Open Week Mic Check: Garrett Wilson Has Ryan Day's Attention As a Punt Returner

By Chris Lauderback on October 30, 2019 at 3:05 pm
Garrett Wilson is averaging 16.0 yards per punt return on five chances so far this season.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day held court during his usual Tuesday press conference despite another open week on the schedule. The upcoming weekend off comes on the heels of annihilating Wisconsin, 38-7, last Saturday in soggy Shoe. 

The week off is well-timed after a physical, if not competitive, tangle with the Badgers. 

Ohio State's star players including Chase Young, J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields stole the spotlight against Wisconsin, overshadowing contributions from numerous other Buckeyes. One of those was Garrett Wilson, the true freshman who continues to enjoy a meaningful role, primarily as a rotational wide receiver. 

That said, Wilson was a big factor as a punt returner against the Badgers and the young man's efforts were certainly noticed by his head coach

Q. Garrett Wilson had a pretty nice punt return. I know you guys are always looking for a spark in the return game. Is Garrett progressing the way you hoped he would in terms of a spark both on offense and in the return game? Is he somebody that you think he could have an Olave-like effect like you had last year where a freshman is in the program and in the season for a few months and then at the end he might be somebody you guys might rely on?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think it's very hard to step in as a true freshman and make an impact right off the bat. I think it takes a little time. You learn about the system, you learn about how to practice, you learn about all those things. And so I think as the season has gone on, he's gotten better. I thought he flashed a little bit in the Northwestern game, he got targets in this game, got the big return. Like you said, I think the second half of the season is going to be good for him.

Q. Where are you guys at with a punt returner?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, still kind of where we are, but Garrett certainly -- I think when you look at what he's done and the last few returns, he's making a strong move to be the starter.

Wilson had just the one punt return opportunity against the Badgers but he made it count taking a punt off the turf on the far left sideline, near the OSU 24-yard line, before working his way through traffic to the opposite side of the field for a 23-yard gain. 

Leading just 17-7 midway through the third quarter at the time, the Buckeye offense was able to set up shop with great field position following Wilson's return. Four plays later, J.K. Dobbins ensured Wilson's contribution wouldn't go to waste with a 9-yard touchdown run giving Ohio State a 24-7 lead. 

The current backup to Demario McCall, who has seven punt returns for 51 yards on the season including a 35-yarder against Florida Atlantic, Wilson now has five returns for 80 yards, good for a 16.0 yard average. 

In addition to his 23-yarder Saturday, Wilson turned in a 52-yard effort against Miami (OH) back in September. 

These are obviously small sample sizes for both guys but so far this season, Wilson has made the most of his chances. 

While Day was ultimately non-committal on if he'd make a change from McCall to Wilson, now would seemingly be the perfect time if he's leaning that direction. 

Not only does Ohio State have the weekend off, the next two games are against Maryland and Rutgers. Knowing those games simply aren't going swing on any potential growing pains with Wilson as a punt returner, Day could test drive the move in real games without compromising the outcome.

Or if Day is content with McCall and doesn't want to risk any side effects of reducing his role even further, he could certainly stick with the status quo. 

While big plays in the punt return game are a nice bonus, the primary job of the punt return man is to secure possession. If Day sees the veteran McCall as the safer option, Wilson's turn as the primary punt returner will likely have to wait. 

A third option, which could be fun, would be to put both guys deep and see where that goes. 

Ah, to have Day's problems

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