It is entirely premature to say this, but don’t be surprised if Ohio State’s win over Notre Dame becomes known for more just than being a last-second victory for the Buckeyes. At the current rate, it could also become the only game in Carnell Tate’s OSU career where he doesn’t catch a pass.
The true freshman receiver out of Chicago came to Ohio State with lofty expectations, but then once he arrived and his coaches and teammates began talking about him, those expectations went to 11.
Tate has played in every game for the Buckeyes this season, catching 11 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown. He has played his most snaps the last two weeks, which also coincides with star receiver Emeka Egbuka’s absence due to an ankle injury.
Two weeks ago against Purdue, Tate caught three passes for 79 yards. Against Penn State last Saturday, he posted three more catches for 21 yards.
His two biggest plays against the Nittany Lions, however, point to a level of football awareness that go beyond running routes and catching passes. The first came on a touchdown catch-and-run by All-American Marvin Harrison, Jr., as Tate avoided a costly block in the back penalty that could’ve wiped away the game-sealing play. Not only did Tate avoid the penalty, he went looking for another block to set. That Harrison score gave the Buckeyes a 20-6 lead with just over four minutes left in the game.
Then, following a Penn State touchdown with just 29 seconds left, the Nittany Lions pointed their onside kick right at Tate, which Tate snagged and secured the victory for the Buckeyes.
Neither of those plays will make a receiver’s highlight package, but they’ll never be lost on a head coach.
“Yeah, gamesmanship and then awareness in that spot, and I think there probably was a situation where maybe he could have pushed him in the back, but he didn’t and then he slid off to the next guy, it’s just really good awareness. Great signs for a young player,” OSU head coach Ryan Day said.
“And then they see Marv on one side and they see Carnell on the other side, they say ‘we’re gonna kick to the freshman,’ and he makes a play smooth and goes down and game’s over. Don’t take those things for granted. I mean, that’s somebody who the moments not too big for him. He was ready for that. And again really encouraging for his future.”
Tate is the latest in a line of talented true freshman wide receivers for the Buckeyes who emerge more and more as the season goes on.
In 2018, it was Chris Olave catching two touchdown passes against Michigan. The next year it was Garrett Wilson going for 118 yards with a touchdown against the Wolverines. And nobody will soon forget Marvin Harrison’s three-touchdown performance in the 2022 Rose Bowl.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba only caught 10 passes his true freshman season, but he did score an incredible touchdown in his very first game as a Buckeye.
How does Tate’s current situation and trajectory compare to all of those former and future first-round NFL draft picks?
“Similar,” Day said. “I mentioned that to somebody just the other day. When you look at where Chris was that year, Garrett, Jaxon, you know those guys, Marvin, Emek, they were coming on as you hit the mid-year, and then the second half the season is where they really made an impact. And I think Carnell coming in mid-year, allowed him the opportunity to be in that same position and kind of be on the same trajectory.”
Tate’s 183 yards receiving are more than any of the other players mentioned above, and he’s just two receptions behind Garrett Wilson’s 2019 pace when he became just the third Ohio State true freshman receiver to catch 30 passes in a season.
Here’s the production of all of those players through the first seven games of their respective Buckeye careers.
|2021||Marvin Harrison, Jr.||3||43||0|
Carnell Tate hit the ground running when he arrived at Ohio State this past January and he hasn’t stopped yet. He has stepped up even more in Egbuka’s absence and will continue to do so for as long as needed. Like Egbuka, Tate can play any of the receiver spots and be effective in each of them. Egbuka’s absence has provided an opportunity for Tate to gain more experience, which is only going to help this team down the stretch.
And he’s just getting started.
“He’s a contributing member of the offense,” Day said. “He’s got a really good skill set, he’s got to keep growing and building, for sure. But he’s someone that we feel confident putting in the game.”