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 on 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 on Brian Hartline and the wide receivers? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Over/under 20 catches for Jaylen Harris this year? Will he see significant playing time come December?
— Oz 10 (@AustInformation) August 16, 2018
Perhaps it would be unfair to suggest that Ohio State has more depth, talent and experience than it knows what to do with, because the program has some pretty creative coaches. The Buckeyes will absolutely figure out some way to use all the athleticism at its disposal, although it’s certainly going to be a tricky feat for interim wide receivers coach Brian Hartline to come up with a solution that can keep everybody involved from a unit that might conceivably be 10 guys deep.
Jaylen Harris is the perfect example for the problem the Buckeyes are facing. Granted, it’s an issue that every coach in the country would love to have, but it’s still going to be one that Hartline will no doubt be thinking about every day this season. Harris has the potential to be a game-changing wide receiver, he flashed his potential again with a touchdown grab in the spring game and his 6-foot-5, 215-pound size is begging to be used in some capacity.
But when, where and how? He certainly seems like a dangerous weapon in the red zone, but Ohio State already has a proven one ahead of him in Binjimen Victor. Harris has ball skills that should make him a consistent pass-catcher, but Austin Mack and Terry McLaurin are at the head of that line. That’s also just the tip of the iceberg with Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, K.J. Hill and C.J. Saunders among the returning veterans who need touches. Throw in a newcomer making waves like Chris Olave or the desire to carve out a role for Demario McCall and it gets real hard to find a path to 20 catches even for a player with the upside of Harris.
“They’re all going to play,” acting head coach Ryan Day said. “And we have a great depth there, which I think makes us really strong because when you have receivers who can roll in and out of plays, that keeps them fresh.
“The plan is early on to play everybody. Rotate them, get them in the game, play fast and go.”
Even with the passing attack expected to expand with Dwayne Haskins airing out the football, though, there are still only so many reception to go around this season. Last year, for example, seven Buckeyes finished with 20 catches or more — one of them was running back J.K. Dobbins and another was tight end Marcus Baugh. Will Harris or Olave be a factor in Hartline’s rotation? There’s not much doubt he will be trying to get them both on the field, particularly given their importance to the future of the program. But there’s no realistic way the snaps can be even across the board, and there has to be an understanding from everybody in that unit from Day One.
When it comes to the first year in charge for Brian Hartline, he’s clearly blessed with all the talent he could ever ask as a position coach. Now he just has to find the right way to use it.
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