roster with starter experience. Olave was second on the team in receptions a year ago and has another season to improve on his chemistry with Fields.
Olave is a smooth route runner and has incredible body control. He is poised to have the best season for a wide receiver at Ohio State since Michael Thomas. Though Thomas never put up any eye-popping statistics, his emergence as a clear WR1 left an impact no one has matched.
The interesting thing about Olave is that he is not only WR1, but he may also be the best special teams player they have. It’s not unusual for some starters to play special teams, players of Olave’s status don’t. The offense is so young this year, that it Day won’t want to take offense snaps away from Olave for special teams.
After Olave, the most experienced receiver on the roster is true sophomore, Garrett Wilson. In 2019, Wilson was fourth on the team with 30 receptions and led the team in punt returns. He is more physical and a better all-around athlete than Olave, so he’ll be a great complement as Fields’ second look.
Wilson also opened spring practice in the slot. Day wanted to make his most athletic receiver the safety net for his athletic quarterback.
The other sophomore receiver that will be returning in 2020 will be Jameson Williams.
Williams showed flashes of athleticism despite only having six receptions his freshman year. He was one of the fastest receivers on the team last year and will get better with Fields throwing his way. Most of his action in 2019 happened when Chris Chuganov or Gunner Hoak were in the game.
The 2020 Recruiting Class
The further the depth chart gets, the less experienced it is. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting.
The 2020 class is loaded with talent at wide receiver: Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr., Mookie Cooper. These four join Wilson and Williams as gems that Hartline brought into the program.
A rotation composed of these receivers, excluding Wilson, that will be the number two wideout across from Olave.
Fleming is a five-star recruit that can do just about anything. In high school, he won his battles with pure athleticism. His quarterback would often throw him passes behind the line of scrimmage, and he would turn those into huge gains. Fleming also used his speed to get behind the defense for deep balls. He was at his best when all 11 defenders were either in front of him or behind him.
He is more than just a speedster, though, and had to make contested catches at times. At 6’3” and 200 lbs, he is already one of the biggest receivers on the roster.
Smith-Njigba has a similar skill set. Even though he is a little smaller than Flemming, he is still a strong runner with the ball in his hands. He also showed more route-running ability.
Scott could easily take over the role that Hill held over the last four years, and made him the all-time leader in receptions at Ohio State. Scott is an excellent route runner with great hands and is someone that will be on the field for third-and-long situations.
Cooper is another speedster that can be used in a number of different ways, including blocking. If he doesn’t see the field on offense, he will be a standout special teams player.
The Ohio State wide receiver position as a whole lost some experience but gained athleticism. Over the next few years, this group may evolve into the best group of pass-catchers the program has ever seen.
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