Kenny Golladay is a Chicago native who spent his first two seasons at the University of North Dakota, terrorizing opposing secondaries, before transferring home to Northern Illinois.
As a true sophomore in 2013, the 6'4, 200 pound wide receiver led the Fighting Sioux with 69 receptions, which accounted for 884 yards and eight touchdowns. His biggest game came against Northern Arizona, where he set a school record with 16 receptions and four receiving touchdowns.
Northern Illinois' quarterback Drew Hare has gotten off to a hot start in 2015, completing 50-of-64 (78 percent) pass attempts, for six touchdowns and zero interceptions. After sitting out in 2014 due to the NCAA transfer rules, Golladay has a been a major factor in Hare's success. In his first career game with the Huskies, he scorched the UNLV secondary, catching nine balls for 213 yards, which led to him being named the MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week. To follow up his terrific week one performance, he dominated Murray State with eight receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He currently ranks seventh in the nation with 17 receptions and second in the nation with 357 yards.
How Golladay is used
Even though the lengthy wide receiver has only played two games with the Huskies, he already has great compatibility with his signal caller. He has caught 17 passes out of 21 targets, which is a 80.95 completion percentage.
He is primarily used on first down, where he has had 218 yards on nine receptions. Out of those nine receptions, six of them registered 15-plus yards and he has averaged 24.22 yards per reception on first down. The Husky offense has a tendency of throwing the ball on first down and Golladay is a major factor in that tendency.
Here on first down, Hare gets the ball out quickly to his favorite target on a 5-yard quick-out.
Not only do they use him on short routes on first down, but here he is on a 10-yard skinny post that gained 16-yards.
The Chicago native is a big-play waiting to happen and he almost always moves the chains. Out of his 17 receptions, he has converted 13 first downs and 29 percent of his catches have gone for 25-plus yards. Golladay has the ability to run the entire route tree and he is terrific after the catch. He has the ability to turn a 5-yard out or hitch into a first down. Due to his combination of size, speed and technique, he is a terrific intermediate to long route runner. He creates separation on post routes, because the opposing cornerback respects his straight-line speed.
Below, Golladay took a 12-yard skinny post, 55-yards to the house, by gaining separation on the cut, catching the ball away from his body, stiff-arming the cornerback and outrunning the secondary.
How to stop Golladay
The North Dakota transfer is a complete receiver, who has the skill set to potentially give the Ohio State defense trouble. He is taller than the members of the starting secondary and his extensive route tree makes him a tough match-up for any secondary. He is going to line up primarily on the outside and start the game off by running short routes; shallow crossers, in routes, out routes and slants.
Ohio State will try to take away his deeper routes (banana route and go route) by playing their base Quarters coverage but they could have trouble with the skinny post that he runs very effectively, due to a hole in Cover 4. With the incredible range of the two Buckeye safeties on vertical routes, it would be safe to play physical on the line against Golladay to take away the timing with the short to intermediate routes.
Eli Apple and Gareon Conley will be tested on the perimeter on Saturday, but the strong Buckeye defensive line should provide pressure against a young, inexperienced Husky offensive line, which should throw off Hare's timing and comfort in the pocket.
The secondary is full of ballhawks but the best way to disrupt a talented and efficient (26 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions in Hare's career) passing game is to get to the quarterback, early and often. Joey Bosa, Darron Lee and the rest of the front seven should be up to the challenge.