Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Which non-Olave/Wilson wideout will have the most receiving yards in 2021?
Josh’s pick: Julian Fleming
A former No. 1 receiver from his recruiting class will break out in a big way for OSU in 2021. While it is tempting to go with Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming is my choice. He may have been overshadowed last season by his classmate, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but Fleming is an all-around stud. He has all the tools, and lacks any real weakness in his game. The injury bug is the only thing that hindered him from becoming more of a factor in 2020.
I have to hedge my bets, and say that this prediction comes with a huge caveat: Fleming has to get — and remain — healthy. A shoulder injury has affected him dating back to high school. That same lingering injury led to offseason surgery for the sophomore WR, and as a result, he has been seen running with the third team in spring practices. So I am going out on a limb here, but go big or go home.
When healthy, Fleming possesses everything coaches look for in a lead receiver. There is a reason every program in the country wanted this guy. He was not only the unanimous No. 1 WR, but ESPN and other services had him ranked as the No. 1 player overall in the 2020 recruiting class. At 6-foot-2 and roughly 200 pounds, he is not the biggest guy in the room. However, he’s solid enough to live in the middle of the field – and has the speed to burn DB’s on the outside. In addition to football, Fleming excelled at basketball in high school. He has great leaping ability and great hands. What I like most is that he’s not a one-trick pony. He can do more than run “go” routes.
Smith-Njigba might be the most popular breakout candidate from Ohio State’s receiving room, but that is all about future projection and one single play he made last year. His touchdown grab against Nebraska was filthy, but it was one of only 10 catches he had on the season… for 49 yards. Fleming had fewer catches (seven), but showed what he is capable of given a larger role, when he put up a stat line of 4/53 against Northwestern.
There is no bad answer here. As Buckeye fans, we likely don’t care whether the next superstar is Julian Fleming, JSN, Egbuka, or anybody else. The OSU receiving core is ridiculously talented, and a bunch of these guys will have an opportunity to shine. My bet just happens to be on the former top overall recruit with a year and a half already under his belt. Expect Fleming to shine, and hopefully he is healthy enough to do so sooner than later.
Gene’s Pick: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
I’ve gone outside the box for my last couple of takes in this series, but this time I'm going to go with the safe choice. I agree with Josh that there are no bad answers here, but with the transfer of Jameson Williams to Alabama, I think the clear and obvious candidate to most benefit from that move is Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
The ability to land JSN out of Texas was another win for Mark Pantoni and Ohio State’s brilliant scouting department. The Buckeyes were able to snag him in early Nov. 2018 when he was still a four-star recruit, and by the time he signed his name on the dotted line in Dec. 2019 he had become the No. 5 wide receiver in the country having earned his fifth star as the nation’s No. 29 prospect overall in the 2020 class. Julian Fleming obviously got a lot of the hype as the No. 1 WR and No. 3 overall player in the class, but Smith-Njigba wasn’t too far behind by the end of the cycle.
The main reason why I think Smith-Njigba is the better candidate to have the most receiving yards outside of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson this season is because of his style of play. At 6-foot, 197 pounds, JSN is a technically sound player with great speed, great hands, and the ability to get off the line quickly and get open. All of these traits are exactly what you would look for in a prototypical slot receiver, which is where he will spend most of his time this season with Olave and Wilson owning the outsides.
I think Fleming will be a great player at Ohio State in time, but he profiles more as an outside receiver, and time at those spots will be incredibly limited with two future first-round NFL Draft picks locking it down. Smith-Njigba reminds me a lot of Wilson during the early stages of his career in Columbus, and while I don't think his numbers will be similar to those that Wilson put up from the slot last season, I think he will be the go-to guy over the middle. We saw how much of a threat it was for Justin Fields to be able to hit Wilson in space seemingly whenever he wanted, especially if teams try to matchup with a linebacker on defense. With a new QB running the offense, JSN will be the safety net when long-developing plays to Olave or Wilson aren't there.
Like Josh says, there is really no bad answer to this question. Every fanbase around the country would love to be able to argue which of their former five-star wide receiver prospects will be the THIRD-best pass-catcher on the team. There is nothing short of an embarrassment of riches at the position thanks to the recruiting prowess of Brian Hartline, but if I had to pick one guy to separate himself this season from everyone fighting to make an impact, my money would be on Jaxon-Smith Njigba.
Who got it right?
This poll is closed
Josh: Julian Fleming
Gene: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Neither, and here's why: (leave a comment)