COLUMBUS — The numbers alone would have been enough for Jaxon Smith-Njigba to catch the attention of Ohio State no matter where he was playing.
But shattering records in Texas against some of the best high-school competition in the country? That certainly added even more appeal to Smith-Njigba’s recruitment as the Lone Star State has increasingly become a focus and blossoming pipeline for the Buckeyes.
Everything else about Smith-Njigba checked out for Ohio State as well as they worked to develop a relationship and got to know more about his interests away from football. But certainly the way he was piling up yards, consistently finding the end zone every game and putting together an absurd highlight reel of catches pushed him up the recruiting board for the Buckeyes — and made the early enrollee a candidate to potentially jump into the lineup right away this season.
“Jaxon, talk about having an unbelievable season,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “The season he had down there at Rockwall is, again, one of the better ones I’ve seen in a long time. It’s exciting when you see stuff like that, when you just see the numbers, over 200 yards receiving per game, one-handed catches, releases where guys fall down on the ground.
“Yeah, that gets exciting. … I mean, it’s not like we’re coming back with five or six returning starters like we have in the past couple of years. [Getting ready early] is a huge emphasis point.”
Smith-Njigba was already turning heads and looking like a candidate to help the Buckeyes in a hurry during the only week of spring practice in March, making a handful of impressive catches during an open workout that ramped up the expectations for what the freshman could provide offensively.
Certainly there is a lot more work to be done for the newcomer, just like there is for the other three members of the decorated class of receivers Ohio State signed in the most recent cycle. But Smith-Njigba’s work down in Texas appears to have given him something of a head start, and that could pay off in a big way whenever the Buckeyes get the go-ahead to get back to work on campus.
What allowed Jaxon Smith-Njigba to shine as a recruit in Texas? How can Ohio State find ways to use his talents right away as a freshman? Where is the ceiling for the dynamic receiver? Former Buckeyes and NFL receiver Dane Sanzenbacher popped in some highlights from Smith-Njigba’s high school career and tried to answer those questions in the latest episode of BuckIQ.
Roll the tape!
Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward contributed the editorial content for this post.