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 Garrett Wilson and his role with the Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
So who's spot in the starting rotation is Wilson taking?
— Benny (@BennyTheJet2017) April 14, 2019
There was absolutely nothing surprising about Garrett Wilson stealing the show in the Horseshoe, although the way the freshman wide receiver did it with his jaw-dropping touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone couldn’t exactly have been predicted. Early enrollees aren’t supposed to look like Wilson physically, they aren’t supposed to go elevate over cornerbacks with such seeming ease or come down with contested catches in front of 60,000 fans at Ohio State so quickly — even if they are five-star recruits.
There will be no keeping Wilson on the sideline this fall after his productive debut in spring camp with the Buckeyes, that’s for sure. But exactly how much is reasonable to expect of him in the rotation in Zone 6? That might be where it’s time to at least tap the brakes for a minute.
Obviously the world has now seen what Wilson is capable of with his elite athleticism, and nobody’s eyes were deceived by what he has put on film in public. And in some ways the extra buzz for his potential might create a bit of a challenge for Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline as he tries to manage those expectations and stress just how much work is still ahead — at least that would be the task if Wilson hasn’t already proven himself to be a grounded, humble grinder.
“My best compliment for [Wilson], I told him: You don’t act like a freshman,’” Hartline said earlier in camp. “When he first got in, he’ll tell you that it was kind of a culture change. I mean, the kid should still be in high school.
“But he’s just doing a phenomenal job. Whether I’m throwing him at ‘Z’ or ‘X,’ his mental retention is really good. He really wants to learn from the guys. He’s buying into the culture. So everything he’s doing right now is on the right track, and I’m excited to see him continue to take small steps.”
Performing in Ohio Stadium is another part of that journey, and the Buckeyes annually point to that exhibition as a way for young players to show they can deliver on the big stage — even if the scrimmage itself can be a jumbled mess and not nearly as important as the other 14 spring workouts. Wilson passed in flying colors, no doubt.
But does that mean he’s going to jump right into the top group for a deep, talent-laden unit? That’s a tall order with Austin Mack returning from injury and playing at perhaps the highest level of his career. Binjimen Victor seems to have flipped a switch dating back to the middle of last season and is looking like a game-breaking target. K.J. Hill remains the most reliable, versatile option for the Buckeyes at the position. Chris Olave continues to build on his late-season momentum and is going to be a major factor, C.J. Saunders has become one of Hartline’s favorite pupils in the meeting room and the practice field and Jaelen Gill is on the brink of a breakout at H-back.
So, who does Wilson leap over like a defensive back on a deep ball? For all of the justified hype about him that has only ramped up now, a starting job in Year One probably isn’t going to happen. But with Hartline looking to play at least six guys at wide receiver, it’s already clear that he can make plans to count on the young weapon one way or another.
That ridiculous grab is going to be talked about all summer long. But it will be important for Ohio State and Garrett Wilson to realize that the work is only just beginning.
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