Emeka Egbuka enters the 2024 season with a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove.

While that traditionally sounds like a bad thing for a player, Egbuka is also one of the best returning wideouts in the country. Having a lot to prove will only further motivate Egbuka as a bright spot for Ohio State.

On Friday, ESPN unveiled its list of the top-10 returning receivers in the country. In spite of a down season (mainly due to injury), Egbuka checks in at No. 3 on the list with a chance to put together a remarkable campaign.

Here is part of Adam Rittenberg’s explanation:

But last season didn’t go as planned, as Egbuka was slowed by a midseason ankle sprain that sidelined him for three games. He finished with only 41 receptions for 515 yards and four touchdowns, never reaching the 100-yard mark and eclipsing 40 yards just once in Big Ten play.

Rittenberg also touched on Egbuka’s top-end speed and route-running as things that stand out. He returns as the veteran leader in another ultra-talented but younger receiving room in Columbus.

What it means for OSU

Coming out of the 2022 season, Marvin Harrison Jr. was not the only Ohio State star projected as a first-round pick. Many expected Egbuka to also land high on NFL Draft boards after the former 5-star prospect posted over 1,100 yards, 10 touchdowns and returned punts for the Buckeyes in 2022.

Unfortunately, Egbuka took a step back and battled a mid-season injury as the Ohio State offense as a whole fell flat. He finished 2023 with just over 500 receiving yards as his yards per catch fell by 3 yards with just 4 touchdowns.

With or without Egbuka, Ohio State was still going to be among the favorites to contend for a national title, and fans can track all the odds with Tradition’s Ohio sportsbooks. But with Egbuka, and his chip on the shoulder, the Buckeyes have another bona fide No. 1 threat on the outside.

It’s not hard to see why he would return for another year in Columbus when investigating the 2024 NFL Draft class. Harrison remains the likely first pick among non-quarterbacks, and the rest of the WR group includes Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze, Adonai Mitchell, and Brian Thomas Jr., among others.

Instead of fighting for draft positioning among that group (especially after a banged-up season), Egbuka returns to build his draft stock. And there are plenty of reasons to believe he’s capable of the No. 1 role.

In fact, the biggest game to look at involves the road trip to Notre Dame a season ago.

With Harrison injured early on and struggling to get going, Egbuka delivered 7 catches for 96 yards in his best outing of 2023. That included some big-time moments down the stretch as Ohio State rallied for a last-second win.

Egbuka has never lacked for talent. Now, he’s also lined up for a key leadership role with Harrison leaving for the NFL and Julian Fleming departing via the transfer portal.

Top prospect Jeremiah Smith is still expected to be an immediate contributor, and Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss will need to make major strides entering the season. But look for Egbuka to be leaned on with a new quarterback.

If he plays up to expectations, he’ll be in line for a first-round draft pick, and the Buckeye offense will look more like it did in 2022.