Spring camp is just about over.
Ohio State wraps up its 15 allotted practices on Saturday with the spring game at Ohio Stadium. Following the Buckeyes' penultimate practice of the spring on Thursday, wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, new special teams coordinator Parker Fleming and wide receivers Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jameson Williams and Chris Olave met with the media on a Zoom press conference.
A bullet-point rundown of their comments:
- On Jaxon Smith-Njigba: “Jaxon has done a great job spring-wise.” He says Smith-Njigba started off hot in March, had a dip in his performance in the middle of spring camp, then bounced back. “He may be our best blocker in the room.”
- Hartline says Julian Fleming and several others have been “robbed” of “crucial development time.” He mentions Fleming has been practicing with a linebacker strap on his shoulder. “The kid is probably one of the toughest kids I've ever been around.” ... “The guy's been operating at 75 percent for the last couple years.” He says Fleming has one of the best speed-size combinations he has ever seen in college football.
- The Buckeyes will get "creative" to spread the ball around, he says, and "have a little fun with it."
- Younger quarterbacks force wide receivers to be more detailed. "I think it's awesome."
- On Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr: "They don't carry themselves like freshmen. They don't act like freshmen." He says they have "pretty limited missed assignments" which shows how they've taken what they're learned in the meeting room to the field.
- "I would say that coach (Ryan) Day does a great job developing our offenses based on our personnel." He says it's the job of the wide receivers to show that they shouldn't get taken off the field for multi-tight ends as often as happened last season.
- On getting promoted this offseason: "It's a huge honor."
- "One of the main goals is just to keep some continuity." He says he's been at Ohio State for a while now, so he understands everything that came before him.
- Fleming says his first job in special teams was when Urban Meyer brought him in as an intern. He saw the opening, didn't know what it entailed, applied, then got the job. "That happened for me in 2012, then I worked as a graduate in 2013 working with both the wide receivers and the special teams." ... "Wherever I can fit in, I will."
- "Good football players are good on special teams."
- Fleming notes the Buckeyes lost key special-teams contributors. "We're kind of replacing a bunch of those key personnel in certain spots."
- On Matt Barnes: "He's extremely detailed. He's extremely well thought-out." He says Barnes is a sounding board for him right now.
- Fleming is helping with the defensive backs when he's not coaching specialists. He says that's fairly new to him. "I'm kind of an offensive guy in a defensive room."
- Fleming on Ohio State's kickoff return touchdown drought: “We've gotta get some more guys hitting some home runs.” As Fleming correctly pointed out, Ohio State's last kickoff return touchdown was by Jordan Hall in 2010.
- "We didn't emphasize the returner very much this spring." He says Ohio State has a lot of "banked reps" from potential kick and punt returners who spent time returning kicks last year due to the unknown of how many returners they'd need in 2020 due to COVID-19.
- "When you grow up in a place like Texas, you have the opportunity to play football year-round." He thinks that helped him develop as a wide receiver. "Especially for quarterbacks, wide receivers and skill positions, that can be a big factor" in playing early in college.
- He says it's only human nature to appreciate your success and slack off. "We're taking a different approach in the Zone 6 room."
- Wilson is "very confident" in Ohio State's quarterbacks given what he knows about Day as a recruiter.
- "For the coaches to let us be involved with Justin's pro day, that was a huge blessing." He thinks it was good to get himself in front of NFL scouts.
- On Chris Olave coming back: "I'm not going to lie. Yeah, I was surprised." ... "We expect to have one of the best rooms in the country, and having Chris back, that's going to be a huge part of that."
- Wilson says Olave is faster than him, but that's just because they haven't raced yet.
- He confirms he's going to move back outside and play X receiver in 2021. He says it wasn't his idea, but he was fine with it.
- "We've just got some dogs in the Zone 6 room."
- Ohio State has one of the deepest, most competitive receiver rooms in the country, but Smith-Njigba says that he just has to "control what I can control" in order to make an impact and get on the field.
- He admits that not having a full spring season last year was hard on his development and that not getting the reps he would have had did have an affect. This spring "has been real crucial" in his development.
- On Hartline praising his blocking: "I know I can catch the ball and can run routes, so if I add that to my game it just makes me a better all-around player. ... So I take pride in that."
- On the three quarterbacks: "They all three can play. They all three can sling the ball. Just ready to see how it might go in a game. ... They're all three real talented."
- Smith-Njigba says he's "ready to go out there in the fall and make plays."
- Williams: "Last season was a good season overall. Made plays, had a lot of fun. I feel like I got better as the season went along," but he says he's gotten "a lot better this offseason" and gotten better at things that "make me a better all-around receiver."
- Williams calls Marvin Harrison Jr. "a ball hawk." Williams says that he vouched for Harrison and Emeka Egbuka to lose their black stripes.
- He believes Saturday's atmosphere for the spring game "will be crazy. ... You know Ohio State fans go crazy."
- Better routes, becoming a more consistent pass-catcher, working on his speed and getting better tempo for a better route are all things that Williams marks as areas he wants to improve.
- On Julian Fleming: "Julian's a real good ball player. He gets it done. Most people don't know, but he's really fast. ... He makes plays."
- "I don't really feel left out. I don't look at other people criticizing me."
- Williams believes his long touchdown reception in the Clemson game was one of the best plays he's made in his career.
- Williams calls Chris Olave "big bro" in the receivers room and is always supportive of the guys and helps mentor them.
- Olave surprised many by returning for another season instead of entering the NFL draft: "I feel like I needed to work on some things so I came back to get in the weight room more and get a lot stronger, turn into a more complete receiver so I can be ready Week 1 when I go to the NFL."
- On catching passes from Justin Fields on his pro day: "It was fun being out there, trying to make him look good."
- Olave has full faith in whoever starts at quarterback, and he believes "Coach Day is gonna make the right decision."
- He says one of the receiver's most important jobs is to make life easier for the quarterbacks.
- Since he came back, Olave says he is "trying to master my craft."
- Olave did not think he was NFL-ready following last season. He felt like he could have gotten a lot stronger: "That was one of the flaws in my game."
- He says he wanted one more year with Mickey Marotti and Brian Hartline and one more year competing with Garrett Wilson and the rest of the receivers: "One more year and I'll be good."
- On being the veteran in the room: "When people refer to me as an old guy, I feel like I'm not really that old. I'm still 20 years old."
- K.J. Hill, C.J. Saunders and Johnnie Dixon are just a few of the receivers he named as his best mentors when he was a younger player.
- Olave says he called or FaceTimed most of the receivers to let them know that he was coming back before making his decision.
- "Marvin Harrison is the real deal."
- Olave said he had a “terrible feeling in my stomach” after Ohio State's national championship game loss to Alabama. “I just didn't want to leave college like that.” He also said getting his degree is another reason why he chose to come back for another year.