Five-star receiver (fill in name here) come on down.
For the third consecutive recruiting class, Brian Hartline – the 2020 national recruiter of the year – has shown he's worth every penny the Buckeye staff is paying him and then some.
After landing two five-star receivers (Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba) and another borderline five-star (Gee Scott Jr.) in 2020, and with another five-star (Emeka Egbuka) leaning toward the Buckeyes in 2021, Hartline again put in the work on the recruiting trail and has landed another big commitment for the program's future in Del Valle (Texas) High School's Caleb Burton.
Let's take a look at what the big-time Lone Star State talent gives to the Buckeyes on the field, off the field and in the 2022 class.
On the field
If the analysis of 247Sports analyst Gabe Brooks proves true, the future of Ryan Day's passing offense in Columbus looks to be just as terrifying as it is right now with Justin Fields, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson leading the charge.
Brooks projects Burton, the No. 2-ranked receiver and No. 15 overall player in America, to be a first-round NFL draft pick and compares him to former Alabama star Jerry Jeudy, who was selected 15th overall by the Broncos in April:
“Good frame potential for typical outside receiver prospect,” Brooks wrote of Burton. “Flashes impressive timing and high-pointing ability on contested throws. Meets the ball at the apex. Adjusts well with encouraging body control. Gets off the line quickly and on top of corners in a hurry. Shows impressive burst and acceleration. Dangerous in catch-and-run situations.”
made this up in 5 minutes pic.twitter.com/CVao5qOj7D— Caleb Burton III (@calebburtoniii) June 18, 2020
Much of that analysis, especially the catch-and-run part, is what jumps out instantly and consistently on his game film.
Burton suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of his junior season, so we were only able to dissect full-game highlights from his sophomore season but still came away thoroughly impressed with what's probably his No. 1 attribute: breakaway speed and that catch-and-run ability.
Burton finished with 50 catches for 906 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore, gaining valuable experience in a pass-heavy offense. He flashed soft hands on several plays, but the most noteworthy were when he skies to high-point balls in the end zone. He has that ability to win contested one-on-one balls against cornerbacks when they're draped all over him.
But they're not usually draped all over him. Typically, Burton is using that electric speed either to run right past defensive backs on vertical or post routes and head to the end zone or take a quick pass on a screen ... and then run right past defensive backs and linebackers and head to the end zone.
His ability to stretch the defense vertically is clear, as he has that good long speed that Brooks talked about, but Burton should be able to do so horizontally as well.
That 62-yard run by Wilson that the Buckeyes deployed against Penn State? Either on the ground or if Day decides to start implementing more of those quick touch passes behind the line of scrimmage on motion plays, I could easily see Burton wreaking havoc on Big Ten defenses on those with his speed.
I did notice on Burton's sophomore film, though, that his route running could be more crisp. He tends to round them off, and I think that's probably attributed to the fact that he can use that speed and lateral quickness to beat guys pretty easily at the high school level. With Hartline developing that area of his game, it likely won't be a problem by the time he's in year two at Ohio State.
Off the field
When Hartline offered Burton over the phone in March, it was the culmination of a relationship that had been building between Hartline and Burton's father, former Syracuse linebacker Charles Burton. The two had been in contact for a little more than a month, and on March 24 was the first time Hartline and the younger Burton got a dialogue going.
The two instantly connected, and that relationship building that Hartline and most of the Buckeye assistants are known for on the recruiting trail began right away and grew over the past seven months.
“Hartline said he believed I was a very good kid who wants to be the best on and off the field,” Burton told Eleven Warriors shortly after the offer. “He said he loved my family and my dad and how we approach things.”
Of course, with the plethora of talent coming through Columbus at receiver, including the embarrassment of riches there now that includes fellow Texas five-stars Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the proof was in the pudding, and Burton has been able to see that through the early part of the 2020 season.
“We dug into what Ohio State has to offer and how well they produce wide receivers after college,” Burton said. “(Hartline) just said there’s no better place, and the offense they run is perfect for the WR core. All the people he has coached and sent to the leagues just shows he knows what to do.”
In the class
Ohio State now has the most lethal quarterback-receiver tandem in the 2022 class in the combination of Burton and five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers, the No. 2 overall player and No. 1 quarterback in the country. Ewers' commitment helped springboard the Buckeyes landing Burton, as the two Texans had long talked about teaming up for the same college program.
Burton (No. 15 overall, No. 2 WR) gives Ohio State a receiver ranked in the top 20 overall and No. 2 or higher at the position for the third time in the past four classes – a number that could wind up being pushed to four consecutive classes.
He follows Garrett Wilson (No. 20 overall, No. 2 WR in 2019) and Fleming (No. 3 overall, No. 1 WR in 2020) and could follow Egbuka (No. 7 overall, No. 1 WR in 2021).
Oh, and then you can go ahead and add Smith-Njigba (No. 29 overall, No. 5 receiver) onto that list.
Did the Buckeyes really need yet another receiver of Burton's caliber in this cycle? Well, it's not technically one of the biggest positional needs the program has. But you're sure as hell never going to say no to another ultra-talented receiver to stockpile the position for years to come.
“(Hartline) just said there’s no better place, and the offense they run is perfect for the WR core. All the people he has coached and sent to the leagues just shows he knows what to do.”– ohio state five-star 2022 receiver commit Caleb Burton
So, who really cares if it's a need or not?
Ohio State is already DBU, has a claim to DEU, is gaining momentum toward becoming QBU and sure seems like it's heading toward planting its flag as WRU. The Buckeyes still have targets on the board such as C.J. Williams (No. 36 overall, No. 6 WR), Kaleb Brown (No. 44 overall, No. 7 WR), Armani Winfield (No. 72 overall, No. 12 WR) and rising junior star Kyion Grayes (No. 424 overall, No. 60 WR), who has garnered comparisons to Chris Olave in terms of being an under-the-radar three-star receiver the Buckeyes are high on.
Ohio State now holds equally as many top-50 commitments in the 2022 cycle as the rest of the nation combined.— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) November 24, 2020
The Buckeyes: 5 (Quinn Ewers, Caleb Burton, Gabe Powers, CJ Hicks, Dasan McCullough)
The rest of college football: 5
Nobody else has more than one top-50 commitment
The likeliest scenario is three receivers as the number they finish with, and right now it's shaping up to be a Burton-Winfield-Grayes haul.
When looking beyond just the receivers, Burton's commitment extends the momentum Ohio State is building in this class all around. Even though we sit here still very early in the recruiting process, the Buckeyes sit atop the class rankings with nine commits and look to be in prime position to capture the recruiting crown with the No. 1 overall class in 2022.
Something special is brewing here. One that has the potential to surpass the 2021 class' incredible mark. The Buckeyes have 206.70 total points and a 95.71 average player rating, which is headlined by three five-stars (Ewers, Burton, Gabe Powers) and two more who are nearing five-star status (C.J. Hicks, Dasan McCullough).