We continue our rankings of the top 10 offensive playmakers on this year’s Ohio State football team. The No. 5 player on this list caught six touchdown passes in the first five games he played last season.
No. 5 – Julian Fleming, Senior, WR
Julian Fleming has dealt with injuries throughout his career, but when he has been healthy and in the lineup, he’s been productive. He missed the first two games last year, but responded with 17 receptions for 327 yards and six touchdowns in his first five games back. He also had five receptions against both Michigan and Georgia.
Only four non-Buckeyes had more than Fleming’s four receptions of 30 or more yards last year in the Big Ten, and he was one of just seven players in the conference to record a catch of at least 70 yards. Fleming caught multiple passes in every game he played last year, save for the Northwestern game which was played in an unregulated wind tunnel.
Arguably the biggest play of Julian Fleming’s career saw him run a route just five yards downfield. It was in the later stages of the second quarter at Penn State last season and the Nittany Lions had just scored to take a 14-10 lead. The Buckeyes were faced with a first-and-15 following a procedure penalty and the momentum was squarely with Penn State. Ohio State was at their own 45-yard line. The Nittany Lions brought some blitzes, and Fleming was the hot read for quarterback CJ Stroud. The two were on the same page, and Fleming caught the pass at the 50-yard line, then turned upfield and picked up 18 more yards. The play got OSU out of their own territory and put them in scoring range. Even though the drive only ended in a field goal, it was enough to calm the situation.
There is no arguing about the longest play of Julian Fleming’s career. It came last season in Ohio State’s 54-10 win over Iowa. The Buckeyes were at their own 21-yard line. CJ Stroud dropped back, waited, and dropped in a perfectly placed pass down the left sideline, just out of reach of cornerback Cooper DeJean’s hands. Fleming brought the pass in and jogged the final 40 yards for a 79-yard touchdown reception.
What He Does Well
Julian Fleming possesses speed, size, and strength. He can by physical with corners and safeties, or he can run past them with his speed and route running skills. He gets yards after the catch and will lower his shoulder to pick up a first down. Fleming also makes other playmakers better with his blocking.
Fleming can be your deep speed receiver, or simply be the guy who moves the chains. If there is no safety help over the top, defenders have trouble staying with him on deep post routes. When the ball goes his way, it’s not difficult to see why he was ranked the top overall wide receiver in the 2020 recruiting class.
Expectations For This Season
Julian Fleming should once again be in the starting lineup nearly every week for the Buckeyes. Health will remain a concern until it is well in the past, but when he is on the field, he is as likely to break a big play as anybody else in the Ohio State lineup.
Fleming put up 533 yards receiving last year while missing two games (and not necessarily being 100% in several others). So feel free to imagine what he could do with 13, 14, or 15 games this season. The numbers add up quickly.