Ohio State's had its fair share of late bloomers through the years, but few made the rapid ascension up draft boards like wideout Terry McLaurin did this past year.
Entering the season, McLaurin was considered a nice complement in a deep wide receiver room. He came into 2018 with 40 career receptions and was rarely mentioned as a legitimate NFL draft prospect.
That narrative changed last fall. Under the direction of new wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, McLaurin sharpened his route-running and became one of Dwayne Haskins favorite targets, hauling in 35 receptions for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns (just one shy of the team lead set by Parris Campbell).
That production put him on the map, and he earned an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. His speed and playmaking ability continued to turn heads there, and he capped an impressive week by catching four passes and gaining 74 yards in the televised game, helping the North team capture a 34-18 victory.
The North brought out the Flea flicker!— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 26, 2019
: @seniorbowlonly on NFL Network pic.twitter.com/n3NES7FEzn
That momentum carried McLaurin to the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and improved his draft stock even further. Most draft experts view him as a second-day selection, but ESPN's Mel Kiper was impressed enough that he gave McLaurin a first-round projection in his latest mock draft.
It was a quick and sudden rise, and it should result in a nice payday.
Is there a current Buckeye playing his final season in Columbus this fall who could make a similar leap up draft boards?
Binjimen Victor came to Ohio State as a celebrated recruit in 2016, rated 97th overall in the class and as a four-star prospect. At 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, he desperately needed to add weight and strength, and over the course of the last three seasons he's caught four, 23 and 21 passes.
There have been flashes of absolute brilliance, like bizarre over-the-shoulder touchdown catches or leaping grabs, but nothing stands out more than his catch-and-dash late in the fourth quarter against Penn State last fall.
But mixed in these inspiring plays have been frustrating drops and inconsistencies that prevent Victor from being viewed as a top draft candidate. A big senior season could change that.
Like Victor, Mack came to Ohio State a decorated recruit in 2016, rated the No. 76 overall prospect out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. And also like Victor, Mack hasn't been able to make an enormous impact in the offense quite yet as he brings 52 career receptions into his final season as a Buckeye.
Mack's issues have been more injury related than a lack of consistency, however. He missed the last six games of the 2018 season after undergoing foot surgery, which derailed a solid junior campaign in which he caught 26 passes by the midway point of the season.
He's back and a full participant in spring practice, however, and with three senior starters needing replaced on the perimeter this fall, he (and Victor) should have plenty of opportunities to impress.
Switching to the other side of the ball, cornerback Damon Arnette is a player who could greatly benefit from a big senior season.
The St. Thomas Aquinas product ascended into a starting role in last year's defense and took his time considering an early jump to the NFL after Ohio State's Rose Bowl victory over Washington.
He was leaning on leaving, but a call from former Ohio State great Cris Carter changed his mind.
“I feel like a lack of consistency has always been my issue, and that’s just something I’m really going to be working on this season,” Arnette said after announcing his decision to return. “I just want to have a complete season, consistent season. Just playing free, like I know I can. Just translating stuff from practice onto the field.”