COLUMBUS — Chris Olave looked like he was just savoring his final moments in an Ohio State uniform.
Once he left the field in South Florida, the star receiver also sounded like somebody who wouldn’t be back with the Buckeyes.
Multiple sources even indicated to Lettermen Row that the coaching staff had already given its blessing to Olave for him head to the NFL Draft, where he was projected as high as a first-round pick.
Instead, Olave must have been gathering more motivational fuel as Alabama celebrated. That work he wanted to see from the rising young talent in the program at his position included him leading the way. And Ryan Day and the Ohio State offensive braintrust got a surprise bonus in the form of one of the nation’s most prolific weapons.
“Our unit is so close,” Olave said after the loss to Alabama. “We competed every day in the offseason, trying to make each other better, and to see them out there in their freshman year playing in a national championship is huge.
“And I know they’re not going to forget this feeling. I saw the looks on their faces. And I hope they bounce back, and I hope they work harder than ever in this next offseason.”
Those Buckeyes will be grinding alongside Olave now after he confirmed his intentions to return to the program for one more season on Monday. How all does that impact Ohio State moving forward? Lettermen Row is breaking it down.
What Chris Olave means to Ohio State
At the risk of hyperbole, sometimes it feels like Chris Olave is living out a comic-book superhero story in real time for Ohio State. He’s got the humble origin story as an overlooked recruit the Buckeyes just happened to stumble on in California, he burst on the scene without much warning as a freshman, suffered a high-profile setback with the world watching in the College Football Playoff and then bounced back better than ever as a junior to get his personal redemption against Clemson. Just in case Olave’s value wasn’t already clear, his absence in the Big Ten title game left a void that seemingly impacted the entire attack in the most disjointed offensive performance for the program in years.
Olave is quiet and doesn’t seek the spotlight, but that only seems to enhance his presence as a leader for the Buckeyes considering the way he goes about his business. Producing catches and touchdowns at a prolific rate also helps, and now he’s got a chance to rewrite the Ohio State record books with one more season in scarlet and gray.
How Buckeyes could look at wide receiver now
Ohio State has recruited at an absurdly high level at wide receiver, and that unit would have been better positioned than just about any program in the country to absorb the loss of an NFL-caliber target like Chris Olave. That’s also what makes his return so tantalizing for the Buckeyes, who should now be able to get back to the six-man rotation they prefer while still being able to rely on Olave and Garrett Wilson as much as necessary.
There is only one football and a limited number of touches to go around, so the equation and expectations might have to be tweaked a bit for the rising sophomores who were part of that decorated signing class a year ago. But the return of one guy for one more season isn’t likely to cause much disruption in the careers of Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Gee Scott — and the truth is having Olave around should be viewed as a positive for them. Ohio State’s culture in the receivers room has become arguably the best in the program. That was elevated by the presence of seniors sticking around like Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, Austin Mack, K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor who showed how impressive depth and patience paid off in the long run. Olave spent time working, learning and growing around those veterans. From that perspective, it’s perhaps not a surprise that he would want to do the same with the young guys now.
Evaluating impact of Chris Olave returning
Ohio State is only going to be more dangerous at wide receiver with Chris Olave back, and that’s stating the obvious given his elite skills and proven production. But his return also sends a signal that the entire attack should be in good hands moving forward since he chose to stick around knowing that the Buckeyes will have a new quarterback replacing Justin Fields. Olave is wired different than most wideouts, so maybe that didn’t really enter his decision-making process. But it would certainly seem likely that a guy with first-round draft stock wouldn’t want to jeopardize that by spending his final season before turning pro with a passer he didn’t trust. Whether that will ultimately be C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller or Kyle McCord remains to be seen — but Olave surely believes Ohio State will be in good hands.
Bottom line: Having Chris Olave return for one more season is a massive boost for Ohio State as it tries to chase down a national championship.