Buckeyes

Return of K.J. Hill means Ohio State’s WRs group is stacked again in 2019

James Lang – USA TODAY Sports

Losing Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon is a big deal for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Whether it was their leadership, how they produced as wide receivers, McLaurin’s ability to make plays on special teams, or something else, they will surely be missed.

Ohio State’s wide receivers this season became the first in school history to have four players with at least 1,000 career receiving yards. While part of that is due to the fact that they are led by a number of seniors, it also speaks to just how well they have played in 2018. It’s one of the many reasons why Brian Hartline’s interim tag as removed and he was given the full-time job as the wide receivers coach. That, and his ability to recruit and develop his guys was key.

Although three of those four players are gone, the Buckeyes’ wide receivers group still has plenty of talent heading into next fall. A big reason why came on Tuesday, when K.J. Hill announced that he will return to Ohio State for his fifth and final season in 2019.

https://twitter.com/KayJayHill/status/1082749037005193218

It was a move that was a surprise to many considering most fans and analysts thought he would forego his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft, where he was projected to be a mid-round selection.

“I feel I had a great season this season. If I was to leave, I would be leaving on a good note,” Hill said prior to the Rose Bowl when he was still deciding about his future. “Then again, if I did come back next year, a lot can happen with more touches on the ball, being in the offense as a leader, potential captain. There’s a lot that comes with it. There’s a lot of potential.”

Hill returning not only is key in terms of on-the-field success, but he will also be a leader and a mentor for the rest of the players at his position. Following in the footsteps of Campbell, McLaurin, and Dixon, all of which were fifth-year seniors in 2018, Hill has a lot to live up to. Luckily for him, he has all the skills to do just that. Another reason he may have decided to return, besides all of the other factors: the wideout needs just 48 receptions to become Ohio State’s all-time leader in career receptions, which David Boston currently holds with 191 catches in just three years.

This past fall, the wideout finished with 70 receptions (second on the team) for 885 yards (second) and six touchdowns (fourth). He was a major part of the offense even though he wasn’t a full-time starter and had to split time.

He now has the opportunity to be the star in 2019, while continuing to improve his draft stock, mentor the young guys, and possibly even lead the team to their ultimate goal. After splitting time with Campbell as a slot receiver last season, the fifth-year senior will be a clear-cut starter next fall, which will allow him to have much more opportunities to make plays.

Even after losing a handful of playmakers this fall, Ohio State’s wide receivers group now has Hill, Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, C.J. Saunders, Jaelen Gill, Jaylen Harris, Elijah Gardiner, Kamryn Babb, Blue Smith, and Jameson Williams in the fold in 2019. We know how talented Hill is, Mack was a starter before suffering a season-ending injury, Victor’s size is a problem for opposing defenders, Olave showcased his talent during the latter half of his true freshman campaign, oh and Wilson will likely receive plenty of playing time as a true freshman next fall.

No matter who is throwing him the ball next fall, Hill returning to the Buckeyes is a huge boost for the offense and one that will allow Ohio State’s wide receivers group to remain stacked even after losing plenty of talent following this season.