Looking Back at Our Preseason Predictions for the Offense's Key Contributors

By Jake Anderson on February 9, 2020 at 9:05 am
K.J. Hill, Chris Olave

Before the season, no one was really sure about what to expect from the offense of the 2019 Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Sure, the Bucks landed a former five-star as its quarterback and returned a two-year starter at tailback but there were a lot of questions surrounding how Ryan Day would rebuild an offense that lost the most prolific quarterback in conference history and a struggling running game. 

Last August, I took my best shot to predict these numbers for some of the key offensive contributors. Today, you get to judge how wrong I was: 

Justin Fields (So., QB)

2019 Prediction: 3,200 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, three interceptions, 450 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns

2019 Stats: 3,273 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns, three interceptions, 484 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns

As a first-year starter, Ohio State fans were not entirely sure what to expect of Justin Fields. He famously beat out Trevor Lawrence at Nike's Elite 11, but sat behind Jake Fromm for the entirety of his freshman year before moving to Columbus. 

Fields went on to record one of the most efficient passing seasons in recent memory and recorded a quarterback rating of 84.6, the eighth-best mark in college football history. He could have easily thrown for more yards but played limited second-half possessions for the majority of games in August, September, and October. 

Like his predecessor, Fields moved up the record books in his first season. His 3,273 passing yards are good for the third-best mark in Ohio State history and his 41 passing touchdowns are second only to Dwayne Haskins' 2018 season. 

J.K. Dobbins (Jr. RB)

2019 Prediction: 1,300 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 150 receiving yards, 15 total touchdowns

2019 Stats: 2,003 rushing yards, 6.7 yards per carry, 247 receiving yards, 23 total touchdowns

Coming into the season, I was not sure how effective J.K. Dobbins would be in a Ryan Day offense. That, combined with his declining production in 2018, was enough cause for me to be overly-pessimistic on the Texas native. 

Instead, Dobbins would churn out one of the best rushing seasons in Ohio State's illustrious history. His 2,003 rushing yards this past year is the best single-season mark in program history as he blossomed into an all-purpose back as a third-year starter. 

J.K. Dobbins ended the season as the sixth-place finisher in the Heisman race and may be the first running back off of the board in April's NFL Draft. To say I missed on this one would be an understatement. 

Demario McCall (RS-Jr., RB/WR)

2019 Prediction: 250 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards, five total touchdowns

2019 Stats: 128 rushing yards, 28 receiving yards, two total touchdowns

Let's just call this one a miss. 

I fell into the trap that many have before me, believing that the speedy Demario McCall would take over at least part of the role that Mike Weber held. Instead, he played just 90 non-special teams snaps this year. McCall played the third-most snaps of the running backs and the seventh-most snaps of the wide receivers.

His role, along with fellow running back/wide receiver Jaelen Gill, is no longer as clearly defined as it was under Urban Meyer. Ryan Day rarely utilized a two-back set and opted to stick with Hartline's guys when the offense was in 10 or 11 personnel. 

K.J. Hill (RS-Sr., WR)

2019 Predction: 675 yards, 57 receptions, seven touchdowns

2019 Stats: 636 yards, 57 receptions, 10 touchdowns

Ohio State's career catch leader proved once again to be a reliable target for the Buckeyes. Without Haskins, it was expected that his production would drop off a little, but he was always going to be a safe option for first-year starter Justin Fields. 

Hill's consistency from season-to-season and game-to-game should be no surprise to Buckeye fans. His surgical route-running has never failed him as he finished his career as one of the most reliable targets in Ohio State history. 

Austin Mack (Sr., WR)

2019 Prediction: 450 yards, 39 receptions, five touchdowns

2019 Stats: 361 yards, 27 receptions, three touchdowns

Austin Mack has been anything but consistent for most of his career and his senior season was no different. The senior was some combination of Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor, excelling in intermediate routes with the ability to go up and high-point the ball. 

Ultimately, he had more low-production games than high, gaining more than 50 yards in a game just twice this past season. He was always a good player on the field, however, as his blocking on the outside was second-to-none. 

Binjimen Victor (Sr., WR)

2019 Prediction: 475 yards, 38 receptions, six touchdowns

2019 Stats: 573 yards, 35 receptions, six touchdowns

Big play Ben had a knack for showing up at the right time. With Haskins, Victor showed this ability in 2018 against Penn State. With Fields, he did more of the same, accounting for some of the biggest offensive plays of the season. 

The lanky senior was never going to be as reliable as Hill or get as much volume as Olave but he was always able to provide when his number was called. 

Chris Olave (So., WR)

2019 Prediction: 400 yards, 34 receptions, six touchdowns

2019 Stats: 849 yards, 49 receptions, 12 touchdowns

With a deep wide receiver corps led by three seniors, I had modest expectations for a true sophomore that burst onto the scene late in his freshman year. 

I was wrong. 

Olave put together one of the best seasons ever for an Ohio State wide receiver. The sophomore's 12-touchdown season was the fourth-best ever in program history. His meteoric rise from his breakout performance against Michigan in 2018 to one of the best receivers the Buckeyes has ever had is becoming one of the best storylines of the 2018 recruiting class.

Olave will be returning as Justin Fields' favorite target and the most experienced receiver under Brian Hartline. 

Garrett Wilson (Fr., WR)

2019 Prediction: 400 yards, 34 receptions, six touchdowns

2019 Stats: 432 yards, 30 receptions, five touchdowns

As a five-star freshman, Garrett Wilson had sky-high expectations. It took some time to get started, but Wilson eventually lived up to the hype, ending the season with over 400 yards, five touchdowns, and no shortage of highlight plays. 

Wilson will suddenly be the second-most experienced receiver under Hartline this coming year, as he and Chris Olave will be joined by a talented group of freshmen and some upperclassmen without much playing time. 

Luke Farrell (Jr., TE)

2019 Prediction: 160 yards, 15 receptions, one touchdowns

2019 Stats: 119 yards, seven receptions, two touchdowns

Unsurprisingly, Ohio State still does not like throwing to tight ends. 

Farrell acted primarily as a blocker for the running game this season but managed to catch the snag two touchdowns in consecutive games. The rising senior was, however, outgained by Jeremy Ruckert, a former four-star recruit out of New York. Ruckert ended the season with 142 yards, four touchdowns and one spectacular catch. 

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