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Can Ohio State’s Jeremiah Smith, No. 1 recruit in 2024, set new standard for freshman receivers?

Written by on May 14, 2024

College football recruiting has vastly changed over the years, but one of the constants that’s remained is the weight of expectations on five-star recruits. The higher a recruit is ranked, the higher the expectations are that they’ll immediately become a difference-maker for their team — and perhaps leave conference championships and College Football Playoff appearances in their wake. 

In the Class of 2024 there’s nobody that has higher expectations than Ohio State freshman Jeremiah Smith. The 6-foot-3, 200 pound star out of Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Opa Locka, Florida, led his team to a perfect 14-0 record and a third consecutive state title and put up insane numbers while doing so: 88 receptions for 1,376 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2023. The Buckeye signee became the first wide receiver to be ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in the Top247 rankings since 247Sports started them in 2010. He is every bit the generational prospect. 

“He’s got ready-to-play size to go along with top-flight athleticism and an advanced feel for the position,” says 247Sports Director of Scouting Andrew Ivins, who compares Smith to Julio Jones. “And he’s got a pro-like mindset.” 

Prior to 2024, there’d been 12 receivers ranked in the top 10 overall players in the Top247 rankings. Dorial Green-Beckham had been the highest ranked Top247 wideout recruit when he signed with Missouri back in 2012 as the No. 2 ranked recruit in the nation. 

To try and set a reasonable expectation for what Smith’s numbers could look like in 2024, we studied past freshmen performances of receivers who ranked as top-10 prospects. Some put up monster numbers as soon as they got on campus and others failed to have an instant impact.

Highest-ranked WRs in Top247 (Since 2010)
ClassPlayerSchool Top247 Rank
2024Jeremiah SmithOhio State1st
2012Dorial Green-BeckhamMissouri2nd
2010Robert WoodsUSC2nd
2020Julian FlemingOhio State4th
2014Speedy NoilTexas A&M6th
2022Evan StewartTexas A&M6th
2018Justin ShorterPenn State7th
2023Zachariah BranchUSC7th
2010Mike DavisTexas8th
2011Sammy WatkinsClemson9th
2021Emeka EgbukaOhio State9th
2018Amon-Ra St. BrownUSC10th
2012Stefon DiggsMaryland10th

The average season for the 12 receivers ranked in the top 10 overall since 2010 was 40 receptions for 526 yards, and between three and four touchdowns in their first year. Those would be solid numbers right out of the gate for Smith. When looking at Ohio State receivers in 2023 you’ll see that Marvin Harrison Jr. (67) and Emeka Egbuka (41) were the only receivers to have more than 40 receptions. Heisman finalist Harrison Jr. led the Buckeyes with 67 receptions, 1,211 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns receptions last year, but even a 4-star ranked recruit and eventual No. 4 overall pick in the draft like Harrison Jr. caught 11 balls for 139 yards and three scores in his freshman season. Granted, Ohio State’s room was more loaded then — Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba — than it is now (it is one of college football’s best ever). 

Smith has his work cut out for him in 2024 if he wants to replicate the best freshman numbers put up by the 12 top-10 ranked receivers that came before him. 

  • In 2011, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins caught 82 balls for 1,219 yards and tied for the most receiving touchdowns in the ACC with 12. 
  • None of the other receivers had 1,000 receiving yards or double-digit touchdowns in their freshman years, but USC receivers Robert Woods (65) in 2010 and Amon-Ra St. Brown (60) in 2018 joined Watkins as the lone receivers on the list to catch 60 passes or more. 
  • The only other receiver to have have five or more touchdowns in their first season was Speedy Noil of Texas A&M in 2014 (he had five). 
  • The quietest seasons belonged to Shorter of Penn State (three receptions) and Fleming (seven) and Egbuka (nine) of Ohio State. Shorter and Fleming would end up transferring a few years later. 

Egbuka, again, was in a loaded room and has quickly made up for lost time with 124 career receptions for 1,857 yards and 14 touchdowns. He enters his fourth year in Columbus as the clear No.1 receiver for the Buckeyes now that Harrison Jr. has taken his talents to the Arizona Cardinals. 

Feel like we’re missing a few guys? Yep. Any conversation about blue-chip wideouts who lived up to the hype from the jump has to include a few pre-2010 standouts. Each of these players was ranked as a five-star recruit in the rankings during the 2003-09. We’ve selected those who became instant impact players early on. It’s a fun blast from the past.

Instant Impact 5-star WRs
2008Julio JonesAlabama589244
2008A.J. GreenGeorgia569638
2007Arrelious BennIllinois546762
2006Percy HarvinFlorida344272
2005Derrick WilliamsPenn State222891
2005Desean JacksonCal386017
2004Ted Ginn Jr.Ohio State253592

Harvin added 41 carries for 428 yards and three touchdowns. He was insane. 

Ohio State’s killer run of receiver recruiting for the most part means that even the nation’s best talent is forced to have a quiet freshman year. That won’t be the case with Smith, though. Unlike others on the below list, he’s going to be a starter from the jump — and he’s going to need to help the Buckeyes break in new quarterback Will Howard. If Ohio State wants to win the Big Ten and make a run at a national championship in 2024, they’ll need Smith to exceed the first-year performance of Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Julian Fleming. One of the major storylines both in Columbus and nationally this season will be whether Smith can do that.

Freshman Stats for OSU Blue-Chip WR Recruits Freshman Stats – Since 2020
202322nd Carnell Tate182641
202335th Brandon Inniss1581
20219thEmeka Egbuka91910
2021160thMarvin Harrison Jr. >>111393
202015thJaxon Smith-Njigba >>10491
20204thJulian Fleming7740
>> First Round NFL Draft Pick

Five-star recruits always have extra pressure to perform because of the label and Smith has even more pressure on him as the first wide receiver ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit, though he’s showed zero signs of being affected by the weight of those expectations and already has — literally — earned his stripes. Smith became the first player among Ohio State’s newcomers in 2024 to have the black stripe removed from his helmet (a tradition started by former Urban Meyer in 2012 continues today where new players to the program have a black stripe placed on their helmet so they can earn the right to have their scarlet and gray stripe like everyone else that came before them). 

It was a glowing spring for Smith, so for now consider him either on track or ahead of schedule. So far, so good, but we’ll follow along in the fall to see if he can make not only an instant impact, but a generational one. 

The post Can Ohio State’s Jeremiah Smith, No. 1 recruit in 2024, set new standard for freshman receivers? first appeared on CBS Sports.

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