All this week, LGHL writers will be bring you articles focusing on their biggest and boldest predictions. Check out all of our “Bold Predictions” articles throughout the week HERE. Whether you disagree, let us know what you think in the comments below and on Twitter @Landgrant33.
Michael Keaton, the best Batman, once asked and challenged Jack Nicholson’s Joker: “You wanna get nuts!? C’mon. Let’s get nuts!”
Inspired by Bruce Wayne and Captain Gene from “The Other Guys,” it is time to get nuts with some bold predictions for the Buckeye wide receivers in 2021.
Receptions leader: Chris Olave
Olave is, and has been, a proven commodity for Ohio State. He has played 27 games for the Buckeyes, and shown improvement in each of his three seasons. He somewhat surprisingly chose to return for another season — perhaps looking to go from a late-first rounder, to a top-15 player in the NFL draft. In 2021, he will look to establish himself as the best wideout in college football, and also chase a national title that has been just out of reach during each of the last two seasons.
Olave could set a number of personal, OSU, or NCAA bests this season, and I would not be surprised if he did. What I am most confident in is his ability to catch passes. He is not blessed with top-end speed or the best shake and wiggle, but he runs expert routes. He is a skilled technician. Once open, Olave rarely drops a pass. So while other players may possess superior physical traits, OIave’s combination of football IQ, footwork, and sure-handedness make him both a big play threat for his quarterback and the perfect security blanket.
Confidence and security will be of the utmost importance for whomever starts at quarterback for the Buckeyes in 2021. C.J. Stroud is the presumed favorite, but Jack Miller and Kyle McCord will give him plenty of competition. One thing they all have in common? Zero starts at the collegiate level.
Olave will likely be leaned upon early and often for the yet-to-be-determined new signal caller. Who is the most experienced receiver? Who has the ability to get open against any coverage? Who can I be sure will come down with this ball if I need to put it in a tight window? Those are the questions that any quarterback must ask himself, and Olave is the answer to most of them for Ohio State this season. He led the team with 50 receptions in a pandemic-shortened 2020, and I expect something in the 75-80 catch neighborhood this season.
Yardage leader: Garrett Wilson
If Olave is Mr. Dependable, Garrett Wilson is Doctor Dynamic. Apologies for the corny nicknames, but we are not currently getting new hero stories — just side-story filler about secondary characters (sorry, but not really). I am reaching with my superhero monikers.
Wilson committed to OSU in 2018, becoming the highest WR commit (at that time) in program history (hold off on your Ted Ginn Jr. emails, he was recruited as a cornerback). Since first stepping on the field for the Buckeyes in 2019, he has done nothing but impress with his big-play ability.
Wilson has turned into what coaches and fans all expected him to be, and I predict that he will become the Batman to Olave’s Robin in 2021. It will be a role reversal from last season, when Olave led the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The elder statesman of the WR room will again finish with more catches, but the junior phenom will rack up more yardage and scores.
Wilson had the higher YPC average in 2020, so this prediction is not coming out of nowhere. He has the speed to make opposing defenders miss in the open field (see: punt returns), as well as insane leaping ability (see: Clemson game 2019). Both skills often lend themselves to chunk plays. While Olave is by no means a slouch at catching jump balls or making magic happen with the rock in his hands, I think Wilson is better at those things and trending upward faster. If they end up with a similar number of catches, Wilson should edge out Olave by less than 200 yards.
TD leader: Garrett Wilson
Now it’s time to start getting increasingly bold. Garrett Wilson has 11 career receiving touchdowns in 22 games played. Chris Olave had 12 touchdowns in 2019, putting him in a tie for third most amongst Ohio State single-season leaders. I am going to look past the obvious, and predict that Wilson will lead the Buckeyes in touchdown receptions in 2021.
This prediction stems from a lot of the same factors outlined above. I believe that Wilson is the more explosive receiver. He is the style to Olave’s substance — although both have plenty of overlapping skills. As Wilson has gained experience, he has closed the production gap between he and Olave. This season, I expect him to become the 1a of OSU wideouts.
The two top receivers finished with similar stats in 2020, and it should be factored in that Justin Fields had developed greater chemistry and trust with Olave. In 2021, there will not be a predetermined go-to guy. The new Buckeye quarterback will be starting with a blank slate.
Wilson could also benefit from the attention paid to his counterpart. On a national level, Olave is the more commonly known name. He has two great seasons under his belt, whereas Wilson really broke out during a pandemic.
This prediction comes down to a gut feeling. Wilson is a former 5-star recruit who has established himself as a borderline star at the college level. He flashed in 2019, became Robin to Olave’s Batman in 2020, and is poised to take over the starring role in 2021. Wilson is arguably the most talented receiver in Brian Hartline’s position room, and he will prove that during the upcoming season.
Super soph: Julian Fleming
Jaxon Smith-Njigba produced a signature Ohio State highlight in 2020. At home against Nebraska, JSN tip-toed along the back of the end zone, contorted his body to make a great catch, and had the wherewithal to get one foot down for an outstanding scoring play. He has garnered the most hype amongst the sophomore wide receiver group, but I predict that a higher recruit from JSN’s class will re-establish himself in 2021.
Julian Fleming was one of the prized possessions of the 2020 recruiting cycle, ranked by most services as the number one wide receiver in the country. He chose Ohio State, and had a realistic opportunity to contribute as a true freshman. Unfortunately for Fleming and the Buckeyes, he fought injuries for most of the year. He is now looking to rebound from a difficult freshman campaign, and if healthy, I expect him to produce.
This prediction is contingent upon health. Call it hedging my bet, but there is no guarantee that Fleming is 100% for the start of the season. His injuries limited him to just four games in 2020, but all the potential is there.
Also a high school standout in basketball and track, Fleming possesses a great combination of size, speed, strength, and jumping ability. He is the total package. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver is thicker than most of his established peers on the OSU roster, and I believe that build and physical prowess will set him apart.
Olave, Wilson, and JSN are all under 6-foot-2 and all under 200 pounds. While none are considered small, they are not as compact. Fleming has a thick build, and could overwhelm cornerbacks with his strength, while also having a speed advantage over safeties and linebackers.
Former Buckeye Terry McLaurin has a similar body type, and Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is another solid comparison, and Fleming has the height advantage over both. I am not saying that Fleming will be the next iteration of either NFL star, but there are similarities between them.
For all of the hype JSN has fairly received, both he and Fleming are no higher than fourth in the pecking order of receiving threats, behind Olave, Wilson, and tight end Jeremy Ruckert. JSN produced one spectacular touchdown catch, but only 49 yards. It was Fleming who led the freshman in receiving yards (only 74, but a win’s a win). If the former top recruit can get healthy and earn reps, he could provide Ohio State coaches with a versatile chess piece to move around.
Fantastic frosh: Marvin Harrison Jr.
Emeka Egbuka has received a ton of hype for an incoming freshman wideout, and he absolutely deserves it. He was the No. 1 recruit at his position, and just about every school in the country would have been elated to secure his commitment. However, fans and opponents should not sleep on the upside of Marvin Harrison Jr. He literally stands out amongst his peers at 6-foot-3, and has one unique advantage over his fellow wide receivers: 18 years of tips and advice from an NFL Hall of Famer.
Harrison Jr. comes to Ohio State as a highly rated 4-star recruit with polished skills. When you grow up learning from one of the best to ever do it, you are bound to be a technician. He seems wise beyond his years (sounds just like his father), as he has regularly been mentioned by coaches and teammates as a guy who is catching passes and working on his hands before the sun comes up. Harrison Jr. was even the first freshman on the offensive side of the ball to have his black stripe removed, doing so in early April.
Harrison Jr. is more than just a consolation prize. He was a top-15 wide receiver, who just happens to be coming in at the same time as Egbuka. Their games are not entirely the same, so any comparisons would be apples-to-oranges. Harrison Jr. has the height and the frame to develop into a Keenan Allen-type. Allen is known for his route-running and strong hands; two strengths that past coaches have also attributed to the younger Harrison. Since enrolling in January, he has added about 15 pounds of muscle, and Ohio State currently lists him at 6-foot-3, 205 — Keenan Allen is 6-foot-3, 210.
I believe Harrison Jr. could come in and play a Binjimen Victor role right away. He has at least two inches and roughly 15 pounds on both Olave and Wilson, which could make him a red zone threat if nothing else. We saw both stud freshmen perform well in the Spring Game, but only Harrison Jr. has now caught a touchdown from both (we think) possible starters. C.J. Stroud connected with him for the first score of the intra-squad scrimmage, and did I mention that Harrison Jr. played on the same high school team as Kyle McCord?
Oh, that’s right. He and the quarterback potentially breathing down Stroud’s neck just happened to connect for a few dozen touchdowns as 3x state championship-winning high school teammates. I predict that Harrison Jr.’s early development and established rapport with the top quarterbacks will get him on the field very early.