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Chris Olave returning to Ohio State to take care of unfinished business

The talented wide receiver stunned Ohio State fans when he announced he was returning to Columbus for his senior season.

CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Following the conclusion of Ohio State’s 2020 season, it seemed like a given that wide receiver Chris Olave was going to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. It wouldn’t have been hard to fault Olave for deciding to head to the next level after the junior hauled in 50 passes for 729 yards and seven touchdowns in just seven games. Those stats could have been even better had Olave not missed the Big Ten Championship Game due to COVID-19 protocols.

Ryan Day, Brian Hartline, and the rest of Buckeye Nation got a late Christmas present when Olave announced that he would be returning to Columbus for his senior season. As if Ohio State’s group of wide receivers wasn’t already stacked enough, they now will have Olave back to help set an example for the talented wide receivers of the Buckeyes.

So why did Olave decide to come back to Ohio State for his senior year? A big reason for him putting off the NFL is that the California product feels like he has some unfinished business to take care of. After the disappointing end to the 2019 season, which saw a miscommunication with quarterback Justin Fields result in a game-winning interception for Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, Olave came back with a vengeance. Now, Olave has some more wrongs to right after the loss to Alabama in the national title game.

Another reason for the return to Columbus is the loaded class of wide receivers in this year’s NFL Draft. While Olave could have possibly been a borderline first round pick, coming back to OSU could help him elevate his draft stock and solidify his standing as a first rounder. But to make sure that happens, Olave knows that he has to put in some work in the weight room to add to his 6-foot-1, 189 pound frame.

The wild card in Olave’s plan is going to be who is throwing him passes in the fall. Unlike the last two years when he was a featured target for Fields, now Olave will have to work with a quarterback who hasn’t yet started a game in college. You have to assume that Olave and Garrett Wilson will be targeted early and often by whoever ends up taking the snaps for the Buckeyes.

Since he is coming back for his senior season, you’d imagine that Olave is going to be one of the favorites to win the Biletnikoff Award, which is given annually to the best wide receiver in college football. Should Olave have a monster season and take home the award, he would become just the second Buckeye to earn the honor, joining the late Terry Glenn, who won it in 1995.

One of the wide receivers that will benefit from Olave returning to Ohio State for his senior season is Julian Fleming. After how Wilson burst onto the scene as a freshman, expectations for Fleming to have a similar impact might have been a little unrealistic last fall. It also didn’t help Fleming that he came to Ohio State during the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of all that, Fleming was also dealing with a shoulder injury from high school, it was revealed on Thursday.

Even with all of the obstacles that were put in front of him, Fleming still earned the respect of wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, who called Fleming one of the toughest kids he has ever been around. With the work that he has been putting in, Hartline expects Fleming to have a big season this year for an Ohio State team that has an insane amount of talent at receiver.

While he didn’t put up big numbers, Fleming did at least get his feet wet on the field, catching seven passes for 74 yards. His best performance of the year came in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern when he caught four passes for 53 yards. Ohio State needed a performance like that from Fleming against the Wildcats, since the Buckeyes were without Olave in the game.

On a lot of teams, a talent like Fleming might be the first or second option at wide receiver, but for Ohio State right now he’s more like a third or fourth option because of the talent in front of him. With the combination of size and speed that Fleming has, it’s likely that we hear the Pennsylvania product’s name called early and often this year. With teams looking to shutdown Olave and Wilson, it should leave plenty of opportunities for Fleming to remind people why he was one of the most sought-after wide receivers coming out of high school.