We continue our rankings of the top 10 offensive playmakers on this year’s Ohio State football team. The No. 9 player on this list had the second-longest play from scrimmage of any Buckeye last season.
No. 9 — Jayden Ballard, rSoph, WR
Jayden Ballard is now entering his third season as a Buckeye, and over his first two seasons he has a total of just nine catches. That’s not a lot, but it’s five more than Michael Thomas, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, and Johnnie Dixon all had in their first two seasons combined.
Receivers coach Brian Hartline often says that his players are on their own paths with their own timelines and their individual results shouldn’t be compared to other players. One of the players this applies to is Ballard, who was part of the same recruiting class as established stars Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.
The biggest play of Jayden Ballard’s career only went 10 yards, but it was important. Ohio State was trailing Notre Dame 10-7 last year late in the third quarter. It was second-and-10, and quarterback CJ Stroud found Ballard on a quick comeback route. The pass only traveled eight yards, but Ballard fought for another two yards and the first down, and moved the Buckeyes into the outer edges of the red zone.
Leading Toledo 63-21 early in the fourth quarter last year, quarterback Kyle McCord rolled left and found Jayden Ballard 25 yards downfield thanks to some broken coverage. Ballard then turned and had to fend off a defender before running the final 47 yards for an eventual 72-yard touchdown catch-and-run. It was the second-longest play from scrimmage for the Buckeyes last year. It was second only to a 79-yard reception by receiver Julian Fleming. Ballard finished that Toledo game with four catches for 113 yards and one touchdown.
What He Does Well
Jayden Ballard has been called Ohio State’s fastest receiver, and he is very good at running deep routes. He has been compared to former Buckeye receiver Devin Smith, who attended Massillon High School just like Ballard and caught many a deep ball back in high school as well.
The process for the last two years has been to develop Ballard into a more well-rounded receiver. He showed that growth in the spring, catching short and intermediate passes, and making plays after the catch. The deep speed is still there, however, and should be on the docket this year for the Buckeyes.
Expectations For This Season
Jayden Ballard caught eight passes last season as the Buckeyes fourth or fifth option at wide receiver. He may be in the same situation this year, but more important than where he is on the depth chart, he’ll be better equipped to handle whatever it is that Brian Hartline asks of him.
Like everybody else, Ballard is on his own timeline, but that timeline should see him on the field more and more this season. The hope is that he’ll be part of the regular rotation for the Buckeyes, which means that last year’s game against Toledo won’t be the last 100-yard game you’ll see from him. Especially if there’s another 70-yarder or two mixed in as well.