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. This time around, the guys will be keeping in tune with the theme of the week: Broken Records.
This week’s topic: What Ohio State record will be broken this season?
As I was thinking about Ohio State football records that have the potential to be broken in 2022, I found myself saying “damn, some of these are just absurd.” Not that I was unfamiliar with them before, but I can legitimately see some of these current records continuing to stand for decades. The game is different, and I don’t envision ground-and-pound offenses, old school middle linebackers, or four-year starters coming back. So in my opinion, I think most of the attainable records are single-game or single-season marks. Most, not all.
I was tempted to go out on a limb by predicting that Tommy Eichenberg will set the OSU single-game record for tackles (currently 29, held by Chris Spielman), but I couldn’t quite get there. Or how about Jordan Hancock or Kye Stokes to pick off double-digit passes in a single season? Not in 2022, but eventually. I wanted to be outlandish here, but ultimately settled on realistic. Boring, I know.
The records I have in mind were just set last year. And I predict that the same player who set them will be the one to break them in 2022. In doing so, he will not only set single-season records, but also go down as one of the all-time Buckeye legends. This player’s name is Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and I believe that he will meet or exceed his incredible 2021 output, breaking all sorts of Ohio State receiving records in the process.
JSN finished last season with 95 receptions for 1,606 yards. He also had two games with 15 receptions each, and a Rose Bowl performance during which he racked up 347 yards — all records! The area in which he was “lacking”, was touchdowns. He scored three in the Rose Bowl, and nine all season, but frankly did not show much of a nose for the endzone... please don’t aggregate this, I am clearly joking. JSN did all of this while playing alongside Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jeremy Ruckert. Well, newsflash: all of those guys are gone, and I expect JSN to reap benefits from a statistical standpoint.
Olave, Wilson, and Ruckert combined for 161 receptions in 2021, on well over 200 targets. Those targets are now available for JSN. Obviously, I do not anticipate a 256-catch season from the third-year star, but there will be plenty of opportunity. Because for as much as we all hype up Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Julian Fleming (my personal darkhorse), they are largely unproven. You could have easily said the same thing about JSN prior to 2021, but he has now (clearly) established the strongest rapport with C.J. Stroud. He is the absolute go-to in just about every situation.
I predict that JSN will finish with right around 100 receptions, 1,500 yards, and double-digit TD. As long as both Stroud and JSN remain healthy – and play at least 13 games – the breakdown is pretty simple: 100 catches = 7.7 per game, 1,500 yards = 115 per, plus 10 or more TD. Prior to 2021, I would not have thrown these projections out with such ease, but the QB/WR duo formed such perfect chemistry, that I would be surprised if they did not dominate once again. Lofty expectations? Sure. Realistic? I believe so.
If JSN is able to finish 2022 somewhere in the neighborhood of my predictions, he will not only set another single-season receptions record, but in essentially two years, he will also have re-written the career record books at Ohio State. K.J. is the all-time leader in receptions at OSU, with a total of 201. JSN is 23rd already, but 100 catches would give him 205, putting him above all other Buckeyes. The current record-holder for career receiving yards is Michael Jenkins, with 2,898. JSN needs 1,244 to put his name at the top of the list. Those records are well within reach.
The one area I am staying away from is TD. JSN would need 26 to break the career record set by Olave in 2021... AKA, nine more than the single-season record currently held by Terry Glenn (1995). JSN could absolutely break Glenn’s mark, but I am not willing to throw a prediction out on that one. With so much other talent on the offensive side of the ball, I believe scoring will be done by a large committee.
I would be very surprised if JSN does not break at least one impressive record in 2022. And at the end of the season, I expect him to reign supreme in just about every receiving category. If he continues his current trajectory, Jaxson Smith-Njigba will be one of, if not the, most decorated wide receiver in Ohio State history... Mind. Blown.
Like Josh, I dont know if many of Ohio State’s career-best numbers will be broken with the amount of players the Buckeyes are sending to the NFL these days. Guys aren’t staying for four years, especially those putting up the numbers needed to break records in Columbus. A such, I agree with my podcast cohost that if a record is going to be broken in the 2022 season, it would almost certainly have to be a single-season or single-game mark. Since Josh went single-season, I’ll go a bit outside the box in search of a spectacular single-game performance that tops the charts.
There are no shortage of elite talents on this Ohio State roster, but I'm not quite willing to predict any records to be broken on offense. The Buckeyes should be a lot better on that side of the ball this season, but I'm taking more of a ‘believe it when I see it’ mentality with Jim Knowles and his Silver Bullets. So, we move to the offense, where Josh has already predicted that JSN will break his own receiving record. So as to not be too boring, I'll stray away from that star-studded group of wide receivers and into the running back room, where Ohio State is expecting a much better performance as well this year behind a hopefully improved offensive line.
TreVeyon Henderson is a special talent coming out of the backfield. We saw almost immediately in year one what he is capable of, and I don’t think he has even remotely reached his peak just yet. What makes a former five-star prospect like Henderson so impressive is the range of his skillset. Not only does he showcase track-athlete speed, but his quick feet and ballcarrier vision allow him to find the smallest holes in the defense to potentially break the home run ball. He also showed a tremendous ability as a pass-catcher, using that speed and elusiveness to catch passes out of the backfield on screens and wheel routes. As such, I think TreVeyon Henderson has the chance to break the single-game all-purpose yards mark set by Keith Byars in 1984.
Byars put up an impressive 354 all-purpose yards in one game in 1984, a very impressive mark by a fellow running back. While it seems like a nearly unattainable goal, it isn’t so far-fetched when you look at some of Henderson’s best games in his freshman season.
When it comes to rushing, Henderson’s career-high was 270 yards against Tulsa in the third week of the season. He racked up all that yardage on 23 carries, and added just one catch for five yards for his season-high in all-purpose yards at 275 — just 84 yards shy of Byars with really no involvement in the passing game to speak of. Ohio State’s offense didn’t feature Henderson’s pass-catching prowess all that much in his first year, but he still managed three 50-plus yard receiving performances, all on five or less receptions. Putting together his best rushing performance, 23 carries for 270 yards, with his best receiving performance, 1 catch for 70 yards against Minnesota, and Henderson would be just 14 yards shy of Byars’ record.
I think the Buckeyes will look to get more creative with Henderson this season, especially in the passing game. He is far too deadly on those screen and swing passes to not put the ball in his hands more often, which could open him up for the potential of a 100-yard receiving performance — especially given his ability to turn a small gain into a long touchdown. Combine that with a 200-plus yard rushing performance, which I expect we will see from Henderson on more than one occasion in 2022, and I dont think it is all that crazy to hit that 354-yard mark.
Even if it comes against one of the lesser opponents on Ohio State’s schedule, put me down for a 260-yard rushing, 100-yard receiving performance for Henderson in a game this season to break the program record for all-purpose yards in a single contest.