There are currently five former 5-star wide receivers on the 2023 Ohio State football roster, and none of them are named Marvin Harrison, Jr.
Harrison is now a rising junior and has started 14 career games, catching 17 total touchdowns in those games. Last season after posting 77 catches for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns, he became Ohio State’s first-ever Unanimous All-American wide receiver.
Harrison wasn’t the Buckeyes’ only 1,000-yard receiver last year, however. Classmate Emeka Egbuka caught 74 passes for 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns. Julian Fleming also returns for his senior season after posting 34 receptions for 533 yards and six touchdowns last year. Fleming caught those six touchdowns in his first five games last season. He ended up starting eight games for the Buckeyes in 2022 and is in line to start once again in 2023.
Egbuka and Fleming were the No. 1 wide receivers nationally in the 2021 and 2020 recruiting classes, respectively. Harrison was ranked 14th among receivers in that 2021 class (but who’s counting).
Recruiting rankings are a commercial product with no satisfaction guaranteed. Every player that is ranked highly has talent, but talent is only a requirement — it is not the solution. That is why when OSU receivers coach Brian Hartline is asked about Marvin Harrison, he makes sure to mention the amount of work that has gone into the success that he and others have had.
“I think Marvin is an elite player. I think Emeka is an elite player. I think Julian’s an elite player,” Hartline said. “I can keep going on this list over and over and over again. But I think that what makes these guys so elite is the way they prepare, the way they work. The way they do the extra things outside the allotted time. The way they study film, the way they live.
“I mean, I think that everything they do plays a part in what you see on Saturday. I feel like those questions are — you know, thinking it’s just all God-given and he didn’t work for everything he got — he has literally worked for everything that he has. And that’s the level at which you see for him, for Emeka, for Julian. And all these guys are going down that path, it has not been given to them. They have earned it.”
That being said, Hartline has no problem acknowledging that Harrison is everything people say, and more.
“He’s a special talent, though,” he said. “Talent is given. His skill development is off the charts because of the amount of work that he’s put in.”
The work takes many forms. Whether it’s one-on-ones, in the film room, perfecting routes, or any dozen other nuances that can provide an advantage.
And Hartline’s players take it very seriously.
“Every time you’re doing a rep, you’re putting yourself in a potential live rep. I think that you’re always mimicking an actual game movement,” he explained. “You’re always replicating a scenario or whatever. Like whether you’re keeping your toes on the driveway and fall in the grass to catch the ball, or whether you’re on a sideline catching the ball, who’s it against? And what’s the technique? There’s always that ghost that you’re going against. And I think the guys are playing the game constantly when they’re on the field. And I think that’s really critical. I think just going out there and going through the motions is one thing, but going through the motions with intent is a whole other.”
The Buckeyes will once again take the field with Harrison, Egbuka, and Fleming this year. Sixth-year senior Xavier Johnson will be right there once more, and they will continue to add in others as well, such as Jayden Ballard, and a handful of freshmen — both redshirt and true.
The path to being elite has been paved by the four veteran names already mentioned above, but their own work is far from finished, and the paving never stops.
“You have guys out there right now on the field catching JUGS,” Hartline said. “So I think it’s a combination of that. I think it’s the ability for one guy to maximize himself. Because as much as you want to work really hard, if you don’t have that ceiling, you can’t reach that ceiling. So that is a blessing, you know? But yeah, I think we have a lot of great players in that receiver room, and Marvin is one of them.”