Can Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson be the B1G's best WR duo of the 21st century? Here's the competition
I’m just saying there’s a chance.
When Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson close the book on the 2021 season, we could be talking about a new GOAT of B1G receiver duos. Both of them could be 1,000-yard, first-team All-B1G selections in the same year. Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman are the only other B1G duo who accomplished that.
Where the Ohio State duo differs is Olave and Wilson have the rare opportunity to enter the season as preseason All-Americans AND as receivers who could play for a Playoff squad. This could be Ohio State’s version of DeVonta Smith-Jaylen Waddle or Henry Ruggs-Jerry Jeudy. And given how well the Buckeyes recruited and developed the position, there’s reason to believe that a similar run is in the works.
But let’s focus on the present with Olave and Wilson. Their 2020 seasons won’t get all-time great love because they only played 8 games. Still, if you averaged those numbers out to 14 games, which is what Ohio State played each of the previous 3 seasons, Wilson would’ve had 1,265 yards and Olave would’ve had 1,276 yards. They would’ve combined for more than 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns. Not too shabby.
If that happens for a Playoff-bound Ohio State team in 2021, yeah, there’s a new standard for B1G wide receiver duos.
Out of fairness to the 20th century duos when few outside of Steve Spurrier’s Florida teams and a select group of run-and-gun offenses, today’s discussion will focus on Olave and Wilson’s 21st century competition.
You also have to be a true duo. That means 2 guys dominating the same season. None of this “one guy had 1,300 yards and the other had 400.” That’s not a duo.
I picked 5 receiver duos who could make the claim as the B1G’s best duo of the 21st century:
Taylor Stubblefield and John Standeford, 2003 Purdue
2003 numbers — Stubblefield (86 catches, 835 yards, 3 TDs), Standeford (77 catches, 1,150 yards, 4 TDs)
Why they’re competition — The focus of this is on individual seasons, which I’d argue Stubblefield and Standeford still hold their own for the 2003 season in which they combined for a ridiculous 163 catches and nearly 2,000 yards. Shoutout Kyle Orton.
But Stubblefield and Standeford have to be on any B1G duo list because here’s the all-time list for B1G career receiving leaders:
- John Standeford, 3,788 yards (2000-03)
- Taylor Stubblefield, 3,629 yards (2001-04)
The interesting thing here is that Stubblefield’s best season came, not surprisingly, immediately after Standeford left. Stubblefield’s 2004 campaign saw him haul in 16 receiving touchdowns (still 3rd in B1G history) and he had 89 catches. He nearly broke Standeford’s B1G receiving record that year — he had 2 different 16-catch games — but came 160 yards short.
Stubblefield was, however, able to break Standeford’s B1G career receptions record en route to becoming the NCAA’s all-time receptions leader (325), which he held for 7 years.
That’s a darn good duo.
Anthony Gonzalez and Tedd Ginn Jr., 2006 Ohio State
2006 numbers — Gonzalez (51 catches, 734 yards, 8 TDs), Ginn (59 catches, 781 yards, 9 TDs)
Why they’re competition — I could argue that Olave and Wilson are already ahead of the former Buckeye greats based on last year’s season, so why are they on here?
Well, they accounted for 60% of Troy Smith’s passing yards, 57% of his touchdown passes and 54% of his completions. Smith doesn’t win the Heisman Trophy without the complimentary duo of Gonzalez and Ginn. Go figure that this duo formed after Santonio Holmes went to the NFL.
Is the BCS National Championship different if Ginn doesn’t get hurt celebrating the opening kickoff he returned for a touchdown? Probably not, though it certainly changed what that Ohio State offense was capable of without the speedster’s ability to stretch the field:
In addition to earning first-team All-B1G honors, Gonzalez and Ginn were both selected in the first round in the 2007 NFL Draft. Only 6 receiving duos have ever gone in Round 1 of the same draft, an Gonzalez and Ginn were the lone B1G duo to do that (Alabama sort of skewed that number with doing it in the last 2 drafts).
Both of them could probably make the claim as the fastest duo in B1G history, too. And just as everyone expected 14 years ago, Ginn is trying for Year 15 (!) in the NFL and Gonzalez is climbing his way up the political ladder.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt, 2010 Iowa
2010 numbers — Johnson-Koulianos (46 catches, 745 yards, 10 TDs), McNutt (53 catches, 861 yards, 8 TDs)
Why they’re competition — Even though this was a year after the Orange Bowl season, DJK and McNutt were absolutely a dynamic duo. It also gets overshadowed a bit because of Johnson-Koulianos’ late-season suspension and fallout with the coaching staff. But the combined numbers were solid (99 catches, 1,606 yards and 18 TDs), and both of them became All-B1G selections at a place that wasn’t exactly known for its prolific receivers.
Granted, McNutt’s biggest college play came on the Michigan State walk-off in 2009, and his biggest college season came a year after Johnson-Koulianos left 2011 (his single season yardage ranked No. 7 in B1G history at the time).
Still, though. McNutt and DJK were both were a force. They just happened to have prolific games in losses like the Arizona game (combined 180 receiving yards), the Northwestern game (176 yards) and the Wisconsin game (163 yards). It’s easy to forget just how good they were because the season turned out to be disappointing — Iowa had its highest preseason ranking (No. 9) since 1988 — but it wasn’t because of DJK and McNutt.
Michael Thomas and Devin Smith, 2014 Ohio State
2014 numbers — Thomas (54 catches, 799 yards, 9 TDs), Smith (33 catches, 931 yards, 12 TDs)
Why they’re competition — I’d like to say something that I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough because Thomas went on to become the All-Pro NFL receiver and Smith has struggled to find a home in the NFL (both were second-round picks). Smith averaged 28 yards per catch that 2014 season. Twenty eight! His last 4 games, which coincided with Cardale Jones’ meteoric rise, saw Smith average:
- 52 yards per catch vs. Michigan
- 34 yards per catch vs. Wisconsin
- 44 yards per catch vs. Alabama
- 45 yards per catch vs. Oregon
There are deep threats, and then there’s Smith. Thomas wasn’t and still isn’t a burner, but he does everything else at such a high level, and he can line up anywhere. They complemented each other so well that, dare I say, they could’ve thrived even more had they played in an offense that attacked downfield. Hence, why things changed when Jones came in.
But we’re talking about a pair who delivered the B1G’s only national title of the last 15 years. They combined for 9 catches for 153 yards and a couple scores in that all-important Alabama game, and without Smith’s 3 touchdowns (all of 35-plus yards) in the B1G Championship, the Buckeyes wouldn’t have been able to make such a loud closing statement.
The duo had 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns, and they proved to be a monumental ingredient for a national championship squad, which nobody else on this list can claim.
Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, 2019 Minnesota
2019 numbers — Johnson (86 catches, 1,318 yards, 13 TDs), Bateman (60 catches, 1,219 yards, 11 TDs)
Why they’re competition — Um, did you even read the intro? All Johnson and Bateman did was have 1,000-yard seasons and claim BOTH first-team All-B1G spots. That’s why you could make the best case for them to be No. 1 on this list. The numbers tell the story. A combined 2,537 yards and 24 touchdowns cemented Johnson and Bateman as one of the most prolific receiver duos not just in B1G history, but in college football history.
The most underrated element of what Johnson and Bateman did was they actually played in a run-heavy offense. The Gophers only averaged 24.8 passing attempts per game AND they only played in 13 games. Johnson reached the century mark in 6 of his last 8 college games (he still had a touchdown in all of them), including his remarkable 12-catch, 204-yard showing against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
Look at some of the combined numbers they put up in big games:
- vs. Wisconsin: 14 catches, 236 yards, 2 TDs
- vs. Northwestern: 14 catches, 203 yards, 4 TDs
- vs. Iowa: 15 catches, 268 yards, 1 TD
- vs. Penn State: 14 catches, 307 yards, 2 TDs
Those are the types of games we expect to see from Wilson and Olave this year for the majority of the season, even in the post-Justin Fields era. The highlight-reel grabs will be a staple, too.
If Wilson and Olave can surpass the Bateman-Johnson 2019 season for the ages, that’ll be no small feat.