COLUMBUS — Chris Olave changed the outlook of the Ohio State wide receivers room.
When Olave announced his intentions to forego the NFL draft and instead return for his senior season with the Buckeyes, the dynamic of the most talented position group on the roster changed. After two straight year of losing three receivers to graduation and pro football, Ohio State doesn’t lose any of its rotational receivers heading into next season.
Olave returns for another campaign to prove he’s the best wide receiver in America. Garrett Wilson might be his closest competition to that claim, and they’ll team up once again to make the best duo in the country. Jameson Williams should take another step forward. Add in the loaded 2020 recruiting class that features three top-10 wide receivers, who will have an entire year of experience to grow from.
Oh, then mix in three more receivers from the 2021 class that features Emeka Egbuka, the No. 1 receiver in the country, along with two other potential superstars. Simply put, the position is loaded for the Ohio State offense as it breaks in a new starting quarterback and running back.
“We have a really good room there,” Day said. “We have some really good talent. But we need to bump that talent. That’s a really huge area that we have to focus on here, because you’re going to have a young quarterback. But those young receivers are going to have to really step up now.”
With all the talent listed on the depth chart, Ohio State could potentially return to the six-man rotation it favors at the position, one that also worked out pretty well for two of the most prolific passing attacks in program history in 2018 and ’19. But the six-man rotation would have limited Olave and Wilson’s time on the field last season, something the Buckeyes were reluctant to do with relative inexperience rounding out the group.
So how can nine former top-100 prospects stand out? That’s where the versatility comes into play.
Olave and Wilson have already proved they can play anywhere in the rotation. Williams made a statement late in the season. Fleming and Smith-Njigba have proved to be reliable in limited action. That could be the pecking order in the first five receivers. After that, it appears to be wide open.
And versatility could be the deciding factor.
“I have no issues moving anybody to any position if it gets the right people on the field,” Hartline said last offseason. “We’re still Ohio State. We still have a lot of guys that are not just in the first, second and third, fourth guy. We’re always trying to be at least two-deep, if not more. I’d argue that we’re closer to three-deep than ever.
“[There are] no qualms about moving anybody anywhere if they’re able to play at a high capacity, a high level at different spots.”
The many questions and few answers so far would still show up if Olave had moved on to the NFL instead of sticking around for another run at a national title. But they become heightened with the return of the Big Ten’s best wideout.
He’s certainly going to lead to Ohio State receivers in a way he hasn’t for the last three seasons.
“With [Olave’s] leadership and his approach for that room, I think it’s really important,” Day said. “He understands. He saw Terry McLaurin. He saw Parris Campbell. He saw those guys and their work ethic and what they did blocking on the perimeter, doing all the little things that matter in the end. Those are the things we have to improve on in that room.
“We’ve got some really good talent in there, but they’ve got to improve on a lot of areas. I think Chris is going to really have an impact in that room. And I think it gives him an opportunity to step up as a leader and start to have more of a voice.”
The talent and potential that Day and Hartline have to work with in undeniable. The receivers room had all the makings of a historically great position group, even before Olave’s decision. But now that he has decided to return, his leadership will be critical to an otherwise young unit.
Chris Olave elevates the outlook for the whole group.