Brace yourselves. Buckeye football is upon us.
As Ryan Day prepares for his first fall camp as the full-time head coach, it is clear that Ohio State's offense will look a lot different from last year's. Three of the top four receivers have moved onto the NFL along with the team's second-leading rusher, not to mention the departure of the greatest quarterback in Big Ten history and a legendary head coach.
The Ohio State offense will feature some new names (hello, Justin Fields and Garrett Wilson), familiar faces (how you doin', J.K., K.J.?), and a couple of wildcards (looking at you, Demario). Let's start predictin'!
Justin Fields (SO., QB)
2018 Stats: 328 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, zero interceptions, 266 rushing yards, four touchdowns
2019 Prediction: 3,200 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, eight interceptions, 450 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns
As the unofficial starting quarterback of the Buckeyes, Justin Fields comes in with a loaded offensive roster and an offensive-minded head coach. While his spring game performance was, uh, underwhelming, the next month with the team should iron out some missteps.
Fields will also give Ryan Day a dual-threat in the backfield, but do not expect a J.T. Barrett-esque rushing workload by the Georgia transfer. His legs will be most-utilized in the red zone, a well-documented deficiency from last season.
Justin Fields is the highest-ranked player in Ohio State history and will be entering a system that produced the greatest season a quarterback has ever had in the history of the Big Ten. Expectations are high.
J.K. Dobbins (JR., RB)
2018 Stats: 1,053 rushing yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 263 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns
2019 Prediction: 1,300 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 150 receiving yards, 15 total touchdowns
After a down year, many are predicting J.K. Dobbins to return to his fantastic freshman-year form. While his workload should increase, Day's pass-first, sideline-to-sideline scheme does not fit Dobbins' style. Even with the return of the zone read, the rushing production with Day may never surpass the consistent, unstoppable ground game under Urban Meyer.
This is not a slight on Dobbins; he is probably one of the five best Ohio State running backs in the past twenty years. When he is affectionately referred to as a "wrecking ball", however, there should be some questions about his production in a spread offense.
I expect his numbers to increase from last year, but mostly because he will not be splitting carries with Mike Weber for the first time in his career.
Demario McCall (RS-JR., RB/WR)
2018 Stats: 50 rushing yards, 110 receiving yards, zero total touchdowns
2019 Prediction: 250 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards, five total touchdowns
McCall is, once again, a huge question mark heading into camp. He was clearly the third-best back on the team last year behind Dobbins and Weber and may have switched to the H-back position. This switch may be for the best; McCall's small frame could cause some issues against Big Ten defenses, but his speed and hands are two of his biggest assets.
McCall figures to be a backup H-back/running back that specializes in space. Barring injury, we will see him play in every game this year but his role will change on a week-to-week basis.
K.J. Hill (RS-SR., WR)
2018 Stats: 885 yards, 70 receptions, six touchdowns
2019 Prediction: 675 yards, 57 receptions, seven touchdowns
Hill's return gives Fields a clear No. 1 option that can get open on any given play. He excels in the short-to-intermediate passing game, the bread and butter of Ryan Day's offense. Hill's clean route running and fantastic hands have already caught the attention of NFL scouts.
Hill comes into camp as the team's top returning receiver and a chance to break Ohio State's career receptions record. He needs just 48 receptions to break this record, but with Fields' arm and Day's offense, expect Hill to break that mark with room to spare.
Austin Mack (SR., WR)
2018 Stats: 331 yards, 26 receptions, one touchdown
2019 Prediction: 450 yards, 39 receptions, five touchdowns
Before Mack's injury against Purdue, he was on pace for a career year. The senior receiver, who is slotted to start the Z this season, set a career-high in receptions and was about to surpass his 2017 receiving total before he went down in West Lafayette.
Before Mack's career-year-in-the-making came to an end, there were still some major questions marks about his game. His inconsistencies were frustrating and may not be tolerated as underclassmen compete for playing time.
Despite this, Mack has always been a popular pick as a breakout player. He quickly developed some chemistry with Haskins and if he repeats this with Fields, the senior wideout could turn into one of the more reliable targets for the Buckeyes.
Binjimen Victor (SR., WR)
2018 Stats: 354 yards, 21 receptions, four touchdowns
2019 Prediction: 475 yards, 38 receptions, six touchdowns
Victor has been poised for a breakout season for the past two years, and this year will be his final chance. At 6-foot-4, Victor will be starting on the outside as the X receiver, allowing him to use frame and athleticism to continue making big plays like this:
While Victor's struggles as a blocker will not directly affect his stats, it may keep him off the field. Ohio State's receiver corps is deep and the coaching staff is more than willing to rotate the guys who earn snaps.
Despite this deficiency, Victor possesses one of the most unique skill sets on the team and has arguably the most upside of the senior wide receivers. I expect an up-and-down year highlighted by some more game-breaking plays.
Chris Olave (SO., WR)
2018 Stats: 197 yards, 12 receptions, three touchdowns
2019 Prediction: 400 yards, 34 receptions, six touchdowns
Prior to Olave's breakout performance against Michigan, Ohio State's receiving corps was comprised solely of upperclassmen. The sophomore's emergence, along with freshman Garrett Wilson, has been the latest iteration of a receiver room that keeps reloading.
Simply put, Olave has a nose for the ball and knows how to make plays. He's a crafty player and, if he remains healthy, should be a fan favorite for the next two years. The sophomore has star potential, but the depth of the receiver's room could limit his production.
Garrett Wilson (FR., WR)
2018 Stats: N/A
2019 Prediction: 350 yards, 27 receptions, two touchdowns
Garrett Wilson could be the rare freshman to see the field on a consistent basis. The five-star wideout from Texas has already shown his ability to go up and get it, as highlighted by his spectacular catch in the spring game.
Like most of the receivers, however, his production could be capped by the rest of his position group. It's amazing that he is a contender to see the field this year, in fact, given how talented the entire group is.
Wilson will be a star. Just give him some time.
Luke Farrell (JR., TE)
2018 Stats: 205 yards, 20 receptions, one touchdown
2019 Prediction: 160 yards, 15 receptions, one touchdown
Let's face it: Ohio State has, historically, not utilized their tight ends. Will that change this year? Probably not.
Luke Farrell is a nice balance between the big-bodied Rashod Berry and the nimble Jeremy Ruckert but there is too much talent on the outside for Fields to consistently throw to his big guys. And in all honesty, that's okay; Farrell will do a fine job blocking and will be able to sneak out for easy catches when necessary.
The junior tight end is among the most reliable players on this side of the ball but his lack of playmaking ability and underutilization will continue to stunt his production.