COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Pierre Charles L’Enfant laid out the plans for the city that would turn out to be Washington, D.C., he purposely sought to each inspire guests and intimidate foes by way of Rome-inspired towering architecture, monuments and marble. A century and a half later, Howard Dwight Smith did the very same when he made Ohio Stadium, adorning the Horseshoe with a Rotunda inspired by the Pantheon, eliciting gasps from Ohio State fans and shivers from these who dared to oppose the dwelling group.
That very same DNA of shock and awe can be discovered a brief stroll from the ‘Shoe, in the lobby layout of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. That’s exactly where a pair of two-story walls are covered in trophies earned through 54 bowl trips, 41 conference championships and eight national titles, these cups and sculptures connected by a collection of floor displays featuring seven Heisman Trophies won.
The area highlights many lengthy lists of legendary names. There are so a lot of stockpiles of linemen, tight ends and bulldozer runners. But if you happen to be searching for wide receivers, you happen to be going have to place in some time and probably even bring a magnifying glass.
Until you get to the right here and now.
“You come to Ohio State to be element of the finest wide receiver corps that I consider there is ever been, mainly because there is a torch that has been passed to us and that pushes us to defend that legacy,” stated Emeka Egbuka, the existing group leader with 41 catches and the ninth-finest receiver in the nation in yards per game with an typical of 105 more than seven games.
Hang on. Did you say finest there is ever been?
“Yes sir,” Egbuka stated. “I think that. Everyone in our position group believes that. We all do. We have to.”
Every classic college football plan likes to proudly declare it is the official university of some unique position group. Penn State has usually laid claim to Linebacker U. An world wide web search for “Quarterback U” produces a list that ranges from USC and Miami to BYU and NC State. In 2019, LSU and Texas famously feuded more than the rights to Defensive Back U. The Horns even wore DBU T-shirts in the course of pregame warm-ups, just before becoming outplayed by the Tigers.
But with the greatest respect to Cris Carter, David Boston and Terry Glenn, at no point has any individual ever dared to declare the Ohio State University as Wide Receiver U. Well, till now. And these who do have a rather fantastic case.
Yes, these six Heisman legends (Archie Griffin won two) have been all operating backs, with the exception of QB Troy Smith in 2006. Of the school’s 32 members of the College Football Hall of Fame, none are accurate wide receivers and two are listed as “finish.” Of the Buckeyes’ 213 all-time All-American selections, there are tight ends scattered about, but only 5 of these honors have been awarded to accurate wideouts and among 1914 and 2020, they had only 3 in Carter, Boston and Glenn.
But one particular year ago, the Buckeyes had two in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, now rookie starters with the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets, respectively. Entering this season, they had one particular receiver on the preseason All-American group in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who is nevertheless on the mend from a Week 1 hamstring injury. Last week, when the midseason awards have been announced, there have been a pair of OSU wideouts on most lists, Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. Those honors have been announced top up to a game at Iowa when these two and teammates Julian Fleming and Mitch Rossi every single hauled in a TD catch against the Hawkeyes.
Egbuka, Harrison and tight finish Cade Stover every single have at least one particular catch in all seven games this season. Those 3 and Fleming have combined for 30 plays of 20-plus yards. Harrison, Egbuka and Fleming are amongst the nation’s TD reception leaders with a combined 23. Harrison’s ten touchdowns rank second in the nation, and he is the initially receiver to have 3 games of 3 TD catches in the 132-year history of Ohio State football. All cogs in the incredibly quick wheel that is college football’s second-highest-scoring offense, trailing only Tennessee.
“When you just get about them, you comprehend that, for their age, they never appear like they are 18, 19, 20. They never speak like it, they never act like it, they never speak like it, but they are,” explains Ryan Day, now in his fourth complete season as Ohio State’s coach. “It’s fairly exceptional at times when you consider about who they are as folks and just the maturity level of all these guys.”
“I consider one particular of the greatest expertise about our group is that they appreciate to play,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson stated. “They appreciate the challenge of solving difficulties: ‘OK, appear, I did not count on this guy to be as wide this alignment,’ or ‘I did not count on this defender to challenge me as a great deal,’ or ‘I did not count on as a great deal stress or movement up front.’ But now you happen to be obtaining it. How do you deal with it? Good teams deal with that on the sideline, in the course of halftime and in the course of the game. Bad teams come in on Sunday and speak about what they ought to have completed.”
Now, to be fair, the quarterback tossing the football to these vaunted receivers is fairly fantastic, also. C.J. Stroud is on every single sportswriter’s Heisman watch list and every single pro scout’s NFL draft board. But even he knows his so-referred to as supporting cast is produced up of stars.
“They have told me that they usually trust me to have the ball exactly where they want it to be, and I actually appreciate that,” the QB stated immediately after the team’s Week three win more than Toledo. “And I usually trust them to be exactly where they are supposed to be, and at times even exactly where they are not supposed to be mainly because they are carrying out operate to make my throw appear greater than it truly was!”
Stroud was speaking about a pass he had thrown into the correct rear corner of the finish zone that was intended for Harrison but wound up becoming snagged by Fleming for a tiptoe TD when the third-year wideout unknowingly stepped in front of his extra renowned teammate.
The laugh that accompanied Stroud’s explanation was met with responsive chuckles from Fleming, Harrison, Egbuka and even the injured Smith-Njigba. Those chuckles have been telling, not just about that play, but the area in which the film of that play would be dissected the following week.
“We’re finest close friends in the area. Like, these are the guys I pick out to devote my time with outdoors of football,” stated Egbuka, sporting a sweat-covered grin following a midweek practice ahead of Saturday’s trip to Penn State. Last season he shared an apartment with Harrison and Jayden Ballard. This year they may possibly as nicely nevertheless be living with each other, mainly because if they are not in meetings or practice, they are playing Madden or going to the films. “There’s no selfishness inside the area. Whenever an individual scores a touchdown, it really is just like we all score.”
They do all score, just as they all catch balls. No much less than a dozen Ohio State receivers and tight ends have at least one particular reception this season and eight have a TD catch. In a constructing complete of position rooms packed with 5-star signees, none of these rooms is extra talent wealthy than the wide receiver corner of the Buckeyes’ roster. And no receiver area anyplace, at any college, no matter if they have ever dared claim to be Wide Receiver U, is deeper than the existing group in Columbus.
At a lot areas, specifically in the nevertheless-new era of the transfer portal, that sort of overwhelming depth can also turn out to be an overwhelming difficulty. (And it ought to be noted that former Alabama star Jameson Williams transferred from OSU, as did Ohio Bobcat Sam Wiglusz, who has 49 catches and seven TDs.) Not adequate balls to go about. This group, at least for now, understands that patience in the brief run will earn lengthy-term rewards. If they want to see proof of that reality, they want appear no additional than the folks about them in that position group as nicely as these who have been in that area not so lengthy ago.
“It began back with Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, with Johnny Dixon. And they just brought this specific level of accountability to that globe,” Day stated of 3 Buckeyes wideouts who have been members of the 2015 CFP national title group and have been all drafted by NFL teams in 2019. “Chris Olave and guys picked it up more than time, and now you happen to be seeing Emeka and Marvin and Julian actually taking more than. And they reduce their teeth on unique teams. They come in as freshmen and they place their operate in and sort of show up and play in the second half of the season. And then by the time they get to that second year, they are prepared to go. And that is sort of in the blueprint for them. And it really is operating.”
Working mainly because they are placing in the operate. Every Ohio State receiver loves to speak about the enjoyable they have in the film area, but to a man they are also rapid to remind that when it comes to buckle down for football prep, they can shift from goofy to significant as immediately as they can turn and burn on a helpless backpedaling defensive back.
That is a discovered strategy. Harrison’s pedigree is nicely recognized to any individual who has watched any pro football more than the previous two decades. His father, Marvin Sr., owned an complete chapter of the NFL record book and a Super Bowl ring immediately after extra than a decade with the Indianapolis Colts, playing pitch-and-catch with fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. So, it ought to surprise no one particular to find out that Harrison’s weekday operate ethic has currently turn out to be the stuff of scarlet and gray legend. As representatives from a going to Television network have been not too long ago holding pregame meetings with Day and his employees, they heard the smack-smack-smack of leather against gloves on the nearby practice field. When they looked to see who it was, they watched Harrison operating routes by himself, loading the Jugs pitching machine and going via every single web page of the playcalling scenarios for that weekend’s game.
The rest of the area surely feeds off of Harrison’s power and instance, but the other individuals also did not demand a great deal if any motivation when it comes to a wish for preparation. Since March 2017, any and every single would-be ball catcher who has donned a silver helmet in the Horseshoe has been immersed in the globe and thoughts of Brian Hartline.
The former Ohio State receiver and seven-year NFL veteran, Columbus-location comfort shop mogul and OSU passing game coordinator has also been wide receivers coach due to the fact 2018. He was moved into that job immediately after one particular season as a graduate assistant/offensive good quality manage assistant. That promotion came immediately after the departure of Zach Smith, the assistant coach who was fired immediately after he was charged with violating a private protection order and prior allegations of domestic violence came to light. The repercussions of Ohio State’s subsequent investigation of Smith and head coach Urban Meyer reverberated for months, all the way via Meyer’s retirement at the finish of the ’18 season. Meyer was succeeded by Day, and Smith was officially replaced by Hartline.
A year later, the Buckeyes produced it to the College Football Playoff. The following year, in 2020, Hartline was named National Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports, thanks is no compact element to landing Fleming and Smith-Njigba, who joined a area that currently had Olave and Wilson. Shortly immediately after, Harrison and Ballard also committed.
“We as a group, we match with each other like pieces, we are unique in techniques that complement every single other, the way we play — see how Marv plays, see how I play, see how Jaxon plays, it really is unique ability sets — and Coach Hart, he fits in like that, also,” Egbuka stated. He points to that nicely-made puzzle as the purpose that when the room’s OG leader, Smith-Njigba, lastly returns to complete energy, he will be capable to step correct back into the lineup with no disrupting the existing, extremely nicely-oiled offensive machine.
“Now, I’m not gonna sit right here and lie and say that [Hartline] is not a goof,” Egbuka continues. “He’ll reduce up in the receiver area just as a great deal as we do. But when it really is time to deal with small business and lock in, he’s one particular that is actually fantastic at carrying out that. He’s a perfectionist like us. He recruits pondering about the area, exactly where would this guy match in? Would he match in? And can that guy be a element of our discussions? You caught the ball, but this could have been greater. Let’s all make every single other greater. That begins with Coach Hart.”
“I am a believer in coaching who you have in the area alternatively of attempting to make everybody in the area do the very same factor and run the very same route and just do what we inform them to do,” Hartline stated at the finish of September. “That’s how I wanted to be coached. That’s how the guys I played with wanted to be coached. As folks who think in what they can do and they want to share that not mainly because they will post huge numbers, but mainly because they know that it will contribute to the group. When you can make that operate, that is the finest sort of football correct there.”
It’s also what began the method of transitioning the Ohio State getting corps from extremely fantastic to extremely fantastic in a extremely brief period time. A spark unexpectedly lit by the very same internal fire that when seemed like it may possibly have the possible to burn down the constructing. Instead, that constructing is now complete of pass-catching possible.
No, you will not discover a lot of wide getting awards or plaques hanging on the walls of the Woody Hayes Center amongst all the Heisman and Rose Bowl trophies. Not however anyway. But if you happen to be in that lobby, turn to the left and take a appear at that other wall, the one particular covered in the framed jerseys of the Ohio State alums at the moment playing in the NFL. When the 2022 season kicked off, there have been 65 Buckeyes on active NFL rosters. Ten of them have been wideouts.
Tuesday afternoon, Marvin Harrison Jr. moved via that lobby, headphones on, and with no realizing he was becoming watched, turned to appear at these jerseys and gave them a small point as if to say, “See y’all quickly, but initially I got to go to operate.”
Ohio State as Wide Receiver U? If not however, it certain feels like it really is coming.