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Buckeyes still waiting for good news, boost from C.J. Saunders

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Ohio State wide receiver C.J. Saunders is waiting for word on another year of eligibility. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Buckeyes still waiting for good news, boost from C.J. Saunders

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and C.J. Saunders? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The holding pattern remains in effect for C.J. Saunders.

The Ohio State wide receiver doesn’t yet have word from the NCAA about his appeal for a sixth season of eligibility. He’s currently listed as unavailable for spring camp as he works back from the knee injuries that derailed what was shaping up to be a dream senior season for a former walk-on who built himself into a captain for the Buckeyes. All he can do is watch, wait and work behind the scenes this spring.

But a resolution should be coming soon. And based on the fact that Saunders is even still around during this camp suggests both that there is optimism that he’ll be approved for an additional year of eligibility and that he and the Buckeyes believe that it’s worth all the effort.

“We’re just waiting to hear about being eligible in his sixth year,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “And we’ll wait to hear back from the NCAA. I believe in April we’ll have a better idea of some sort of response from them.

“[Slot receiver] is a transition spot for us. Last year we used some two tight end stuff to kind of supplement K.J. Hill a little bit. But we’re hoping to get C.J. Saunders back.”

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Ohio State wide receiver C.J. Saunders is working to get back for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The Buckeyes have other options at that position, including Garrett Wilson and a couple talented freshmen like Mookie Cooper and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. So, Ohio State isn’t exactly short on options, though plugging Saunders back into that rotation would certainly be a major boost for the offense given his precise route-running, reliable hands and undeniable toughness.

The biggest value from Saunders, though, comes through his leadership. And after losing six veterans from the wide receivers room over the last two years, bringing back a proven captain who knows everything position coach Brian Hartline needs from him could be huge for the Buckeyes with so many young wideouts on the roster.

Of course, a healthy Saunders is also a contributor on the field, even if he’s not likely to be a starter and will have his work cut out for him to get back to his pre-injury level physically. Simply having him around is a bonus for the Buckeyes, and that was no certainty back in November when Saunders participated in Senior Day festivities and was at least considering the possibility of moving on from the program.

“We’re trying to get the sixth, and it’s a tricky process, I don’t really know exactly the details with that,” Saunders said in December. “But we’re going through that process, the appeal and whatever needs to be done. I think it’s clear, and I’ll be back in a uniform.

“But if it’s not, then we’ll see what life has next.”

The NCAA has plenty on its plate right now, but a decision for C.J. Saunders should still be coming soon.

Based on precedent, it’s difficult to imagine that he won’t have another shot at that fairytale ending with Ohio State.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.