Buckeyes receiver depth takes hit with departure of Ellijah Gardiner, Jaylen Harris

Pete Nakosabout 2 months
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Jaylen Harris by Birm-Lettermen Row
Jaylen Harris is no longer a member of the Ohio State program. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

COLUMBUS — The depth in the Ohio State wide receiver room continues to be decimated.

There is no questioning the talent that the Buckeyes have assembled. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson make up the best wide receiver duo in the nation. Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are rising stars, and freshmen Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are dripping with potential.

But the Buckeyes lost Jameson Williams to Alabama through the transfer portal. And on Friday afternoon at Big Ten media days, Ohio State coach Ryan Day confirmed receivers Ellijah Gardiner and Jaylen Harris are no longer playing football for the Buckeyes. Day said Harris retired for medical reasons, while Gardiner chose to move on from football. Both graduated with degrees from Ohio State.

It leaves the wide receiver room thinner than the Buckeyes would prefer it to be, especially from a practice perspective.

“It puts us at a little bit of a disadvantage over there, but we can always move some guys back over,” Day said during his session at Big Ten Media Days on Friday. “Demario’s a bit of a swing guy. Gee can kind of move in there. We also have some really talented walk-ons. Chris Booker, Sam Wiglusz, Xavier Johnson. Those are scholarship-level players that are going to provide some depth for us this year, and they’re going to play.

“I think practicing and getting through the week, but it’s getting through the season because of injuries and different things that come up. I feel really good about one through however many it is, but we are a couple short there, shorter than we’d like to be. But Booker and Wiglusz and X, they give us some depth there. They can play. They’re talented. We feel a little bit better there — plus the ability to move Gee back over if we need to and then also Demario.”

A former four-star recruit, Harris was an in-state recruit from Cleveland and a member of the 2017 class. He did not catch a pass last season; his most productive season came in 2019 when he played a career-high 89 snaps. The receiver ends his Ohio State career with just five catches for 54 yards and no touchdown catches. The 6-foot-5 wideout came to Ohio State with plenty of potential, but he was passed on the depth chart by other receivers throughout his entire career.

Chris Olave-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

The Buckeyes don’t have much depth behind starting rotation. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Another member of the 2017 class, Gardiner was a three-star recruit coming out of Kemp High School (Texas). The wideout never found a place in the Buckeyes wide receiver room, seeing minimal playing time and leaving Columbus with just one career catch for 10 yards. Injuries stunted his development as he was buried at the bottom of the depth chart throughout his time with the Buckeyes.

Losing the two receivers won’t hurt the product the Buckeyes roll out against Minnesota in Week 1, but the ups and downs of the season could play a role. The Buckeyes have Olave and Wilson, and after that there are four players with talent.

Elijah Gardiner and Jaylen Harris provided reliable depth in the wide receiver room for the Buckeyes. Ohio State will be thin behind the game-day rotation.