Stay updated with the latest sports news in NBA, MLB, NFL, Soccer, Hockey, Tennis, WWE on SportFanNation


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.

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 Rivals.com 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
Year Name School REC YDS TDs
2008 Julio Jones Alabama 58 924 4
2008 A.J. Green Georgia 56 963 8
2007 Arrelious Benn Illinois 54 676 2
2006 Percy Harvin Florida 34 427 2
2005 Derrick Williams Penn State 22 289 1
2005 Desean Jackson Cal 38 601 7
2004 Ted Ginn Jr. Ohio State 25 359 2

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 a new quarterback. 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
Year Rank Player REC YDS TD
2023 22nd  Carnell Tate 18 264 1
2023 35th  Brandon Inniss 1 58 1
2021 9th Emeka Egbuka 9 191 0
2021 160th Marvin Harrison Jr. >> 11 139 3
2020 15th Jaxon Smith-Njigba >> 10 49 1
2020 4th Julian Fleming 7 74 0
>> 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. 

Share this article
Shareable URL
Prev Post
Next Post
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read next
The South Alabama Jaguars will attempt to break a streak of postseason futility Saturday when they meet the…
College football is known for its rapid roster turnover, but few programs have as much talent to replace as the…
LSU made a splash on the recruiting trail Saturday by landing a commitment from quarterback Bryce Underwood, the…