We continue our rankings of the top 10 offensive playmakers on this year’s Ohio State football team. The No. 2 player on this list owns the sixth-longest play from scrimmage in Buckeye history, which he recorded as a true freshman.
No. 2 – Emeka Egbuka, Junior, WR
Emeka Egbuka was the No. 1 wide receiver in the 2021 recruiting class, but only saw a little over a hundred snaps on offense as a true freshman. He was a very effective kickoff returner, however, leading the Big Ten with a 29-yard average per return in 2021.
Egbuka was expected to be much more productive as a true sophomore, and he didn’t disappoint. When starter Jaxon Smith-Njigba went down with a hamstring issue, Egbuka took over in the slot full time and became one of just four 1,000-yard receivers in the Big Ten last year. He was named Second-Team All-Big Ten last year finishing third in the Big Ten in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,151), and touchdown catches (10).
Unfortunately for Emeka Egbuka, his biggest play as a Buckeye came in the loss to Georgia. The play occurred on Ohio State’s first drive in the second half and followed a 19-yard gain by Egbuka on the left side three plays prior. Facing a third-and-2 from the Georgia 10-yard line, the Buckeyes ran some misdirection and quarterback CJ Stroud bootlegged back to the right side where dropped the ball off to Egbuka at the line of scrimmage. He then ran the next 10 yards for the touchdown to give Ohio State a 35-24 lead. The lead, as you may remember, did not hold.
The longest play of Emeka Egbuka’s career took place his freshman season in a blowout win over Akron. Quarterback Kyle McCord floated a pass to Egbuka over a defender near the right sideline. He took off upfield and then cut diagonally, eventually reaching the opposite sideline and finally being tackled at the 2-yard line. The play went for 85 yards and lasted over 13 seconds from start to finish. It is tied for the third-longest reception in Ohio State football history (Troy Smith to Santonio Holmes, Notre Dame 2005), behind Kenny Guiton’s 90-yard completion to Devin Smith at California in 2013, and Art Schlichter’s 86-yard completion to Calvin Murray in 1979 against Washington State.
What He Does Well
Nobody in the Big Ten had more 20-yard plays from scrimmage last year than Emeka Egbuka, who had 20 such touches. Teammate Marvin Harrison, Jr. also had 20 plays of 20 yards or more. Also, no receiver in the conference had more than Egbuka’s 10 receptions of 30 yards or more. Only one receiver had more catches of at least 40 yards than Egbuka’s five (Marvin Harrison, 6). So what does Egbuka do well? He makes plays from anywhere on the field. He is a mismatch for the Buckeyes in the slot, picking up first downs and then an extra 8-10 yards after the catch. Egbuka is also perfectly comfortable outside or running the ball on the jet sweep. He has speed to get deep and the shiftiness to leave defenders reaching.
Expectations For This Season
There is a scenario this season where Emeka Egbuka leads the Buckeyes in at least one major receiving statistic this year, if not all three (catches, yards, touchdowns). With Egbuka starting in the slot full-time and not having to deal with the unknowns of Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s injury situation last year, expect an even more consistent performance. And that’s not to say he wasn’t consistent last year, because he was, but last year had some difficulties based on the positional moving.
That being said, Egbuka will definitely move around from position to position this year, but week to week he will know his role and be exactly prepared for the task at hand. Expect Egbuka to become either the first or second Buckeye ever to record back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, depending on whether or not he beats Marvin Harrison to it.
Egbuka should continue to be used in the running game. Any kind of touch is a potential home run, which is why you shouldn’t be shocked when Egbuka breaks the record for longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State football history this year (90, Guiton to Smith).