Garrett Wilson was crossing the goal line at Ohio Stadium, gliding toward the back-corner pylon, when he peered into the afternoon sky in anticipation of the pass.
The timing worked just right. As Wilson turned his head and leapt into the air, he extended his arms and snatched the ball over Sevyn Banks, a taller cornerback, for an 18-yard touchdown catch.
It was an eye-popping play in the first half of Ohio State’s spring game on Saturday, not only due to the catch’s high degree of difficulty but because it offered fans in attendance their first glimpse of Wilson, the talented freshman who enrolled a semester early.
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For Wilson’s teammates, it was just part of a string of similarly spectacular snags seen in practices the past month.
“Garrett makes plays all the time like that,” senior receiver K.J. Hill said. “I feel like it wasn’t that new.”
Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields said “He's been doing that all spring.”
The touchdown put some of Wilson’s most valuable traits on display. He’s not the biggest receiving target. The roster listed Wilson at 6 feet and 180 pounds. And others might be speedier. But few exhibit the same body control, leaping ability and talent for grabbing passes midair.
“He’s a guy that can go up and control his body like one of the best I’ve ever seen,” senior receiver C.J. Saunders said. “He’s made a couple of one-hand, ridiculous plays. But his ability to go up over a DB is something he does much better than me.”
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In the instance of Saturday’s touchdown catch, it didn’t hurt that the throw was delivered by Matthew Baldwin, his former quarterback at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas.
Wilson, who was a five-star recruit while playing for the prep powerhouse, finished with four catches for 44 yards, while lining up with Baldwin on the second-team offense as part of the Scarlet team.
Wilson’s ongoing development remained an important step for a program that saw three of its four top receivers depart for the NFL and is breaking in a new starting quarterback.
Starting receiver spots will be up for grabs when the team returns for preseason training camp.
Hill thought the freshman had made strides in spring practice that put him in position to see the field quickly.
Part of it was owed to humility, he observed.
“He developed as a person, growing up, already from a little boy to a man," Hill said, "and I feel like that’s why he’s making those plays. He’s humble and soaking up everything he can. He loves to learn and he’s coachable.”