Ohio State’s 2020 season almost didn't happen, as conference officials announced in August that there would be no Big Ten football in the fall, leaving the door open for spring competition. They reversed course a month later, agreeing to a slate featuring only conference games.
One of the rules initially put into place was a minimum games-played requirement to be eligible for the Big Ten Championship. Ohio State did not meet that minimum, playing just five regular-season games after matchups with Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan were canceled due to coronavirus concerns/outbreaks. But once again, Big Ten officials reversed course and allowed the Buckeyes in, where they would ultimately defeat Northwestern to win the conference title.
That victory propelled OSU into the College Football Playoff, where they would knock off Clemson before falling to Alabama in the National Championship. The fallout from this unique season includes some of the program’s top players deciding on their futures, so let’s take a look at who will be back in Columbus for 2021 and who is forgoing their eligibility to declare for the NFL Draft.
Justin Fields, QB
No surprise here as Fields is expected to be a Top 10 pick this upcoming April and will either be the second or third quarterback off the board. The quarterback spent his freshman year at Georgia before transferring to Ohio State. He amassed 5,373 passing yards with 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions, to go along with 867 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
"Growing up, my dream was to one day play the game that I love at the highest level. Now thanks to God's grace and mercy, along with the help of you all, I am in a position to turn that dream into reality,'' Fields posted to his Twitter page.
Wyatt Davis, OL
Davis was the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year after initially opting out of the 2020 season to focus on the draft. The 6'4", 315-pound lineman received a waiver to reverse his decision and is expected to be a first-round selection this spring.
Tommy Togiai, DL
Togiai earned a second-team All-Big Ten nod after recording three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble in 2020. Unfortunately, he missed the national championship game due to COVID-19 issues but is still ranked in the top ten at his position.
Chris Olave, WR
Olave was Fields’ top target the past two seasons but won’t be following his quarterback to the NFL quite yet. The junior announced that he would return to school after a 50-catch season for 729 yards and seven touchdowns. Overall in his three years in the Horseshoe, Olave has 111 receptions and 22 touchdowns.
Tyreke Smith, DE
A junior, Smith will also return to Ohio State for his senior season, citing unfinished business after he was also forced to miss the title game against the Tide. In 29 games, Smith has compiled 30 tackles and seven tackles for loss, recording two sacks and a forced fumble in 2020.