Carnell Tate

Buckeyes Expect Young Receivers to Continue Standard of Zone 6 

In 2021, it was Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka who took advantage of player opt outs to build momentum toward their careers in the Rose Bowl. 

This season, the principle is the same and the players are different. The Buckeyes are expecting a youth movement at wide receiver, and they expect that to be on display Friday night in the Cotton Bowl against No. 9 Missouri. 

Offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said there will be plenty of opportunities to go around for younger Buckeye receivers such as Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss and Bryson Rodgers among others. 

“What we do with those opportunities ultimately dictates the way our career is going to go. That’s the great thing about sports,” Hartline said. “So with a couple guys, they’ll be in different roles. Couple guys, they’ll have different opportunities. And the goal — I hope a lot of guys get to play. I mean, that’s my hope.” 

Like Harrison and Egbuka, they waited their turn during their freshman seasons while Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson earned the lion’s share of first-team reps throughout the year. 

Then, when Olave and Wilson opted out of playing in the Rose Bowl against Utah to preserve their statuses for the NFL Draft, Harrison and Egbuka slid up the depth chart and produced at least three receptions and 46 receiving yards apiece. In Harrison’s case, he caught three touchdowns. 

While Harrison’s status for the Cotton Bowl is up in the air, he isn’t expected to play, but Egbuka will compete against the Tigers. That means someone like Tate, who’s played in 12 games this season and brought in 260 receiving yards and a touchdown, could break into the spotlight much like Harrison and Egbuka did in 2021. 

“This is the step forward,” Hartline said. “This is what’s coming next year. This is what your role could be if you take it and run with it. Now, nothing’s given around here. Everything’s been earned. But the whole room in general, I think, is excited.” 

Tate has been the freshman whose garnered the most playing time at wide receiver this season. He experienced adversity in the preseason and lost his mother to gun violence before arriving at Ohio State. 

Hartline said Tate was “a little dinged up coming out of camp” physically and waited until he was best available to make an impact. Tate’s first touchdown came during the third game of the season on a 28-yard pass. 

Egbuka said Tate “was like a seasoned vet already in his first year” when he arrived at Ohio State. 

“He’s always been ready,” Egbuka said. “I feel like Carnell, Marv and I, we all share certain similarities when we were young guys as freshmen. Just came in with a sense of, ‘I want to handle my business. I’m not here for any of the rah rah stuff. I just want to come here, play the best football I can and grow as a player.’ And that’s exactly what Carnell has done.” 

Hartline praised Inniss and Rodgers during bowl practice, saying “those two guys really provide a bright future for the wideout room,” and he was grateful for veteran Buckeyes like Xavier Johnson guiding the way forward. 

“Brandon was in a spot where you get into June, did a great job catching up quickly, frankly, but a deep room,” Hartline said. “Still learning, and to have Xavier and Emeka and have these guys doing a good job, that was really important. Carnell playing a part and then we having some injuries and being able to move Carnell into the slot — I mean, he can do whatever you want him to do — so that’s a good sign of a good player. So Brandon is doing everything he needs to do, and I think his future is very bright.” 

Other Buckeyes such as Kojo Antwi, Jayden Ballard, Kyion Grayes and Noah Rogers could earn playing time in the Cotton Bowl on Friday, and Hartline hopes to play a lot of receivers. 

The level of wide receiver play at Ohio State in recent years has been among the best in college football, and the Buckeyes have produced three first-round draft picks at the position in the past two years years. 

Hartline, Johnson and the Buckeyes hope to continue their level of excellence at receiver in the seasons to come, and Friday night in the Cotton Bowl against Missouri will provide a glimpse into the 2024 season at the position. 

“To see just the excellence that the room has continued to keep up, I think that is a testament to coach Hart, especially to coach (Ryan) Day, and it’s just an honor,” Johnson said. “And so I learned from them that we pour into people, and the way you pour into people is the way that the next generation is going to be and it’s the way of the level of excellence that the next generation is going to have. So my goal is just to do that, whether it’s through teaching them a play or just loving on them and showing them the love of Christ. Either one of those, I think that those two things go hand in hand really when you want an excellent culture in a room and so I’ve tried to do that.” 

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