No. 3 Ohio State will be without star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba against Rutgers on Saturday.
Smith-Njigba will miss his third game this season while dealing with a lingering hamstring issue. The Buckeyes’ staff has been treating the injury with an abundance of caution to make sure he is healthy for the finishing stretch of the schedule.
There is no set timetable on Smith-Njigba’s return. He will be evaluated going into next week’s game at Michigan State. The Buckeyes (4-0) have a bye after the game with the Spartans, and there is optimism that Smith-Njigba’s hamstring should be completely healed by the time Ohio State faces Iowa on Oct. 22 and travels to Penn State on Oct. 29.
Rutgers, meanwhile, is facing an uncertain quarterback situation for Saturday’s game. Gavin Wimsatt is out against the Buckeyes, while Noah Vedral is considered a game-time decision to make his season debut, a source said. Evan Simon could make his third consecutive start for the Scarlet Knights after going 1-1 against Temple and Iowa the past two weeks.
Smith-Njigba is considered one of the best wide receivers in college football and among the top prospects in the 2023 NFL draft, as he caught 95 passes last season for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch and 123.5 yards per game.
But after injuring a hamstring early in Ohio State’s opener against Notre Dame, Smith-Njigba has caught just four passes for 36 yards in two games this season. He was limited against Notre Dame and during his return Sept. 17 in Ohio State’s blowout of Toledo.
Smith-Njigba is considered the No. 11 overall player in the country according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay and No. 12 in Mel Kiper Jr.’s draft projections. Both analysts have him as the No. 2 wide receiver behind USC‘s Jordan Addison.
In Smith-Njigba’s absence, two young Buckeyes stars have emerged as sophomores Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. have become key receivers for the Buckeyes.
Egbuka has a team-high 442 yards on 26 catches in four games, and Harrison has 387 yards on 21 catches. Each has caught five touchdown passes. Tight end Cade Stover has also carved a bigger niche in the Buckeyes offense, catching 12 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns.