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 Ohio State and the freshmen wide receivers? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Is there any chance of a freshman WR starting this year?
— Trey hawk (@saleenbai) March 2, 2020
A traditional depth chart doesn’t really work for Ohio State anymore at wide receiver.
Considering how many guys the Buckeyes use at the position and the emphasis Brian Hartline puts on cross-training his wideouts so they could potentially fill any role, there’s not much value in just naming two or three starters. As long as the guys are in the top six, they’re going to be in the rotation. That’s all that really matters.
So, when it comes to the Fab Foursome the Buckeyes just signed and already have enrolled for spring ball, there’s not much doubt that they’ll be in the mix for playing time right away. And based on a couple splashy debuts during the opening practice of camp, there is a good chance that a couple of them could become instant-impact players who could make a Garrett Wilson-like mark on the offense as true freshmen — even if they aren’t officially designated as starters.
Now, it’s important to remember there is a long way to go for all of them, and Monday’s open workout is obviously a small sample size to evaluate. But it was impossible to ignore Jaxon Smith-Njigba when was streaking down the field or making tough catches in traffic. And after a little bit of a rough start, Julian Fleming started getting comfortable and was putting some truly impressive physical traits on display. Those two stole the spotlight a bit for Day One, but there was also plenty to like about Gee Scott as a route-runner and when it comes to the versatility of Mookie Cooper.
The real takeaway, then, was that those guys all have the potential to let Hartline keep rolling through at least six guys at wide receiver — and again dealing a blow to the value of an old-school, two-deep roster.
“They’re talented, they’re talented,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “What strikes me, with all the 7-on-7 [camps] and all the things going on throughout America, they’re further along than maybe receivers were five to 10 years ago. Certainly you can see a guy like Jaxon who has played in Texas, where they have those activity periods. They have so many reps under their belt, it just makes sense for them. You can see it today.
“You can see the talent of Julian and just his ability to get off of a line of scrimmage and make plays down the field and his size. Gee Scott really surprised me just how mature his releases were getting off the line of scrimmage. And then Mookie flashed. I think all four of them really have a chance to play and be successful. Now they have a long way to go, but for Day One, better than expected.”
The Buckeyes will need them to keep zipping through the learning curve after losing three veteran targets after each of the last two seasons, leaving a ton of production to replace. It also presents a huge opportunity for the Fab Foursome because there are plenty of reps available to them this spring.
Hartline will be quick to remind all of them just how much work there is to be done, just as he did last year even after Wilson was soaring up to make highlight-reel grabs in the spring game. The potential is clear to see, though, and Ohio State certainly couldn’t ask for more talent to work with as it reloads Zone 6.
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