Is A New Wide Receiver U Emerging In College Football?
Over the past 30 years, it’s hard to argue against the USC Trojans dubbed Wide Receiver U. The program has produced several All-Americans and early-round draft picks, from Keyshawn Johnson in the mid-’90s to current young standouts Drake London and Michael Pittman Jr.
But there’s a new kid in this debate, and it’s none other than the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Last year, the Buckeyes picked both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in the top 11 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Wilson, who became the second player in school history to record four consecutive 100-yard receptions, was selected by the New York Jets with the No. 10 overall pick. Olave, who holds the OSU record for most career touchdowns, was later selected by the New Orleans Saints.
With these two standout players in the NFL this season, would the Buckeyes match that kind of record production at the wide receiver position?
After six games this season, the answer is yes. In fact, the duo Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. surpassed the production of its predecessors.
Heading to a Week 7 Big Ten showdown against Iowa (Noon ET on FOX)Egbuka and Harrison Jr. have combined for 66 receptions, 1,191 yards and 16 through the air touchdowns.
For comparison, Olave and Wilson combined for 61 catches for 1,040 yards and 13 points in six games last season.
“This is just wild for me,” FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt said on his podcast, The Joel Klatt Show. “We took these other two guys that just entered, took that torch and just moved it forward.”
Perhaps most notably, neither Egbuka nor Harrison Jr. were the Buckeyes’ top receiving target in 2022. That honor went to last-season All-American Jaxson Smith-Njigba, who has missed a large portion of this season with a hamstring injury.
It remains unclear if Smith-Njigba will return to action this weekend against the Hawkeyes as coach Ryan Day declined to discuss injuries earlier in the week. However, Smith-Njigba has returned to the practice field, giving optimism he could be close to a return.
The thought of Smith-Njigba joining this already explosive Buckeyes offense is terrifying for opposing defenses. OSU ranks first in the Big Ten in points per game (48.8), yards per game (8.1), total touchdowns (41), and average yards per game (543.7).
While talent at the wide receiver position is inevitable, Klatt made it a point to give credit to OSU wide receiver coach Brian Hartline, whom he considers “the best positional coach in all of college football.”
“He’s an excellent recruiter, but even more of a wonderful talent developer,” Klatt said of Hartline. “He’s an incredible teacher of the game and the craft.”
After a seven-year career in the NFL, Hartline joined the Buckeyes’ staff in 2017 as an offensive quality control coach. He was promoted to the team’s wide receivers coach in 2018 and has enjoyed success in that role ever since.
According to Ohio State’s official sports website, there are currently 65 players on active NFL rosters who have competed in OSU, and of that group, 10 of them are wideouts. Seven were coached by Hartline.
“I think that’s a big reason why they’re so good at wide receiver,” Klatt said of Hartline. “This guy is doing a great job.”
This impressive list of Ohio State receivers playing to the next level includes Wilson and Olave, Michael Thomas, Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel.
All signs point to Egbuka, Harrison Jr. and Smith-Njigba soon joining that long list of OSU wide receivers in the NFL. Should that come to fruition and the awards follow, the mythical Wide Receiver U belt could belong in the Buckeyes’ hands.
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