COLUMBUS — Ohio State freshman wide receiver Garrett Wilson is a special talent.
The former 5-star recruit-turned-Ohio State highlight reel has already proven he’s more than ready to be in the wide receiver rotation with other veteran, proven pass-catchers. But now he has begun the process of taking over another role for his own: Punt returner.
In Ohio State’s emphatic win over Wisconsin last week, Wilson had a 23-yard electric punt return that seemed like it would be returned for a touchdown. The Buckeyes were set up with good field position and scored on that drive, a sign that Wilson had impacted the game without catching a pass in that sequence.
It comes as no surprise. Wilson is just a talented freshman.
“I think it’s very hard to step in as a true freshman and make an impact right off the bat,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I think it takes a little time. You learn about the system, you learn about how to practice, you learn about all those things. And so I think as the season has gone on, he’s gotten better. I thought he flashed a little bit in the Northwestern game, he got targets in this game, got the big return.
“I think the second half of the season is going to be good for him.”
Good for Wilson was the four touchdown catches in the first eight games. It was the average of 16 yards per punt return, including a long of 52 yards. It was the SportsCenter-worthy leaping catch for a touchdown against Miami (Ohio).
If Wilson can find a seem and get in the end zone for a special teams touchdown — or just make an impact in the return game — he might take over for Demario McCall and be the primary punt returner by the time Ohio State faces Penn State in a game that will likely have playoff implications for both teams. That’s a huge role for somebody who was playing high school football a season ago.
But Wilson isn’t the only member of the Buckeyes who could help their cause in the next two weeks against Maryland and Rutgers in tune-up action. Lettermen Row found four more who can turn reps into permanent roles down the road.
DE Zach Harrison
Zach Harrison, the crowned jewel of the latest Ohio State recruiting class, has been productive already for Ohio State. His 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss are proof that Harrison can provide depth along the defensive line if Chase Young needs a breather or Jonathon Cooper’s injury is worse than it appears to be. The problem for Harrison is that he is still young and relatively raw in his training with defensive line coach Larry Johnson, but playing time can go a long way in Harrison’s development. He should be on the field early and often against Maryland and Rutgers, so the next two weeks could be huge for the freshman defensive end who ultimately may play a role in the postseason.
DB Cameron Brown
Like Wilson and Harrison, Cameron Brown has already made an impact this season and played the entire second half against Michigan State when Damon Arnette was injured. That Brown was the first cornerback off the bench for the Buckeyes was a huge development for the Ohio State defense that has been dominant this season. Brown should see the field for most of the second half in each of the next two weeks. If he excels against Maryland and Rutgers, he could parlay the backup role with an inside track to be a starting cornerback next season, because the Buckeyes will likely lose most of their secondary.
WR Jameson Williams
If there’s one young name floating around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as a guy who is due to break out, it’s Jameson Williams. He’s not the biggest receiver in the room, and he didn’t have the preseason buzz or recruiting hype surrounding him like Garrett Wilson, but the freshman speedster from St. Louis could be a candidate for a November such as Chris Olave’s from last season. Williams was able to show off his speed against Miami (Ohio) in September, and he’s been playing on special teams nearly all season. A break-out game is likely around the corner for Williams.
C Harry Miller
Miller, the No. 1 center in the country in last year’s recruiting class, will likely be the center for Chris Chugunov and the second-team offense when the Buckeyes are rolling in the tuneup game against Maryland — and more so against Rutgers. If that is the case, Miller will be able to show why Ohio State didn’t redshirt him, and also why he has been the backup center behind Josh Myers all season, even at the beginning of fall camp. Miller is an extraordinary talent and has been praised all season by Day and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. A good showing in the next couple weeks will have the praise flowing again.