C.J. Saunders Could Be the Spark Ohio State Needs

By Jimmy Longo on September 24, 2017 at 8:13 pm
C.J. Saunders

It’s no secret — Ohio State's wide receivers have been average this season. They rely on catching and running, not running and catching. 

An intriguing option that might serve the offense well was seen Saturday in walk-on C.J. Saunders.

Saunders had a game-high six receptions for 102 yards receiving against UNLV. Urban Meyer has alluded to Saunders’ ability but worried about his interior blocking and his small, 170-pound frame.

“Saunders is actually a good player,” Meyer said. “His body, [we] wish we could do something to get him a little stronger and more strength, because he’s a really good player, just not very big.

"[Strength coach] Mick [Marotti] is working hard at that.”

That’s all fine, but Saunders isn’t going to be serving the Buckeyes on the outside throwing blocks in the run game. He’s not going to seal the edge on a jet sweep and that shouldn’t be the way OSU utilizes him.

He’s an inside guy that demonstrated sure hands and found ways to get open, showcasing elusiveness Buckeye receivers have lacked.

Ohio State also lacked points and defense last season in their college football playoff loss to Clemson in January. The leading receiver after Curtis Samuel and Corey Smith was Mike Weber, with three catches. It's obvious the receiving corps and the Buckeyes needed a different strategy.

The Buckeyes should take lesson from the Tigers. How can they take a lesson from the loss?

The answer could be Saunders.

Clemson's 5-10, 180-pound wide receiver Hunter Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown pass last January. The former walk-on has had formidable seasons and big games for the Tigers, and he’s the same mold as Saunders.

Renfrow had 44 receptions, almost 500 yards, and six touchdown catches last season. That would have been second on Ohio State last year behind Curtis Samuel. 

Saunders didn’t have a celebrated entrance to campus. He walked on and hoped to contribute to scout team.

Renfrow did the same, though he earned a scholarship after a redshirt season.

Saunders isn't quite there, but the Dublin native already made waves on scout team defense last year:

A year later and at a different position, it’s an interesting spot for the Buckeyes. This isn't to say Saunders needs to be thrown into the starting lineup Saturday night at Rutgers. That wouldn't be good for both sides. More so incorporating him in consistent snaps.

Just something that gives Saunders a chance to make a play. Whether that be a 15-yard post on third down, a big catch and run over the middle, or a catch and get-out-of-bounds on a game-winning drive. 

Just because his school isn't free and he's not 6-2, 200 pounds doesn't mean he can't offer something the Buckeyes are missing. 

Renfrow went for five catches and 50 yards against the Buckeyes. He has 26 catches for 289 yards in four career College Football Playoff games.

If Saunders can come close to Renfrow by providing a consistent, open weapon — why not?

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