COLUMBUS — Chris Olave did everything he could to help Ohio State into the College Football Playoff last season.
Once the Buckeyes got to the Fiesta Bowl, Olave caught a touchdown pass and had another productive game — until his final play, when his miscommunication with Justin Fields led to the game-deciding interception.
Olave had a brilliant season, but the final sequence of the year will fuel him moving forward.
“Chris is the ultimate competitor,” coach Ryan Day said in January. “I love Chris Olave. I’m not sure he ate solid food for about three or four days after [the Fiesta Bowl]. He was crushed. But that’s not the reason why we lost the game. He threw his heart on the field, and he thought Justin was scrambling. When you play in games like that, things like that happen. Unfortunately that happened.
“But nobody cares more than Chris, and I know he’s going to come back even more hungry. And I think he’s going to be a leader in that room.”
The leader in that room will help groom four freshmen wideouts and should be the go-to weapon for Fields once again this season. Fields and Olave developed chemistry through the season last year, and it resulted in beautiful touchdown throws near the end of the year.
His game-changing speed and ball-tracking ability downfield make him the perfect target for Ohio State.
The deep ball isn’t the only route Olave can handle. And it isn’t even the route in which he has his best chemistry with his quarterback.
In the College Football Playoff, Olave made a fourth-down conversation late in the game — and he made it look easy. The post route from Fields was perfectly thrown, and it resulted in a fourth-quarter lead for Ohio State.
But the final play of the Fiesta Bowl will be remembered more than that fourth-down catch to give the Buckeyes a lead in a national semifinal. And Olave knows that.
So once that game ended and the season was over, Olave got back to work. And he began to lead.
His breakout came against Michigan during his freshman season. Last year, he took another step toward stardom with nearly 1,000 receiving yards. Can his junior season be the year he tops that milestone? Can become the first Ohio State wide receiver to earn All-American honors since Curtis Samuel in 2016?
Olave has always had the work ethic to make those goals happen. He was never lacking motivation. But now, he has redemption motivating him to help the Buckeyes reach the College Football Playoff again — and win it.
“Chris is a coach’s dream,” wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said. “At the end of the day, I’m not sure if anybody cares as much as him about himself, his brothers, his teammates, his peers. He’s a great guy to coach. But yeah, [the Fiesta Bowl] hit him a different way.
“I think it has a chance to have a ripple effect in his career, he can recalibrate. He already worked really hard, but just to enhance what he thought he was and then be that much better.”