Status of Ohio State receiver Chris Olave looms ahead of matchup with Penn State

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State receiver Chris Olave had six catches for 104 yards against Nebraska before leaving the game late in the third quarter after absorbing a heavy hit.

The status of wide receiver Chris Olave remains one of the largest question marks surrounding the Ohio State football team ahead of its trip to Penn State.

Olave, who led the team in receiving last fall, left the Buckeyes’ season-opening win over Nebraska on Saturday when he was hit in the head late in the third quarter by Cornhuskers safety Deontai Williams, jarring the ball loose.

Team trainers evaluated Olave for several minutes before he walked off the field and went to the locker room.

Garrett Wilson offered optimism for his teammate's return on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. Wilson said he is “super confident” that Olave will be back for the road opener against the Nittany Lions.

“I talked to Chris, and he seemed all good,” Wilson said. “I think he's going be ready to play on Saturday.”

Three days before the team finalizes its availability report, coach Ryan Day said “we'll see as the week goes on how it goes” as far as where Olave might land on it.

The collision in last Saturday’s game, though, left Olave visibly shaken up. Day, who is typically tight-lipped when discussing players’ injuries, did not offer details about the lingering effects or how he might go through practices.

The possible absence of Olave would likely prompt the Buckeyes to turn to some of the freshman receivers who debuted against Nebraska.

They included Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who completed an acrobatic 5-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter, toe-tapping along the back line of the end zone.

Day appeared pleased with their development, but acknowledged some of their inexperience.

“I think the big thing for all of them is just the toughness and the physicality of playing in a Big Ten football game,” Day said, “and protecting and blocking and those type of things. I thought they ran some decent routes and most times caught the ball well. It's good to start off in terms of a starting point, but we still got a lot of work to do.”

To fill Olave’s role at outside receiver, the Buckeyes could also make some personnel changes in their lineup. Wilson is primarily lining up in the slot this season, but he can also play outside as a fill-in for Olave.

The move would prompt a replacement in the slot, or the Buckeyes could line up with two tight ends.

Backup QB battle

Freshman quarterback Jack Miller came in for mop-up duty late in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, replacing starter Justin Fields with the outcome no longer in doubt. Miller's appearance, however, does necessarily not mean he is the team’s No. 2 quarterback, according to Day.

The competition is an “ongoing deal,” Day said, as senior Gunnar Hoak and freshman C.J. Stroud remain other options behind Fields on the depth chart.

“If at some point one of them jumps in front of the other, then we'll go from there,” Day said. “But as of right now, there's just a lack of reps, so they're still battling, still learning, still trying to figure it out.

“They're getting better. They're showing some flashes here and there, but we'll just keep that going and kind of take it week to week.”

Miller did not attempt a pass while leading the offense for a series, but had two carries for 23 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown during the final minute.

Down another back

The Buckeyes will see a depleted backfield from Penn State as running back Noah Cain is out for the season due to an injury suffered in the season opener, coach James Franklin told reporters on Tuesday.

Cain was the Nittany Lions’ No. 2 running back last season behind Journey Brown, who is out with an undisclosed medical condition.