As a top-25 overall recruit and the third-ranked receiver in the 2023 recruiting class, that Ohio State freshman wide receiver Carnell Tate is already turning heads during camp is hardly a surprise given his immense talent.
But despite receivers coach Brian Hartline boasting arguably more quality depth at the position than any other single position across college football, Tate is beginning to do more than simply turn some heads occasionally. With each passing practice, Tate is making it increasingly difficult for Hartline and the offensive staff not to play him immediately when Ohio State kicks off its season at Indiana next week.
“Carnell’s done a great job,” Hartline said on Tuesday. “As a football player, he is very mature. And when you give that mature tag to a football player, it says a lot. It’s hard to put into words, and I can try, but his ability to take meetings to the field, his ability to correct mistakes in one try, his ability to hold himself accountable for mistakes, for me to ask questions about why he did something and have him give me the answers back shows a lot of intentional work, which is very, very important. Usually, that’s an older guy kind of thing. I’m just really proud of him.”
Tate’s remarkable level of maturity for his age hasn’t been limited to the field, however, having been challenged this summer in ways no one his age should ever have to endure. Last month, Tate’s mother, Ashley Griggs, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Tate’s hometown of Chicago. Griggs was just 40 years old.
Such a tragedy undoubtedly shook Tate to his core, and just a month removed from it, he likely still continues to carry that grief with him every day. Through it all, Tate’s performance on the field has never slipped, even if it would have been perfectly understandable given the circumstances, and that truth hasn’t been lost on his teammates and coaching staff.
During his press conference on Monday, head coach Ryan Day was asked if anything has surprised him during camp. Without hesitation, Day identified Tate as someone who continues to impress him as both a player and a person.
“To go through what he’s been through this month, and then just to continue to show up every day and play the way he’s playing, you’re talking about someone who not only has talent but has maturity at a high level,” Day said.
Given his consistency throughout camp, Hartline didn’t shy away from elevating Tate to the shortlist of players who he expects to help Ohio State on the field this season.
“He’s definitely putting himself in a position to play very, very meaningful reps,” Hartline said. “And that’s not just me, that’s the (receivers) room in agreement. That’s not my choice; his peers know. If I have a question, I go ask the guys and they let me know, and we’re all on the same page.”
Marvin Harrison Jr., the likely first receiver drafted in the 2024 NFL Draft and one of those peers Hartline consults, issued the loftiest of praise for Tate on Tuesday. In doing so, Harrison underscored why the decision to play Tate as a true freshman might not be much of a decision at all.
“Carnell’s going to be special, I think,” Harrison said. “Carnell’s probably at a better point right now than I was going into my sophomore year last year. He’s amazing, handles his business. He’s always in the right spot, catches the ball, and runs great routes, so I’m excited to see what his career looks like. I think he can be one of the best receivers to ever come through Ohio State.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.