Emeka Egbuka Ohio State Buckeyes Wide Receiver

Spring Recap: Buckeye Receivers May Be Young, But Still Plenty Talented

With spring football now in the rearview mirror for Ohio State, it’s time to look back at what happened with each position group and where things currently stand for the Buckeyes. We finish our series with the wide receivers.

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Quick Position Overview

The Buckeyes aren’t overly deep at wide receiver, as Ryan day has admitted, but the bulk of the group that they do have would start at most schools in the nation. Senior Emeka Egbuka is back and is the leader of the room. He is helping others, like sophomore Carnell Tate, emerge and become the next wave of great Ohio State receivers. Second-year players Brandon Inniss and Bryson Rodgers will solidify the slot where Egbuka probably will be as well. Freshman Jeremiah Smith was the star of the spring and perhaps the most talked about Buckeye overall. Veteran Jayden Ballard got the start in the spring game and is continuing to fight for a role.

Expectations Going In

The expectations going in were that Emeka Egbuka would play wherever was needed, though the thought was that he would be outside because that’s something that he has talked about in the past. It is also something that would help his NFL draft stock. Carnell Tate was expected to continue his progression towards living up to the words that Marvin Harrison said about him last year. Brandon Inniss was expected to fight for a starting spot and perhaps keep Egbuka outside. Jeremiah Smith was expected to have some moments, as was Bryson Rodgers.

Reality Coming Out

The reality coming out of spring is that Jeremiah Smith may have pushed Emeka Egbuka back into the slot. Not because he’s better than Egbuka outside, but if you’re looking to get your three best players on the field, that probably puts Egbuka in the slot. He is the most experienced player in that role and it allows Smith and Carnell Tate to play together. Tate can play inside as well, so they have pieces that can move around. The explosion of Jeremiah Smith this spring has created the need to move guys around. Fortunately this Ohio State offense can handle this sort of problem. Unfortunately, Brandon Inniss was banged up and had a procedure that needed to be taken care of, but he will be good to go this fall. This allowed Bryson Rodgers to get even more good reps and show that he can be a viable option this year.

Any Surprises?

The surprise is still Jeremiah Smith. No matter what people expected from him this spring, to say that you expected what he showed — if you’re saying that, then you were one of the rare ones. You are one of the people who really put themselves over their skis. But it sure looks like you’ve stuck the landing. Smith made plays every single practice. He looked much more mature than a freshman in the spring should, and was one of the best players on the team. He may have secured a starting job, which is something that true freshmen just don’t do right out of the gate at Ohio State, Especially with the way Brian Hartline has recruited the position.

Jeremiah Smith Ohio State Buckeyes Wide Receiver
Jeremiah Smith

Unanswered Question

The unanswered question here may be what the Buckeyes will be able to get out of the incoming freshmen that have not yet arrived? Mylan Graham and Damarion Witten will be here in June. They are two very different players. Graham is an explosive six-foot-one, Z-type of receiver who can also play in the slot, but is a tremendous player after the catch. How much will he be slowed by arriving in June? Same question goes for Witten, who is a wide receiver/tight end, but we’ll start out likely with the receivers. He’s six-foot-four and probably 210-215 pounds, so he has the frame of a an X receiver. And that’s an area where maybe Ohio State isn’t deep right now. But how much can they ask of him this season? He was fantastic at Glenville and was a dominating presence. But again, arriving in June is going to put him a little bit behind the rest of the receivers.

So Now What?

So now just keep doing what you’re doing. Jeremiah Smith, keep studying the playbook and getting work with the quarterbacks. And really all the receivers need to continue getting work with the quarterbacks, which they will. Carnell Tate, for all the expectations, is still a sophomore, so he needs to continue to progress towards being a guy that is relied upon every single game. He’s going to be starting, so he’s going to have to perform like a starter. The expectations are that he will. He’s got to continue to prepare like a starter, and the good thing for him is that he’s done that since he arrived at Ohio State. This won’t be anything new for him necessarily, but it is still a step up.

One Concern

The concern here, as mentioned before, is just the lack of proven experienced depth. When the only receiver with more than 20 career catches is Emeka Egbuka, that’s a sign of some inexperienced depth behind him. Egbuka is in the two-deep at all three receiver positions for the Buckeyes. He is likely the “backup” at both X and Z. Can somebody give him some relief? Jayden Ballard is in his fourth year, but only has a handful of catches. Carnell Tate had a very good year for a true freshman, but he’s going to need to double or triple those numbers this year. And no matter how talented Jeremiah Smith is, if a true freshman comes in and is almost instantly a top-three player, that can also speak to the overall situation at the position.

Are We Sure?

Are we sure how deep Brian Hartline is going to go into his rotation? Can they go six deep? The top six performed well at times this spring. Emeka Egbuka, Carnell Tate, Jeremiah Smith, Jayden Ballard, Bryson Rodgers, and Brandon Inniss all made plays, but will it result in a rotation? That requires the bottom half of the group to not have a sizable drop-off from the top half. But what will be the acceptable level of drop-off? This is a group that should be able to go six deep if Hartline chooses, but at what cost? Can Jayden Ballard be as consistent as he is fast? Can Bryson Rodgers be involved on the outside as well as the inside? Will Kyion Grayes or Kojo Antwi be able to help out? The versatility of Tate and Egbuka will also allow Hartline to move fewer pieces around if that’s what is needed.


“I think it’s a legitimate question. I think when you have ‘Meka and Carnell, and then Jayden Ballard, Jeremiah, then you get into Bryson Rodgers, who has done some really good things this spring — I know he had a couple of tough plays today, but we think he can really help us next year. We’re missing Brandon Inniss. He was having a lot of momentum and then there was a procedure we just felt like out of caution we had to get it done. We’ll need him to step up in a big way. We’re going to need a couple more guys to step up to build that depth there. Because we do have some really good players, but we’re gonna need them all. So I think it’s important that some of those younger guys do step up.” — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day on whether or not this team has the requisite depth at receiver.

Depth Chart

Z Receiver

4 Jeremiah Smith, Fr
9 Jayden Ballard, rJr
7 Kyion Grayes, rSoph

X Receiver

17 Carnell Tate, Soph
14 Kojo Antwi, rSoph

Slot Receiver

2 Emeka Egbuka, Sr
11 Brandon Inniss, Soph OR
13 Bryson Rodgers, rFr

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