Will Jaxon Smith-Njigba play Michigan? Latest Ohio State WR status news for rivalry games

Heading into the 2022 college football season, talk of Ohio State’s offense was the connection between future NFL first-round draft picks CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Stroud, a 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist, came from a season in which he completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 4,435 yards with 44 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Smith-Njigba, the No. 3 receiver behind two 2021 first-round picks in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, set program records with 1,606 receiving yards and 95 catches. Nine of those catches went for points.

But this year, Stroud’s connection and one receiver to watch was Marvin Harrison Jr., who has emerged as perhaps the best college receiver in the country. Harrison leads the team with 65 catches for 1,037 yards and 11 touchdowns en route to the Ohio State-Michigan duel.

Smith-Njigba, on the other hand, has been struggling with an injury since the first week of the season. Of course, if Smith-Njigba can play, it would only bolster the country’s most dangerous passing attack.

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Will Smith-Njigba play Michigan? Here’s the latest on his status.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba latest news, injury status

Ahead of Ohio State’s Week 11 game against Maryland, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day sounded less than enthusiastic about Smith-Njigba’s chances of returning to the field this season.

“I wouldn’t say expect, I’d probably say hope [he returns in 2022]’ Day said before the game, according to Eleven Warriors. “But no update at this time.”

Still, there’s reason to believe he could return to the field against Michigan. Maada Smith-Njigba, the star receiver’s father, told The Columbus Dispatch that his son considered the best scenario for him to face the Wolverines again. If not, it will likely be the Fiesta Bowl, which is likely the destination of the College Football Playoffs for the Buckeyes.

“The next time Jaxon is in scarlet and gray, he’ll be 110 percent,” Maada Smith-Njigba said. “I don’t know if that will be against the team up north or against the Fiesta Bowl.”

Smith-Njiba injured a hamstring in the first quarter of the Buckeyes’ season opener against Notre Dame after catching two passes for three yards in the game. He returned two weeks later to catch two passes for 33 yards against Toledo and then four games later against Iowa.

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Ohio State WR depth map

It almost seems unfair that Ohio State has the wide receiver depth it has. It lost a potential first-round NFL draft pick and instead saw Harrison, Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming rise at wide receiver with big seasons for the Buckeyes.

With Smith-Njigba, Egbuka has become the team’s primary slot receiver and is second on the team with 57 catches for 914 yards and eight touchdowns. Fleming, who has fielded wide, has 415 yards and six touchdowns — both runners-up on the team — with third-most receptions at 24.

Should the team struggle with further injuries at the receiver, they still have some depth to turn to. Jayden Ballard and Xavier Johnson have provided value to the team, with Johnson taking most of his snaps on the slot Smith-Njigba played primarily in 2021.

The other wide receivers to have caught at least one pass this year are freshman Kaleb Brown (one reception for five yards), redshirt senior Kamryn Babb (one reception for eight yards, touchdown), student Reis Stocksdale (one reception for 12 yards) and newcomer Kyion Grayes (a reception for two yards).


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