The Ohio State passing offense appears to be in good hands this season.
With a host of returning and incoming talent, the Ohio State receiving corps is primed to make a major impact for the Buckeye offense. Junior quarterback Justin Fields said that the chemistry between him and his receivers continues to grow with each day they work together.
“I think our chemistry, we’re getting better each and every day,” Fields said in a conference call Friday. “Hopefully we see a lot of touchdowns this fall and a lot of wins.”
Among the returners is junior wideout Chris Olave, who led the Buckeyes in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2019. Olave’s efforts earned him a spot on the All-Big Ten third team in 2019, and he comes into the 2020 season as a member of the Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list.
Head coach Ryan Day said Olave has continued to put in the work in order to further his development as the top receiver on the team.
“He’s come back in great shape. Really did a great job in the offseason, was ready to roll in the preseason and has done a good job over the last month staying in shape,” Day said in an appearance on “The Ryan Day Show” on 97.1 The Fan Thursday.
Sophomore wide receiver Garrett Wilson will make the move to the slot for the 2020 campaign, a change that Day said would give him more opportunity in the offense.
Wilson hauled in 30 catches for 432 yards and five touchdowns in his freshman season.
In a March 2 press conference, Day cited Wilson’s basketball background and spatial awareness as two of the reasons the transition inside made sense.
“I think his ability to catch the ball, put it away, run after the catch so quickly is something you want out of a slot receiver,” Day said.
Expected to assist Wilson on the inside is fifth-year running back Demario McCall, Day said. McCall has struggled to find a role in the offense throughout his time at Ohio State, as he’s battled injuries and deep running back rooms.
“Demario McCall is somebody that we’re looking forward to kinda seeing what he can do in terms of playing some of the slot, being a running back,” Day said. “That’s something we’ve looked at in the past and so spent a little bit of time on that.”
Sophomore wideout Jameson Willams will also be returning for the 2020 campaign. He reared in six catches for 112 yards and a touchdown in a limited role last season.
Fields pointed to the playmaking abilities of his returning targets as a key aspect for the Buckeyes passing attack this season.
“Those guys are as talented as can be, just the things that they’ve shown in practice,” Fields said.
Beyond the returning pass catchers, Ohio State has a plethora of heavily recruited freshman wide receivers that will add to the team’s depth.
Day said former five-star recruits Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba and former four-star recruits Mookie Cooper and Gee Scott Jr. have “really shown out” so far.
The positive review from Day was also held by Fields, who has watched the quartet participate in 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills.
“The freshmen have been phenomenal,” Fields said. “Just the talent between Jaxon Smith, Julian, Gee, Mookie, I mean those guys are, just really, probably the most polished freshmen I have seen with my own eyes.”
Smith-Njigba became the first true freshman to lose his black stripe Monday, signaling he has earned the right to don the scarlet stripe on his helmet.
Back on April 22, wide receivers coach Brian Hartline talked highly of Smith-Njigba and his fellow freshman wide receivers.
“I think the biggest impression is how competitive they are, how much they care about it, how much it matters to them. Those are things that jumped out,” Hartline said in a conference call with media members. “They have the uncanny ability to make plays and they want to help their teammates and they’re very coachable.”
Despite being one of the more youthful units on the team, Day still has confidence in their ability to make a strong impact on the Buckeye offense.
“We’re very, very talented out there,” Day said. “Still inexperienced and young, but as talented as I’ve ever been around.”