Chris Olave's Decision to Return For His Senior Season Has Many Wondering What the Next Level May Look Like

By Andrew Ellis on January 24, 2021 at 7:05 am
Chris Olave will be one of the nation's top wideouts yet again in 2021.

Chris Olave has a chance to make history.

Ohio State's NFL draft declarations went about as expected. Justin Fields should be a top-10 pick, Wyatt Davis may be a first-rounder, and guys like Tommy Togiai, Pete Werner, and Josh Myers should all hear their names called within the first three or four rounds.

Chris Olave's decision to return for his senior season caught plenty of folks off guard. Projected to be selected in the late-first or early-second round, many actually had him slotted to the Green Bay Packers. And I can't think of many better scenarios for a first-year NFL wideout. 

But the NFL will have to wait until 2022. Olave and Garrett Wilson will instead form the nation's best pass-catching duo next season. After emerging during the second half of his true freshman campaign, Olave then put up 840 yards in 2019 (13 games) and 740 yards in his shortened junior season (seven games). A full slate in 2020 likely would have seen him break David Boston's single-season record of 1,435 yards.  

Garrett Wilson may have the better overall talent, but Olave was clearly Justin Fields' go-to guy, and his absence was a big part of the lackluster passing performance against Northwestern. His decision to return is obviously a big deal, but what it means for Ohio State's next starting quarterback – whether it's C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller, or Kyle McCord – cannot be overstated.

When it comes to the expectations for Olave's senior season, the quarterback situation is perhaps the biggest factor. Fields was one of the most gifted players we've ever seen in Columbus. And while Ryan Day's new quarterback room is extremely talented, it's unfair to expect a second-year player or a true freshman to come anywhere close to that level. 

But a full season that will include the likes of Tulsa, Akron, and Michigan should prove to be fruitful for the Buckeye passing game. The offensive line will be one of the team's biggest strengths, and its only rival may be the Olave-led group of receivers. A group whose backups could be starting for most other programs across the country. 

Justin Fields completed 158 passes in 2020. Just shy of 60 percent of those completions went to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Even with the nation's most talented receiver room, it was very much an Olave/Wilson show. What we'll see from the next Buckeye quarterback remains a mystery.

Will the new signal-caller zero in on two of the nation's top wideouts? Or does someone like Jameson Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Julian Fleming get more looks this time around? Jeremy Ruckert also remains a key piece to the passing puzzle.

From 2000 through 2003, Michael Jenkins recorded 2,898 receiving yards. That was good enough to set a new career record for the program, surpassing David Boston's 2,855 yards. Ohio State is scheduled to play 12 games in 2021, but that could turn into as many as 15 with a Big Ten title appearance and potentially two playoff games.

Olave's career total currently sits at 1,775 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns. He needs 1,123 yards to tie Jenkins' record and 12 scores to tie Boston's touchdown mark of 34. He's thus far had a healthy career, and the potential to leave as one of the greatest of all time is very much within reach. A lot of it will depend on how things go with a new quarterback and whether or not the ball gets spread around a bit more in 2021. 

Chris Olave's decision to return was a pleasant surprise and some terrific news for a very young quarterback room. Now he'll have a chance to make history in his fourth season in Columbus.

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