Four Kings: Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison Jr., David Boston and Chris Olave Selected As Ohio State’s Greatest Wide Receivers

By Dan Hope and Matt Gutridge on July 15, 2023 at 10:10 am
Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison Jr., David Boston and Chris Olave

Who are Ohio State’s four greatest players of all-time at each position? We’re asking Eleven Warriors readers to help us decide.

The fifth installment of the Four Kings series looks at a position where Ohio State has been loaded with stars in recent years: Wide receiver.

Ohio State has had no shortage of wide receivers who have established themselves as Buckeye greats in the past three years alone: Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and two who are still playing for the Buckeyes in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. But Ohio State’s run of greatness at wide receiver extends back more than four decades, highlighted by the likes of Gary Williams and Cris Carter in the 1980s; Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn and David Boston in the 1990s; Michael Jenkins, Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. in the 2000s; and Devin Smith, Michael Thomas and K.J. Hill in the 2010s – among others.

That left our voters with tough choices to make this week as they attempted to narrow that down to the four best wideouts who would make OSU’s “Mount Rushmore” at the position. Ultimately, however, there were four wide receivers who emerged above the rest in the voting: Carter, Harrison, Boston and Olave.

What makes them worthy of being the four greatest Ohio State receivers of all-time? We’ll dive into that below, plus take a look at the many honorable mentions who have their own argument for belonging in the top four. Plus, Eleven Warriors writers Dan Hope and Matt Gutridge share who they each voted for and why.

Cris Carter (1984-86)

Ohio State’s first-ever All-American wide receiver is still viewed by Buckeye fans as the best to ever play the position for the scarlet and gray. The only wide receiver to land on more than 50% of ballots in this edition of Four Kings, Carter was selected as one of Ohio State’s four best receivers ever by more than three-fourths of our more than 500 respondents.

At the end of his Ohio State career, Carter was Ohio State’s all-time leader in receptions (168) and receiving touchdowns (27). A starter in all three of his seasons as a Buckeye, Carter still ranks fourth in school history in receptions, receiving yards (2,725) and receiving touchdowns even as college football passing numbers have exploded over the past four decades.

A two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Carter followed up his standout Ohio State career by becoming one of the most productive receivers in NFL history. Ranking fourth all-time among NFL receivers with 130 touchdown catches and sixth all-time with 1,101 career catches, Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Marvin Harrison Jr. (2021-23)

Even though he’s only been at Ohio State for two years and still has another season to play with the Buckeyes, Harrison received the second-most votes among all wide receivers in this week’s Four Kings voting. That speaks to just how spectacular Harrison was in 2022.

In his first season as a starter, Harrison became Ohio State’s first-ever unanimous All-American wide receiver as he caught 77 passes for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns – all numbers that rank in the top four in school history for a single season. Even those numbers don’t do justice to how special Harrison was last season, as he made jaw-dropping receptions on an almost-weekly basis and proved to be the most unguardable player in the country.

If Harrison can follow that up with a similarly great or even better season in 2023, he’ll leave no doubt that he belongs in the Four Kings and have a strong case for being Ohio State’s best wide receiver ever.

David Boston (1996-98)

In just three years as a Buckeye, Boston caught 191 passes for 2,855 yards and 34 touchdowns, all numbers that were school records at the time and still rank second in Ohio State history in all three categories.

Boston still holds the school record for most 100-yard receiving games in Ohio State history with 14, and his biggest games often came on the biggest stages, such as his 10-catch, 231-yard, two-touchdown performance against Michigan in 1998. He capped off his freshman year by catching the game-winning touchdown in the Rose Bowl with just 19 seconds remaining, and concluded his career by winning MVP honors with an 11-catch, 105-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl.

A first-team All-American in 1998 and a two-time All-Big Ten honoree, Boston is also Ohio State’s all-time leading punt returner with 98 returns for 959 yards. He was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 8 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft and played in the league for nine years, leading the NFL in receiving yards in 2001.

Chris Olave (2018-21)

Olave exploded onto the scene near the end of his freshman year at Ohio State when he caught two touchdown passes and blocked a punt in the Buckeyes’ 62-39 win over Michigan in 2018. He only continued to build on his legacy over the next three years.

He emerged as Ohio State’s top receiver in 2019 by catching 49 passes for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns, then grabbed 50 passes for 729 yards and seven touchdowns in just seven games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, highlighted by a 132-yard, two-touchdown performance in the College Football Playoff against Clemson. Olave finished his career by earning first-team All-American honors with 65 catches for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021, breaking Boston’s school record for career touchdown catches in the process.

Had Ohio State played a full schedule in 2020, Olave would likely hold even more school records, considering he finished less than 200 yards behind Michael Jenkins’ career mark for receiving yards. Olave is now entering his second NFL season with the New Orleans Saints after being selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2022 draft and catching 72 passes for 1,042 yards as a rookie.

Honorable Mentions

Top 10 Wide Receivers by Votes
Wide Receiver Percentage of Ballots
TED GINN JR. 37.5% (210 VOTES)
Note: All percentages were multiplied by four
from their vote totals since each voter was able
to vote for up to four players.

If there was a Four Kings for kickoff and punt returners, Ted Ginn Jr. would have easily landed the top spot. As a receiver, the 2006 All-American and Ohio State’s all-time leader in return touchdowns was the first to miss the cut, finishing with the fifth-most votes in our balloting.

Terry Glenn, who’s still the only Ohio State wide receiver to win the Biletnikoff Award, finished sixth in the voting. While his 1995 season was arguably the best ever for an Ohio State wideout, in which he caught 64 passes for 1,411 yards and a still-standing school-record 17 touchdowns, it was his only year as a starter for the Buckeyes.

Explosive speedster Joey Galloway, recent star Garrett Wilson, all-time Ohio State receiving yards leader Michael Jenkins and fellow early 2000s standout Santonio Holmes rounded out the top 10 of our voting. Despite breaking Ohio State’s single-season records with 95 catches for 1,606 yards in 2021, Jaxon Smith-Njigba finished outside the top 10 with just the 11th-most votes.

Others who received double-digit votes yet finished outside the top 10 include 2014 national championship team stars Devin Smith and Michael Thomas and all-time Ohio State receptions leader K.J. Hill, illustrating just how many greats the Buckeyes have had catching passes in recent history, especially over the past decade.

Dan’s Picks

Cris Carter, David Boston, Chris Olave and Marvin Harrison Jr.

Of the five positions we’ve selected in this series so far, picking only Four Kings at wide receiver was my most difficult choice yet. Even so, it’s the first time so far that I’ve voted for all of the same four players who ended up receiving the most votes from our readers.

Carter is a rightful earner of the top spot as Ohio State’s first true superstar at the position, setting the standard for all the great receivers who have followed him through Columbus since. No Buckeye receiver has ever had a more prolific three-year run than Boston, so he also clearly belongs in the top four. Olave’s repeatedly clutch play throughout his four-year career made him an Ohio State legend in my eyes.

Seeing as Harrison has only been a starter for one year, I debated whether he really belonged in the top four ahead of single-season record-holder Smith-Njigba, who would very likely be among the Four Kings if he hadn’t gotten hurt last year (and still deserved far more votes than he received). But I sided with Harrison for two reasons: I believe he is the most talented receiver that’s ever played for Ohio State, and he could be Ohio State’s most accomplished receiver ever too if he has the 2023 season we all expect him to have.

Matt’s Picks

Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison Jr., David Boston and Terry Glenn

Like Dan, this was a challenge limiting Ohio State’s best wide receivers to four players. We could list 16 guys and a deserving Buckeye would still be left out. Similar to how I decided on linebackers, I’m going to use the process of elimination – think the kid’s game Guess Who? to whittle this list down to four.

Are you an All-American at wide receiver? This question eliminates every receiver except for six: David Boston, Cris Carter, Terry Glenn, Marvin Harrison Jr., Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Ted Ginn Jr. didn’t make the cut because he was an All-American punt returner.

Are you a consensus or unanimous All-American? Carter, Glenn and Harrison are Ohio State’s only receivers who can say yes to this question, with Harrison being the only unanimous All-American.

This leaves Boston, Olave and Wilson for one spot. Since Boston's name is at the top – or near the top – of most Ohio State receiving records, he gets the final spot on my list.

Note: My list would be different if the question was, “Which four Ohio State receivers would you start in a single game?”

Photos of Cris Carter and David Boston via Matthew Emmons – USA TODAY Sports

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