Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba to miss Peach Bowl, declare for NFL draft

Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s college career is officially over.

Ohio State announced Monday that Smith-Njigba will not play in the College Football Playoff semifinal vs. No. 1 Georgia as he continues to rehab the hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the majority of the season. Smith-Njigba, a star wide receiver, will enter the 2023 NFL draft, the school said.

Smith-Njigba has been limited to three games this season and has not seen the field since Oct. 22 vs. Iowa. In 2021, Smith-Njigba was arguably the best receiver in college football. He caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns, including a record-setting performance in the Rose Bowl.

On that day in Pasadena, Smith-Njigba caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns, leading OSU to a 48-45 win over Utah. That set an all-time bowl record and his 15 catches that day broke a Rose Bowl record. His total receiving yardage for the season (1,606) was the best ever by a Big Ten player.

Overall, Smith-Njigba finishes his college career with 110 catches, 1,698 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I want to thank Jaxon for all he has done for our program. He has had such a major impact here in Columbus, on and off the field, in a relatively short period of time,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “We all know he has a very bright future ahead of him and we all support him as he moves forward with his career.”

Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) runs past Utah cornerback Kenzel Lawler (2) during the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/John McCoy)
Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) runs past Utah cornerback Kenzel Lawler (2) during the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

Smith-Njigba first injured his hamstring in the season opener vs. Notre Dame and made several attempts to return to the field. He saw brief action vs. Toledo and Iowa but caught just five passes on the season.

Smith-Njigba told ESPN that he did all he could to get back on the field, but “doctors determined” that he would be unable to return in time for the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31.

"I want to be out there competing with my brothers more than anything," Smith-Njigba told ESPN. "The decision to turn pro was made after I was unable to come back on multiple occasions during the season and the doctors determined I would be unable to participate in the playoffs."

With Smith-Njigba sidelined, Marvin Harrison Jr. has developed into one of the nation’s best receivers. Harrison Jr. enters the postseason with 72 catches for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Buckeyes lost in the regular-season finale to Michigan, a game that gave the Big Ten East to the Wolverines. That loss dropped Ohio State to No. 5 in the rankings. However, Ohio State moved up to No. 4 in the final CFP rankings after USC lost in the Pac-12 title game.

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