Brian Hartline, Ohio State Wide Receiver Recruiting in a Tricky Spot Thanks to Unprecedented Success on the Trail

By Andrew Ellis on March 7, 2020 at 1:15 pm
Brian Hartline's receiver room is filling up quickly.

The best kind of dilemma may be in the works.

Brian Hartline's newcomers are already making noise in spring practice as Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr., and Mookie Cooper look to earn playing time as true freshmen. The talented quartet arrived in January as the country's most heralded group of wide receiver signees and helped Hartline bring home national recruiter of the year honors.

Even though four of the country's top wideouts arrived a mere months ago, there's certainly never any resting on the recruiting trail. Hartline and the Buckeyes have a pair of four-star receivers committed for the Class of 2021 in Philadelphia's Marvin Harrison Jr. and Massillon's Jayden Ballard.

That makes a total of six top-100 wideouts either enrolled or committed between the 2020 and 2021 classes. In theory, Ohio State could hold steady with the recent enrollees plus the duo for the current cycle and Hartline's wide receiver room would be in great hands for the next several years. But we all know that's now how things work for a powerhouse program. 

Right now, it's looking like Ohio State is once again willing to sign four wideouts if the coaching staff can nab its two top remaining targets. Washington's Emeka Egbuka is one of the country's top overall athletes and the No. 1 player at the position. Fort Lauderdale's Troy Stellato is a four-star slot specialist who's a heck of an athlete in his own right.

Hartline's receiver room is in a better spot than any other position on the team, but I really don't see a scenario where either Egbuka or Stellato wouldn't be takes for the Buckeyes. The more pressing question is will Ohio State be able to land one of the talented wideouts, and which one will it be? 

Enter Clemson. 

The Tigers have been a real thorn in the Buckeyes' side for some time now, and that's certainly the case for these two wideouts. In fact, Clemson is holding another junior day event this weekend and several top Ohio State targets – including Troy Stellato – are in town for the festivities. 

The Buckeyes got a big win last cycle with Julian Fleming. The Tigers fired back this go-around with four-star California wideout Beaux Collins. Dabo Swinney's most recent junior day event featured all kinds of fireworks as the Tigers landed four big-time pledges, including Collins and the country's No. 1 overall prospect in five-star defensive end Korey Foreman.

Stellato's relationship with Brian Hartline appears to be the strongest one he has with any staff, and Clemson losing wide receivers coach Jeff Scott to USF certainly doesn't hurt Ohio State's chances. The Buckeyes need to get the Fort Lauderdale wideout back on campus this spring as he's expected to announce a decision in the coming months. 

Egbuka's recruitment is a little bit different since the in-state Huskies continue to linger, but this is another one that should come down to Ryan Day and Dabo Swinney. The belief is that Ohio State may be out in front right now, but the five-star isn't planning on taking his official visits until the fall. 

With Troy Stellato's decision expected in the spring or summer, one of the two teams will likely have a trio of wideouts committed before Egbuka is ready to decide. For the Buckeyes, taking eight receivers across two classes may seem like a bit much, especially with more pressing needs at running back and along the defensive line. But there's no question that the staff would find a way to make room. 

As things stand today, many believe the Buckeyes and Tigers will split the 2021 pair. But there are always numbers games at play as we progress deeper into the recruiting cycles. 

We should have a little more clarity once the weekend visitors leave Clemson, and Egbuka actually was at Oregon just yesterday. The Buckeyes spring recruiting efforts will really be getting underway this month and into the summer as Ryan Day and Co. look to hold the top spot in the national recruiting rankings

Wide receiver recruiting has been the furthest thing from a concern for Ohio State. And whether the final number for 2021 sits at three or four, Brian Hartline and the Buckeyes will continue to have the most talented receiver room in America. 

Now we just wait and see if Troy Stellato, Emeka Egbuka, or potentially both want to be a part of what Hartline and Day are building in Columbus.

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