An Ohio State Freshman May Be Too Good To Keep Off The Field

Ohio State freshman phenom receiver Jeremiah Smith has had an eye-popping Spring and could prove to be too good to leave off the field.
ohio state freshman

Starring as a true freshman is difficult in college football. Starring as a true freshman at one of the blueblood programs with a plethora of talent up and down the roster is even more difficult. Ohio State has seen modest performances from true freshmen over the years. Maurice Clarett led the Buckeyes to a BCS National Championship. J.K. Dobbins went over 1,400 yards as a true freshman. Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller only had to wait a few weeks before they took over the starting job. As an Ohio State freshman, expectations are not that a player makes an immediate impact in year one because of the sheer talent elsewhere.

This year, Jeremiah Smith could be that freshman who takes over and etches his name in Buckeye lore early.

Jeremiah Smith Could Have the Best Season From an Ohio State Freshman

Smith as a Recruit

In this year’s recruiting class, by all metrics, there was no better high school player than Smith. He was a consensus five-star receiver and was regarded as a bona fide star and early-impact player. If there were any size concerns, Smith’s six-foot-three, 215-pound frame dispels them. He’s already a college football-sized receiver.

With that size, one would think that he is pigeonholed into a contested catch specialist. In reality, he was able to do anything and everything at the high school level. 50/50 balls were more like 90/10 when thrown his way but he was just as dynamic in space. He comes to Ohio State with a polished route-running ability, something many receivers develop in time with Brian Hartline‘s tutelage. Smith was able to create separation with precise body control within his route running as well as his top-end speed.

Smith has legitimate track speed. He won state titles in the 110 and 400-meter hurdles with times of 14.34 and 54.68, respectively. Smith had a number of traits the popped off the tape and his after-the-catch abilities were impressive. He was able to evade defenders and leave them in the dust after hitting another gear. Think Ja’Marr Chase against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season.

247Sports compares Smith to Julio Jones, the sixth-overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Alabama.

Turning Heads Already

Smith joined the Buckeyes as an early enrollee and the Ohio State freshman is already making a name for himself. In Spring practices, Smith was already taking snaps with the first-team offense, fully taking advantage of the injury to Brandon Inniss.

Despite lining up against Ohio State’s vaunted secondary, Smith flashed. He was able to burn top corner Denzel Burke on a number of highlight reel catches. Will Howard and the rest of the Buckeye quarterbacks, understandably, had rough days but Smith was able to bail them out. On Student Appreciation Day, Smith made a circus touchdown catch over four-star sophomore corner, Calvin Simpson-Hunt on an underthrown ball from Howard.

While he didn’t have a game worth remembering in the Spring Game — although, it wasn’t for a lack of trying because the offense went his way plenty of times — Smith is solidifying himself as a serious threat in June practices. It was recently reported that Smith was clocked at 23.18 miles per hour. Jeremy Birmingham of Rivals said on “THE Podcast”, “The only thing that I heard then after that was the only guy they’ve ever seen like this is Percy Harvin. They don’t know what to do with him.”

Having a player with that kind of elite speed is a fantastic problem to have. If Urban Meyer was still calling the shots, Smith would likely have his own section of the playbook, much like Harvin did at Florida. Ryan Day and Chip Kelly will look to get Smith the ball as frequently as they can both on offense and on special teams. Giving Smith a head-start to build up his speed on kick return would be like cheating.

Greatest True Freshman Receivers at Ohio State

With all of this talk of a breakout performance, fans can look to the past to get some kind of idea. Obviously, Day is a different coach than Meyer, Jim Tressell, John Cooper, etc. Comparing eras is always a difficult task and there are always extenuating circumstances for why one player performed better than another. However, the bar is not a high one for this Ohio State freshman to clear.

To start, no Ohio State freshman receiver garnered more than 500 yards. Ohio State is usually where second-year players break out. To put it into perspective, Carnell Tate‘s 18-catch, 264-yard performance last year was the fifth-best by a true freshman at Ohio State.

Cris Carter‘s 1984 season was the best by a true freshman receiver. He accounted for 479 yards and seven touchdowns off 32 receptions for Earle Bruce’s squad. Behind Carter, Garrett Wilson‘s 2019 season saw him amass 432 yards and five touchdowns from 30 catches. Narrowly behind Wilson is famous two-way player, David Boston. In 1996, Boston hauled in 29 passes for 430 yards and five scores. In fourth is Ted Ginn, Jr.‘s 2004 season. It was then that Ginn contributed 359 yards and two touchdowns off 25 receptions. His fame was helped out by a pair of rushing touchdowns and a whopping four punt return touchdowns.

Wilson, Boston, and Ginn all ended up as top-10 picks. Carter’s legacy is a bit more controversial as he lost his senior season due to his decision to sign with an agency and was selected in the fourth round (third overall) in the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft. Carter went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career, so it all worked out.

Reasonable Expectations

Can Smith finish 2024 with 1,000 yards? He certainly has the talent to do so but there are a few things standing in his way. Most notably, the fact that the Ohio State freshman shares an offense with half of a dozen future NFL Draft picks and there’s only one ball. Plus, while Howard will prove to be a legitimate Ohio State quarterback, he’s not Justin Fields or C.J. Stroud.

While 1,000 yards is a great goal to have, the Buckeyes can look toward another milestone. Smith can have the best season by an Ohio State true freshman receiver. All he needs is 33 catches for 480 yards. While the offense will feature more of a ground game, this is a much more reasonable expectation.

In all honesty, Ohio State fans should look to Zachariah Branch‘s freshman season for USC last year. While the goal would be to have Smith be more productive on offense, Branch finished with 320 yards and two touchdowns off 31 receptions. Ideally, Day takes a page from Lincoln Riley‘s book and lets Smith return punts and kicks as Branch did. When Branch had the ball in his hands, it was obvious how good he was and can be. The same should be said for Smith.

The uber-talented Ohio State freshman needs to have the ball in his hands. Day and Kelly need to have packages and plays specifically designed to get him the ball, just as they did with Marvin Harrison, Jr. last year.

Smith is going to make plays for Ohio State in 2024. While expecting him to light the world on fire may be a tad presumptuous, it’s not outlandish to expect him to be one of the best offensive weapons for the Buckeyes. The bar to be the greatest Ohio State freshman receiver is not high. He should be able to clear it easily.


ohio state freshman
Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK


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