Garrett Wilson watched the College Football Playoff championship game with a different perspective than most.
One player in particular caught his eye. Receiver Justyn Ross caught six passes for 153 yards and a touchdown to help Clemson dismantle Alabama 44-16. Ross was just as impressive in the Tigers’ 30-3 semifinal victory over Notre Dame (six for 148, two TDs).
Ross was a five-star freshman. So is Wilson for Ohio State.
As Ross made catch after spectacular catch, Wilson was already thinking about the possibility of making a similar impact in his first season.
“Watching that, that’s super motivating to see people my age making plays on the highest stage,” Wilson said.
Those who have seen him believe it’s possible. Wilson is the highest-ranked Ohio State receiver recruit since Ted Ginn Jr. in 2004.
“His skill set is off the charts,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “His ball skills, adjusting to balls down the field, route-running ability and length (are) as good as I’ve been around.”
Day said that Wilson does need to get stronger, and Wilson is already making progress under strength coach Mickey Marotti since enrolling in January. Wilson said he added six pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame in his first month on campus. He now weighs 186 pounds.
“This is really the first time he’s being challenged in the weight room,” Day said. “Coach Mick and his staff is all over him.”
Day noticed Wilson while recruiting the receiver’s teammate, current redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin, who was a year ahead of Wilson at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas.
“I see this wide receiver drill going on,” Day recalled, “and I see a wide receiver drill a guy and then drive him into one of the trees and just start yelling and barking at him and I said, ‘Who is this kid?’ ”
He knew of Wilson, in part because Wilson spent his early childhood in Dublin before his family moved from Ohio to Texas. When Day spoke to Lake Travis coach Hank Carter, he became even more enamored of Wilson.
“He had nothing but great things to say about him, and then his film spoke for itself,” Day said.
Carter does, in fact, gush about Wilson.
“His catch radius reminds me of things you see Odell Beckham Jr. doing,” he said. “His explosion, the way he can time his jump, the way he catches the ball — he’s a stud. He’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Off the field, Carter said, Wilson has a natural charisma. He said he could envision him hosting “Good Morning America” like Michael Strahan does or going into broadcasting.
“He just has an electric smile and personality,” Carter said. “A very, very humble kid. He’s probably more refined and polished than any other kid we’ve ever had in how he dealt with recruiting and the accolades that came his way.”
Wilson will have a chance to make an early impact with the Buckeyes. They lost three senior captains at the position — Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon.
K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack return for their senior seasons. Sophomore Chris Olave, who made a major splash late in the 2018 season, leads a group of talented younger players at the position. Wilson’s potential is as great as any of them.
“This is what I dreamed of growing up, and it’s here now,” Wilson said of playing for Ohio State. “It didn’t seem real to start, but it’s awesome.”
In a perfect scenario, Wilson can have that storybook freshman season. He knows from watching Clemson’s Ross that it’s possible.
“I think of myself as I am that caliber of player,” Wilson said. “Now it is just time for me to prove that every time I am out on the field. Hopefully, I am doing the same thing next year.”