Garrett Wilson's True Freshman Season Gave Ohio State Fans a Glimpse of Greatness to Come

By Chris Lauderback on January 9, 2020 at 11:05 am
Garrett Wilson hauled in 30 receptions for 432 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman for the Buckeyes.
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

A laundry list of true freshman receivers have come through Ohio State with a ton of hype and more often than not, on field production has failed to reach the same level during year one in the program. 

Cris Carter remains the gold standard for true freshman wideouts in school history with 41 receptions for 648 yards and eight touchdowns during his first year in Columbus, capped by a 1985 Rose Bowl effort that saw him snag nine passes for 172 yards in a 20-17 loss to USC. 

More than 10 years later, David Boston became the next true freshman to carve out a major role within the receiving corps, recording 33 catches for 450 yards and seven touchdowns for the 1996 Buckeyes. The Humble, Texas native tallied four touchdowns in his first two games and capped his first season with the game-winning reception in Ohio State's 20-17 Rose Bowl win over Jake Plummer's Arizona State Sun Devils. 

In 2004, Ted Ginn Jr. became the another true freshman receiver to make an instant impact for the Buckeyes though much of his damage came on punt returns as he took four to the house in 15 tries. As a receiver, he was still a guy opposing defenses were forced to account for, catching 25 passes for 359 yards and two scores, all of which ranked second on the team in what was a vertically challenged offense. 

This past season it was true freshman Garrett Wilson, a five-star prospect out of Austin, Texas who had Ohio State teammates salivating right from the jump in spring drills thanks to sticky hands and next-level body control. A month later in the annual spring game, it was Ohio State fans who did the drooling as Wilson high-pointed an 18-yard touchdown toss, giving just a taste of things to come. 

With Ohio State's depth in the receiving corps, Wilson averaged the fifth-most snaps per game among Brian Hartline's pupils during his first season but he was in the rotation from day one. 

Fighting for reps, Wilson recorded three touchdown catches over Ohio State's first five games, against Cincinnati, Miami and Nebraska. 

His first career score, a 9-yard grab from Justin Fields, showed tremendous strength. The 38-yarder against Miami showcased elite athleticism as he cradled the ball while on his back. The 6-yarder against Nebraska highlighted expert footwork and concentration in closed quarters. 

A month later against Maryland, he found the end zone again as part of a 4-catch, 82-yard afternoon. 

His most impressive game of the season however was still three weeks away.  In the Big House, Wilson was a big play machine recording team highs of three catches for 118 yards with a touchdown in a 56-27 bloodletting of Jim Harbaugh's squad. 

Wilson's afternoon started with a 41-yard catch on a 2nd-and-19 play with Ohio State leading just 14-13 in the second quarter. The Buckeyes would score three plays later to take a 21-13 lead. 

On Ohio State's next possession, Wilson went back to work with a 47-yard catch giving the Buckeyes 1st-and-Goal at the 5-yard line. J.K. Dobbins scored on the next snap and all of a sudden Ohio State led 28-13 with just over three minutes left in the first half. 

Wilson put a cherry on top of his clutch performance hauling in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Fields on the quarterback's first play back after suffering an MCL sprain. Able to sneak behind his defender, Wilson darted from right to left across the end zone as Fields rolled left, set his feet and fired a strike for the score and a 42-16 advantage. 

Finally, capping his first season in the scarlet and gray, Wilson showed up in the College Football Playoff semifinal with four catches for 47 yards. His acrobatic 22-yard grab on the game's opening possession helped the Buckeyes take an early 3-0 lead. 

Overall, it was a hell of a season for the kid as he finished with 30 catches for 432 yards and five touchdowns, setting the stage for what should be elite sophomore production next year.

Chris Olave, who led the Buckeyes with 849 receiving yards returns next season but K.J. Hill's 57 receptions and 636 yards, Binjimen Victor's 35 grabs and 573 yards and Austin Mack's 27 receptions for 361 yards all need replaced. 

Yes, in addtion to incumbents like Jameson Williams and Jaelen Gill, the Buckeyes will welcome in the most ridiculous collection of true freshman receivers maybe in college football history but make no mistake, Wilson is primed to take the next step to stardom in Columbus. 

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