COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State beat Rutgers up and down the field Saturday, but one of its most significant plays of the day may have come on an incomplete pass.
On the second play of the second quarter, quarterback J.T. Barrett lobbed up an end zone fade that ultimately fell to the ground incomplete. The result wasn’t as important as the intended target — true freshman wide receiver Binjimen Victor, who was seeing his first playing time of the season.
Just two days earlier, during his weekly call-in show, Meyer had lamented the fact that Victor had yet to see the field, saying, “I want to play him, but I don’t know if we can.”
Based on past history, that alone should have been enough for Ohio State fans to assume that Victor would be spending the rest of the season riding pine. After all, Meyer said the exact same thing about defensive end Sam Hubbard in 2014 and wide receiver K.J. Hill in 2015, and neither managed to avoid the redshirt.
Victor is different, and it may very well be because of those past decisions. In April, Meyer watched as two redshirt sophomores — Eli Apple and Darron Lee — were selected in the first round of the NFL draft after playing just two seasons at Ohio State. That scenario is likely to repeat itself in some form or fashion this year with players like Hubbard, Malik Hooker or Marshon Lattimore.
It’s on the table that it will happen again in the 2018 draft, too, given that Meyer redshirted 21 of 25 players in a top-10 recruiting class.
This might be the year that puts an end to it all, though. Meyer played both Victor and running back Antonio Williams against Rutgers, burning their redshirts and giving the Buckeyes two more valuable weapons to work into the offense throughout the rest of the season. More than 10 true freshmen have played this season, and many are providing serious contributions.
Victor could be the latest. He opened his account later in the game with a 7-yard reception from redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Burrow.
“He’s just too good of a player to sit around,” Meyer said. “He won’t be here for five years. We said, ‘Go let that dog eat.’ And you’ll see more and more of him. He’s just getting better and better.”
It took more than just regret from past mistakes to push Victor and Williams on to the field, however. Both happen to be really good. Victor is a 6-foot-4 wall of athleticism who looks like he was built to outleap defensive backs, and Williams is a bulldozing running back who as an early enrollee took advantage of a slight void at running back during spring practice.
Offensive tackle Jamarco Jones said Victor routinely made impressive catches at practice and added that Williams is a relentless worker who never stops trying to learn and improve.
“Mostly how you get touches and how you get to play at Ohio State is you earn that right through practice, on the field and off the field through practice, and if you do that we try to reward that,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said.
Talent and skill weren’t enough to get past players on the field, though. The circumstances have to be right, and Meyer finally reached the point where he couldn’t keep young players off the field any longer.