Kyion Grayes played in just two games for the Buckeyes last year, which isn’t all that unusual for a true freshman wide receiver at Ohio State. His lone catch came in the 77-21 win over Toledo and went for two yards. It was a humble beginning for a player looking to make a big jump in year two.
This spring the Buckeyes are without two of their top three receivers, as junior Emeka Egbuka and senior Julian Fleming are both out while recovering from offseason procedures. These two absences are unfortunate, but they will allow for many more reps for the handful of young receivers who need them, including Grayes.
And for Grayes, he’s much better equipped now to take advantage of the increased work.
“Mainly, just mentally, I feel like I’m getting everything down a lot faster,” Grayed said. “I feel like I’m connecting with the plays and the quarterbacks. And as of right now, I’m just working on a lot of technique things and just trying to get better at what I do.”
Playing receiver at Ohio State is graduate-level learning, which is always going to be difficult for a true freshman to handle. But with work, things become more easily handled.
What was the most difficult part for Grayes last year?
“I’d say the speed. It was a lot faster,” he said. “And I thought I was prepared mentally, but looking at it now, I’ve changed a lot. And I feel a lot better going out there. I feel more comfortable being in that offense.”
Grayes enrolled early last year, which meant he got to Ohio State in January and was in the weight room shortly thereafter. Then came the mat drills. Freshmen can sometimes be eased into things, but eventually they’re thrown in the water with the sharks.
“It kind of started in spring for me,” he said of when he realized that it was time to start swimming. “Like when I first got here. It’s either you’re gonna do it or you’re not. And if you’re not gonna do it, then you’re not gonna be out there. So that’s kind of like when you start to realize, ‘I gotta get on top of it, I gotta start doing my stuff.’ And like I said before, if you’re not gonna do it, you’re not gonna be out there.”
With Ohio State’s receiver depth last year, there were almost no snaps available for any of the four true freshmen, especially when the games were still in doubt. The situation with the depth chart hasn’t really changed from last year, but that’s okay because Grayes has.
“I’d say bowl practice. It just started to really hit,” he said. “That last month we had of practice, that’s when I really started to change and I felt my body and the plays and my mental.”
The Need For Speed
Grayes is playing the Z receiver position, which was manned by Fleming last year, and Chris Olave the two years before that. It’s a position that asks for plays to be made, which is something Grayes has always been comfortable doing.
“I mean, they said Z is the fast guy,” he said. “I feel like I’m one of the fastest people on the field whenever I’m out there.”
Grayes has also added weight to help him deal with college cornerbacks. That weight has made him stronger, but it has also made him faster. Some of that added weight isn’t tangible, however. It is intangible, and comes from the decision to change jersey numbers from 17 to 7.
Wide receiver names like Joey Galloway, Chris Gamble, and Ted Ginn have worn that number before him, which is only one of the reasons he chose it.
“I love seven, and I feel like there’s a lot of great Buckeye legends that have worn seven,” he said. “It’s my high school number. It’s my favorite number. I feel like it brings me a lot of luck.”
Of course, it’s going to take more than luck for Kyion Grayes to get on the football field this season. And it will take more than luck for him to make plays. It will take preparation, hard work, constant competition against his peers at receiver and at cornerback, and it will take persistence.
And he’s ready for every last bit of it.
“I feel like that I want to be one of those guys to help my team in any way possible,” he said. “I’m talking to the coaches and finding roles that I can be put in to make sure that I’ve helped in any way. Maybe special teams. Could be subbing in. I’m trying to help in any way possible. I want to make sure they may see me out there.”