Jaelen Gill was considered one of the top football recruits in Ohio two years ago when Ohio State signed the versatile athlete from Westerville South High School.
Among prospects in the state, only offensive tackle Jackson Carman, who spurned the Buckeyes to sign with Clemson, was ranked higher in the composite rankings compiled by 247Sports.
But the high hopes surrounding Gill never immediately materialized, and after two seasons at Ohio State he has decided to put his name in the NCAA transfer portal and leave the program.
Gill has notified the coaches staff of his intention to transfer, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed.
In a tweet later Wednesday, Gill confirmed he was entering the transfer portal.
Gill never garnered significant playing time with the Buckeyes even after he took over as the backup slot receiver behind K.J. Hill last season, a move that was precipitated by a season-ending knee injury to C.J. Saunders in a preseason practice.
Appearing in six games in 2019, Gill caught six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
In an interview with The Dispatch before the Buckeyes played Clemson in a national semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl, Gill said inconsistency kept him from assuming a larger role.
"I’ll have a real good week of practice, then I’ll have a bad practice and it’ll set me back," he said then. "I’ve just got to keep getting better and better. And keep learning."
Gill was a receiver at Ohio State after playing quarterback and running back at Westerville South.
Gill redshirted as a freshman in 2018, though he played in two games and had his first career reception in a win over Tulane. He was left off the Buckeyes’ travel roster for the Nov. 30 game at Michigan, however, and acknowledged in December that waiting for more playing time wasn’t always easy, especially for a hometown star.
"It’s definitely a little pressure there, coming out of high school and being a local guy," he said. "Going back home, people ask me what’s going on, blah, blah. But I’ve just got to try to stay positive."
Gill is the second Columbus-area player for Ohio State to look to the transfer portal this offseason, following defensive lineman Alex Williams, a Pickerington North product who left for Vanderbilt.
The imminent departure of Gill leaves the Buckeyes with 86 players on scholarship for next season, according to an unofficial tally, one above the limit. Teams must have no more than 85 scholarship players when preseason training camp begins.
The scholarship count includes Saunders, who has petitioned for a sixth season of eligibility. Coach Ryan Day said last week that the program was still waiting on a decision from the NCAA about the waiver.
Stay in the slot?
On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, receivers coach Brian Hartline said Garrett Wilson "probably" would continue at slot receiver when the team is permitted to resume workouts following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Frankly, I was already having visions of that last year," Hartline said.
Wilson, who primarily played outside as a freshman last fall, debuted at slot receiver during the team’s week of spring practice in March. It was unclear then if it was a permanent switch.
Wilson is the team’s second-leading returning receiver behind Chris Olave.