With Three of Last Year's Top Four Receivers Lost to Graduation, Ohio State Must Reload On The Outside

By Chris Lauderback on February 7, 2019 at 11:05 am
Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin combined for over 1,700 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in 2018.

At football factories like Ohio State, there's no patience for rebuilding

The Buckeyes are expected to reload just like the small handful of college football's true blood programs. 

Boasting rosters dotted with five and four-star talent, this often looks easier than it should for programs like Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia. 

For the Buckeyes, in Ryan Day's first season at the helm, reloading will be no small task specific to a passing attack that was easily the most prolific in school history. 

Gone is record-smashing quarterback Dwayne Haskins – and that reality dominates the headlines considering the position's overall importance and the Nintendo numbers he put up last fall – but also gone are three of last year's top four pass catchers. 

One of which, Parris Campbell, exits Columbus having put up just the fifth 1,000-yard receiving season in school history while also piling up the program's fourth-most touchdown grabs in a single-season. 

Sure, some of that action came via jet sweeps but there's no reason to believe Day won't continue using such plays to stretch a defense if he can find a guy with the appropriate skill set to make it work. 

Terry McLaurin also exhausted his eligibility by turning in a fine senior season with 35 grabs for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns, good for sixth-most in a single-season in OSU lore. 

Finally, Johnnie Dixon wrapped up an injury-plagued career posting 42 receptions for 669 yards and eight touchdowns in an inspiring swan song. 

Beyond the sturdy numbers the trio posted last fall, their leadership on the field and in the locker room might be hard to measure but will be even harder to replace. 

A bit of a footnote in the passing game, running back Mike Weber also moves on after 21 grabs for 112 yards and a score. 

2019 188 47% 2,545 50% 32 63%
2018 36 13% 349 9% 5 13%
2017 150 59% 1,735 62% 19 73%
2016 165 81% 1,970 80% 17 89%
2015 66 25% 1,295 35% 18 43%
2014 134 56% 1,636 57% 23 61%
2013 25 16% 346 16% 4 24%
2012 32 26% 348 21% 2 11%

Since Urban Meyer's arrival in 2012, the Buckeyes have endured worse production attrition within the receiving corps – most notably heading into 2014, 2016 and 2017 seasons – but losing such talented players (and leaders) heading into 2019, along with the assumption the passing game could continue to be more of a focal point of Ohio State's offense under Day, puts even more pressure on the replacements to step up. 

One guy who won't feel the pressure is K.J. Hill. The senior slot back surprised many by coming back for one final collegiate season after ranking second on the squad in both catches and yards with 70 and 885 respectively as a junior last fall. 

Sporting the best hands on the roster, he also hauled in six touchdown passes and will surely be tasked with being Ohio State's primary receiving threat next fall. Buckeye fans should feel secure in knowing what to expect from a veteran with Hill's track record but things get a little more dicey from there. 

Seniors Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor return after both caught over 20 balls for 300+ yards last fall. Mack played just eight games due to injury and fans probably remember the balls he didn't catch just as much as those he did. It's fair to expect Mack has by far his best season in 2019 but to suggest it's a lock would probably be homerish. 

Victor gained increasing trust from the coaches as 2018 unfolded and had a few huge grabs including one of the season's biggest highlights in Happy Valley but he's another guy that has to take a big leap for Ohio State's passing attack to be great. 

Sophomore Chris Olave certainly exploded onto the scene late last year as a true freshman, after some injuries within the regular rotation provided an opportunity, recording two huge touchdown catches against Michigan and another score versus Northwestern. Continuing that momentum seems likely as Olave could be a star in the making. 

One major wildcard who could play a significant role in the passing game is redshirt junior Demario McCall. It really just depends on how Day and company opt to utilize a kid with a ton of talent but not a lot of touches on his resume. 

A tailback at heart, McCall has a great shot to be the primary backup for J.K. Dobbins but even if that turns out to be the case, Ohio State might be wise to also deploy him as a slot guy especially on third downs. 

After Hill, Mack, Victor, Olave and McCall, again depending on how the staff opts to use him, things start to get a little more murky for a positional group in which Brian Hartline wants to have at least six guys he can insert on any given play.  

Talent doesn't appear to be an issue but the rest of the pack is comprised largely of redshirt and true freshmen, excepting C.J. Saunders (RS-Sr), Elijah Gardiner (RS-So) and 6-foot-5 Jaylen Harris (RS-So). Will any of those three step into the fold? 

If not, the young guys, most notably true freshman five-star Garrett Wilson, will be doing all they can to learn the playbook and earn the trust of the staff. 

With all this young talent and varying levels of proven experience, the time is now for guys to start jockeying for position in the pecking order. 

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