May 25, 2024

The Buckeyes view themselves as the best receiver room in the country but haven’t had the accolades as other top

There is pride among Ohio State wide receivers to be a part of Zone 6. While the origins of the nickname don’t matter – it can be traced back to police department zones in Atlanta that were mentioned in popular hip hop songs – for a Buckeye, being in Zone 6 means a player is part of an elite group.

Started under former receivers coach Zach Smith and continued under current coach Brian Hartline, the moniker is one worn by a number of talented wideouts who have played for the Scarlet and Gray over the last several seasons. These players see it as a badge of honor, a sign that they were selected to play in the best receivers room in the country.

But is that how the rest of the country views Ohio State’s receivers? Star Buckeye wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. isn’t so sure.

 

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“I always hear the arguments about the awards,” Harrison said last week regarding his position group’s standing nationally. “I think Alabama has a couple of Biletnikoff Award (winners) recently, and so does LSU. And that says something, a little bit.”

Over the last five or so seasons, the Scarlet and Gray have developed many talented receivers. But in that time, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith each won the Biletnikoff Award, and Smith also took home the Heisman Trophy. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase was also a Biletnikoff Award winner on the same team as All-SEC receiver Justin Jefferson.


While Ohio State has had a number of All-Big Ten wideouts and players who have produced at a high level, Zone 6 has not seen the same recognition when it comes to national individual accolades as other programs that contend for the moniker of “Wide Receiver U.” Of the recent crop of receivers to come out of the Buckeye program – including Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave – only Jaxon Smith-Njigba received All-American honors and, coming into this season, the last Scarlet and Gray wideout to win the Biletnikoff Award was Terry Glenn in 1995.

 

Over the last week, however, Harrison has been honored for his performances in 2023. On Friday, he was named the 2023 Biletnikoff Award winner as the best receiver in college football. Harrison was the only non-quarterback in New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation the following day. On Thursday, Harrison became only the fifth unanimous All-American in Ohio State history and the 11th Big Ten player to receive the honor. He was also named the 2023 Silver Football winner, the first receiver to do so since 2004, as the best player in the Big Ten the same day.

“It’s definitely an honor for me,” Harrison said before the weekend. “And really, I just want to represent that receiver room in particular. Just for everybody to know that Ohio State produces great wide receivers, and we still can receive the accolades that the rest of the country does.”

Harrison hopes his success helps change the national perception of Ohio State wide receivers, especially given the talented players who will follow in his footsteps. While he acknowledges that the Buckeye wideouts are valued in the NFL – “I think that’s what really matters there anyway,” he said – Harrison would like more respect for Zone 6.

“I always want to win it for Zone 6, Wide Receiver U,” he said. “They always have that conversation about us and other schools with like LSU, I think Alabama. And to just add Biletnikoff Award winner too to the long list of great receivers we have at Ohio State, that would mean the most to me.”

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The debate about which school produces the best wideouts and who is “Wide Receiver U” will continue. But Harrison’s recent run of individual accolades changes the conversation regarding the Buckeyes.

“You look at the great receivers that have come through here, and it’s kind of crazy how they didn’t win any awards or be nominated for any of the recognition or the accolades that I’ve been getting the recognition for,” Harrison said. “So winning the Biletnikoff Award, winning the Heisman wouldn’t be just for me. It’d really be for the whole Zone 6 and Wide Receiver U arguments.”

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