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Ohio State’s future is blindingly bright at wide receiver

Brian Hartline’s group is set to dominate moving forward.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Miami OH at Ohio State Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“The Buckeye receivers have answered that question, as the Scarlet and Gray averaged nearly 265 passing yards through the first four games of the season, none of which has seen Ohio State play its starters for a full four quarters. In Saturday’s 76-5 win against Miami, the likes of Hill, Mack, Victor and Olave were out of the game by halftime, giving Buckeye Nation a glimpse of what’s to come with Zone 6.”

- Patrick Murphy, 247sports

Ohio State entered the season with a bit of a question mark surrounding just how good the receiver core could be. The unit, affectionately called Zone 6, saw a mass exodus of talent following the 2018 season, with three of their top producing wideouts moving on to the NFL. K.J. Hill’s return was obviously a huge boost in terms of reassurance, but both Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor had been a bit inconsistent as they moved into their new starting roles, also now functioning as senior leaders on the offense.

Chris Olave was a breakout performer at the end of last season, but the Buckeyes weren’t entirely sure if he could sustain that level of play in 2019. Already, just four games into the season, it is clear that Olave’s meteoric rise up the depth chart was no fluke. He has already eclipsed all of his numbers from his seven games played a year ago, catching 12 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns, while also showing off his special teams prowess with a blocked punt against Indiana.

Hill, Mack and Victor are all graduating at the end of the year, and Ohio State will once again be tasked with replacing a huge chunk of its receiving core. However, as this Saturday’s beatdown of Miami (OH) showed, Brian Hartline’s unit is in excellent hands moving forward. With the Bucks up big, the backups played the entirety of the second half, allowing for Ryan Day to flex his incredibly talented reserves. There was little to no drop-off when going to the second-team wide receivers, with freshmen Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams putting on a show.

Wilson, a five-star recruit and No. 2 wideout in his class, made a terrific circus catch in the corner of the end zone to add to what has been a incredibly promising start to his Buckeye career — despite very limited time. The freshman has caught seven balls for 71 yards and two touchdowns thus far, and should continue to see increased playing time performing like he has. Williams made his first two catches of the year on Saturday, with one being an impressive 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The four-star receiver, who has drawn comparisons to Ted Ginn Jr., looks to be yet another burner on Ohio State’s offense.

In addition to Wilson and Williams, there is even more cavalry on the way. As if one five-star receiver wasn’t enough, the Buckeyes currently have commits from the No. 1 wideout in the 2020 class in Julian Fleming, as well as two more top-15 pass-catchers in Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Gee Scott jr. Having already produced a bunch of extremely talented wideouts in years past, including a little-known man by the name of Michael Thomas, Ohio State will continue to possess some of the best talent in the nation at wide receiver moving forward.

Ohio State released its players of the game for it’s 76-5 beatdown of Miami (OH) this past weekend. After such a dominating performance on both sides of the ball, it is hard to choose just one player from each unit — and after allowing just 17 total yards over the last three quarters, two defensive players were necessary. It is a bit surprising to not see Justin Fields as the offensive player, but that isn’t to take anything away from Chris Olave’s excellent performance.

Olave was named Offensive Player of the Game with his three catches for 30 yards and two touchdowns. Despite only being on the field for a total of 24 plays all afternoon, Olave had a huge impact with his two scores. The sophomore wide receiver has clearly been one of Fields’ favorite targets, and his ability to extend routes when his quarterback is forced to scramble outside the pocket has no doubt helped in forming that connection.

Both Chase Young (shocker) and Haskell Garrett were named the Defensive Players of the Game, as the Buckeye front dominated all afternoon. Young continues to be one of — if not the — best defensive players in the country, showcasing his skill set against the Redhawks with two sack fumbles, two tackles for loss and two QB hurries. Garrett was sensational up the middle, making three tackles with two for a loss.

The Special Teams Player of the Game was Sevyn Banks, who has showed tremendous prowess as part of the unit. Banks, who returned the Olave blocked punt for a TD against Michigan last season, was the punt blocker against Miami. Banks was also credited with two blocks to aid Garrett Wilson’s 52-yard punt return later in the game.

Ohio State will face its first true test of the season when it heads into a hostile environment to take on Nebraska this weekend. Buckeye fans have had this game circled on the calendar for awhile, weary of another puzzling loss at the hands of a Big Ten West opponent. OSU, however, is under a new regime, and despite a weak opening schedule, has looked as though Day and his staff have fixed the issues on both offense and especially defense that made the Bucks susceptible to those types of losses. Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost would agree.

Frost had a lot of praise for the Buckeyes, especially for their star players. He called defensive end Chase Young a creature, saying that “he’s as physically imposing a player as I’ve seen on film in a long time.” Frost also said that quarterback Justin Fields is a special player, and that he’s been impressed with what he has seen on film in his first four games. Frost acknowledged that Ohio State keeps the pressure on in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams.

The Buckeyes opened up as 14-point favorites heading into Lincoln, although the line has since moved all the way to 17.5. It is tough to argue that OSU does not possess superior talent than their opposition, but that meant little in similar matchups against Purdue and Iowa in the past few years. If Ryan Day is serious about contending for a national title this season, that road really begins this weekend at Nebraska. He must be able to guard his team against a letdown, and finally get Ohio State over its nightmarish stretch against the West.

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