“Pro” Approach of Ohio State Wide Receiver Carnell Tate Has Teammates Expecting A Breakout Cotton Bowl Performance

By Andy Anders on December 28, 2023 at 8:35 am
Carnell Tate in Cotton Bowl practice

Denzel Burke had seven words that summed up the thoughts of Ohio State’s players and coaches on freshman wide receiver Carnell Tate.

“He’s been him since he got here,” Burke said.

Friday’s Cotton Bowl against Missouri will offer Tate a chance to prove exactly that.

Two years ago when Ohio State was playing Utah in the Rose Bowl, both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opted out in preparation to be first-round selections in the 2022 NFL draft. That allowed Marvin Harrison Jr. to take the field and put up three touchdowns in a breakout close to his freshman season before ultimately becoming perhaps the greatest wide receiver in Ohio State history over the next two years.

Now, with Julian Fleming entering the transfer portal and Harrison appearing likely to opt out of the game, Tate is in line to start and could be a key piece of Ohio State’s offense similar to how Harrison and Emeka Egbuka had to take charge in short order against the Utes in 2021.

“As far as young guys and bowl games, I mean, this is it, this is where young guys step up,” Egbuka said. “It happened to, really, Marv and I in the Rose Bowl. It’s something that happens every year where your depth might be shortened a little bit or it’s just a game where you’re able to get your feet wet a little more.”

Tate has had opportunities to wet his feet already.

He’s collected 17 catches for 260 yards and a touchdown in 2023, including a few spectacular diving grabs. When Egbuka was sidelined with an ankle injury against Purdue, Tate took advantage of the increased reps and posted three catches for 79 yards.

“If you look at our progression, frankly, as a freshman, whether it be Chris or Jaxon (Smith-Njigba) or Garrett, he's right in that mold, especially production-wise,” offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said. “And Carnell came into a room that was very deep. And so to have four older guys there (Harrison, Egbuka, Fleming and Xavier Johnson) and then you're still earning playing time because of your work.”

A common word that came up when describing why Tate is in such a position to succeed early in his Ohio State career was “pro.”

“He’s gonna be the next first-rounder out of here, mark my words,” Burke said. “He’s a great player. He’s a pro on and off the field. I kind of see a little bit of him in me when I was a freshman coming in, how focused he was and how much this game means to him.”

As much shows in his approach to the game. Tate has a desire to better himself and puts in the work to do so. He takes coaching and applies critiques to the field to improve.

“The way he approaches the game, his understanding of defenses, his understanding of plays and the ability to recollect different coaching points and transfer that to the field as a pro,” Xavier Johnson said of why Tate was able to earn early playing time as a freshman. “That’s a big mark of someone who’s ready for the big stage. He does that well. He does that with the best of them.”

“He’s gonna be the next first-rounder out of here, mark my words.”– Denzel Burke on Carnell Tate

Hartline feels as though Tate could have made a bigger impact in the regular season if it weren’t for a few bumps and bruises he’s suffered along the way.

“He probably would have started a little earlier if he really wasn't a little dinged up coming out of camp,” Hartline said. “Had a great camp, came out dinged up, so kind of slowed that down. Once he got his feet back under him, I think pretty close to like the bye week, he started getting going.”

Tate’s mentality and talent already offer several parallels between him and the great wide receivers Ohio State has churned out over the last five years.

On Friday, he’ll hope to draw one more by being another to foreshadow a great career with a big freshman-year bowl performance.

“I feel like Carnell, Marv and I, we all share certain similarities when we were young guys as freshmen,” Egbuka said. “We just came in with a sense of, ‘I want to handle my business. I’m not here for any of the rah-rah stuff, I just want to come here, play the best football I can and grow as a player.’ And that's exactly what Carnell has done.”

View 20 Comments