After moving to slot receiver, Garrett Wilson off to fast start for Ohio State
When Garrett Wilson caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Ohio State’s win over Rutgers on Nov. 14, the performance put him in rare company.
It was his third consecutive game with 100 or more receiving yards, a feat previously accomplished by only three other Buckeyes: wide receivers David Boston, Cris Carter and Terry Glenn.
“Those are the people I looked up to growing up,” Wilson said. “I wasn't able to watch most of them play because of my age, but seeing my name along their names, that was super special to me. Now I just got to try and keep it going, and hopefully we can break some records.”
Meet the Buckeyes:Ohio State football roster and its depth chart against Rutgers
Through three games this season, Wilson leads the Buckeyes with 24 receptions for 344 yards and two touchdowns, giving quarterback Justin Fields a consistent target along with receiver Chris Olave.
Wilson traces their success to repetitions in practice that have strengthened the timing between him and Fields.
“The biggest thing is being consistent, getting good practicing and translating that on Saturdays,” he said. “If I feel I put the work in during the week, it'll translate on Saturday.”
A breakout season had awaited Wilson this fall. After a promising debut as a freshman, he moved into a new role as the Buckeyes’ slot receiver early in the offseason.
Ohio State had a vacancy to fill as K.J. Hill, who had been their starting slot receiver in recent seasons, was gone.
The position often invites a flurry of passes. Hill was targeted 75 times last season, tied with Olave for the most on the team, according to Pro Football Focus.
But Wilson also promised to provide more speed and athleticism, and he’s often been open for Fields, who has thrown 28 passes his way in three games.
The average of 9.3 targets per game is more than the 5.4 that Hill averaged last season.
Fields considered the position switch aiding Wilson’s success this season, but he reasoned that Wilson was poised for a big leap in his sophomore season no matter where he lined up.
“He's just gotten ahold of the offense more, to be honest, from last season,” Fields said. “Of course he was a freshman last year, so it was kind of tough for him at first. But I think he's really matured from last season to this season in everything, really. In the weight room, on the practice field, in the film room.
“I think he's done a great job with maturing, and I think that's a big part in his success. I don't think it's necessarily him being in the slot or the outside, because I think he would be making the same amount of plays.”
Wilson caught 30 passes last season, a total he could surpass as soon as the Buckeyes’ next game, against Indiana on Saturday, along with 432 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
As Wilson continues to carve out a larger role in Ohio State’s passing game, his emergence is of little surprise to coach Ryan Day.
Day was the primary recruiter for Wilson when he was an assistant coach and had high expectations when the five-star receiver from Austin, Texas, enrolled in early 2019.
“My expectations for him when he got here were about what's going on right now,” Day said. “I always felt like he was very, very talented and had a chance to be very special. We kind of saw that early on with him.”
And Day added that his growth is not yet complete.
“It's good to see him improve,” Day said, “but he has such a high ceiling that there's so much more to work on, to get better, which has got to be really encouraging.”
No. 10 Indiana at No. 3 Ohio State
When: noon Saturday
TV: Fox (WTTE, Channel 28)
Radio: WBNS FM/AM (97.1/1460)