Through eight games the Ohio State player with the second-most receptions has gotten those catches by lining up all over the field. He’s been split wide, in the slot and in the backfield.
No, that player isn’t one of the Buckeyes versatile hybrid options as Jalin Marshall, Braxton Miller and Curtis Samuel rank third through fifth in catches for the Buckeyes through eight games. Ezekiel Elliott and his 23 catches are the second-most of any Ohio State player so far this year.
Urban Meyer routinely raves about Elliott’s ability as a blocker, calling him one of the best running backs he has ever seen in that regard. Adding another dimension to a skill set that may combine to make the most complete running back in the country, the junior has 160 receiving yards so far this season.
“I think it’s just more of an opportunity to show my skill set,” Elliott said. “This year they are using me a lot more split out on third down. Last year I was more of a check down. Just this year using me more spread out.”
Elliott finished with a respectable 28 catches for 220 yards receiving last season, good to tie for fifth on the team despite dealing with a broken bone in his left wrist. If the Buckeyes play 15 games as they did last year Elliott is on pace to finish with 43 catches for 300 receiving yards.
Combining Elliott’s receiving ability with his prolific rushing numbers and you have one of the most productive players in the country. His 1,290 total yards so far this season is good for third nationally, behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette (1,410) and San Jose State University’s Tyler Ervin (1,391).
Elliott has gotten his receiving yards in a multitude of ways this season. While he is still used as a check-down option in the flats at times, he is also running more refined routes from spots on the outside.
“Any opportunity to get the ball is great for me,” Elliott said of lining up wide. “I enjoy any way I can get my hands on the ball.”
Elliott has had at least one catch in every game for the Buckeyes this season, and like the offense as a whole, has been getting better in that regard recently. He caught a season-high six balls for 47 yards against Maryland while hauling in four balls against Penn State and three against Rutgers.
Given that Elliott grew up idolizing Marshall Faulk, one of the most dynamic receiving running backs in the history of the sport.
“Just how versatile he was,” Elliott said of Faulk. “He was known for being able to do everything and that’s something I made very important.”