After losing three productive seniors, the Ohio State receiver room will have a new look this fall.
On Wednesday, head coach Ryan Day provided a look at the pecking order in coach Brian Hartline’s room at this point in the preseason.
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Although senior Austin Mack has been sidelined by an unidentified injury, he is still penciled in as the starter at the “Z” receiver (a.k.a. flanker, or the receiver who lines up to the same side as the tight end or slot receiver).
Behind him are sophomores Chris Olave and Ellijah Gardiner while true freshman Jameson Williams also tries to play his way into contention.
On the other side, senior Binjimen Victor is the No. 1 “X” receiver (split end) followed by junior Jaylen Harris and true freshman Garrett Wilson.
“It's been a good battle,” Day said. “I think Jaylen has gotten better and Garrett has really flashed at times. They are going at it every day. I think they will both play but they are both battling for that backup spot.”
At slot receiver or “H”, senior K.J. Hill is the leader with senior walk-on C.J. Saunders and redshirt freshman Jaelen Gill competing for playing time.
Hill was half of a productive duo at H last season, but there is not another player with the resume of Parris Campbell Jr. available at this point in time.
Nonetheless, Day said he would like to see game reps there split more or less 50/50 again.
“That's my preference, but I think K.J. is strong and he's been here a while and played a lot of football,” Day said. “I think he can handle it and if he gives us that much of an advantage over our next H with C.J. or with Jaelen Gill, then he'll play more.
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“I think K.J. is pretty complete in terms of his skill-set. He can do just about everything and I think in the end it's just going to come down to how durable will he be late in the season and can his stamina sustain throughout a game.”
The top six have played extensively in the past, and that figures to be the case again this season, so being part of the two-deep could be more important at receiver than any other position group.
“It's all about how do these young guys step up,” Day said. “We want to have six, maybe seven receivers that play, so we want to roll guys.
"However that all fits in terms of those six or seven guys, we'll kind of move those around, but Ellijah Gardiner has been practicing really, really well, and Jameson Williams has flashed at times, and that gives you four Z's right there with a lot of depth, and I think you'll see all those guys play.”
Under Center Still Under Consideration?
Old-school football junkies rejoiced when Day acknowledged earlier this year Buckeye quarterbacks could return to taking snaps from under center at least occasionally.
That qualified as news because it was A) the offseason, and B) not something Ohio State ever did under Urban Meyer.
Day threw a little cold water on the subject this week, though.
“We've messed around with it a little bit,” he said. “We'll see — still kind of in the evaluation phase. You do some things here and there. We'll mostly be in the gun this year.”
Justin Fields, the presumed starting quarterback, has some experience taking snaps from under center at Georgia last year, and Day noted it can be helpful in certain situations, including short yardage.
“I don't know how much we're going to do it moving forward, but it's something you always look at every year.”
Mattison (Still) Enjoying Position Coaching
Greg Mattison made the move down U.S. 23 from Michigan to Ohio State to be a defensive coordinator again, but he soon found he couldn’t handle not having a position to coach, too.
He found a fit leading the strong-side or “SAM” linebackers, who play a position distinct from the other linebackers who will play primarily between the tackles.
“Well, I think the first day I was here, or first practice in the spring, I almost went crazy,” he said. “I was going, no, I can't do this.”
It just so happened the SAMs practice the middle of the practice field, giving him a good opportunity to keep an eye on everyone else while still working closely with a handful of players.
“It was a natural position to work with the SAMs and kept me from doing something harmful to myself,” he said to laughter.
“It keeps you connected, keeps you sane,” he added. “It's worked out great. It's been a really, really good deal that way.”
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