With 195 receptions, 2,649 yards and 31 touchdowns to replace from a season ago, Ohio State’s wide receiver core should be in rebuild mode.
A trio of fifth-year seniors — Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon — are all off to the NFL Draft, but to wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, there is plenty of talent left in the room to make an impact.
Hartline measures greatness by one thing: consistency. The former NFL wide receiver compared it to the ability to shoot at the level of an NBA all-time great.
“Everyone makes the same shot that Michael Jordan makes. They just don’t make it as consistently. They don’t make it at the crunch times,” Hartline said. “Everyone can do it, but the question is how often can you do it?”
That question will be asked of a new group of veteran wideouts: senior Binjimen Victor, senior Austin Mack and redshirt senior K.J. Hill, a group that only combined for 117 catches and 11 touchdowns.
Mack was hurt for the final half of the season and Victor never saw consistent playing time, both things that may change heading into the fall.
Hartline said Victor’s consistency is “the best it’s ever been,” and that if anyone is holding the senior receiver to a heightened standard, it’s himself.
“He knows that he’s now developed into a harder critic or a harder evaluator on himself than me,” Hartline said. “We can never be good enough, but it’s coming, and he has to keep getting better.”
Heading into Ohio State’s Spring Game on Saturday, there is more to this wide receiver room than a new group of seniors.
Sophomore wide receiver Chris Olave comes into this season with heightened expectations after erupting for the first two touchdowns of the game against Michigan, helping to spark the 62-39 victory against the Wolverines on Nov. 28.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said Olave is being evaluated for an undisclosed injury, and is questionable for the Spring Game.
Even younger, freshman wide receiver Garrett Wilson is expected to make an impact immediately. On Wednesday, Day mentioned Wilson as the player who has impressed him the most on the offensive side of practices, though he still has to improve his blocking.
“Just seeing him make plays, day in and day out down the field, I think it would probably be him on offense,” Day said. “He’s blocking OK. He can do much better with that. He needs to get stronger, and he needs to do a better job in the preseason on blocking, and so that is very, very important.”
In Campbell, McLaurin and Dixon’s final season, they made sure to be the vocal leaders for a receiving group that recently had a turnover at coach, and had not been highly touted in the years before.
Now, Hill, Mack and Victor have a chance to do the same, regardless of the quarterback at the helm. But Hartline said it is not just the veterans that need to step up as leaders.
He said every player has the opportunity to be the one to show off Jordan’s level of consistency.
“I think they all can, I don’t think there’s one guy that can’t make those plays, they’re all fast, they’re all strong, they’re all working hard,” Hartline said. “At some point it’s who’s gonna make those plays when they have the opportunity, and we’re gonna find out.”