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Buckeye Receivers Stepped Up as an Entire Unit This Spring
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — The wide receiver position at Ohio State was written about extensively this spring, and for good reason. Due to departures and injuries, players have been thrust into roles that they may not have been given a chance to take advantage of otherwise.

The good news for the Buckeyes was that each of those players took steps forward to being solid contributors this coming season. As for who took the biggest step, receivers coach Zach Smith didn't want to single out one player over the rest of his room, but he did have a few that he decided to mention.

"I had a number of guys, really my whole group had a great spring," he said. "I can't single out one guy for making the biggest jump. One of the more impressive guys was Austin Mack just because he was a true freshman. That's not saying he was the best one or if he's in the conversation, but just how he performed and how he went to work every day for a kid who should be getting ready for prom was really impressive."

Much of the talk this spring was about the 'X' position, which has featured Michael Thomas the past two seasons. Mack and redshirt freshman Torrance Gibson battled throughout the spring for that spot as Noah Brown continues to make his way back from a broken leg last year.

With the attention on that side of the field, the other side kind of went unnoticed. While the X may be the go-to guy on third-and-eight, it's the receivers on the other side of the field who are responsible for the plays that gain big yards.

They might be deep threats, or they may be dragging over the middle of the field, but players like Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon and James Clark all have the ability to make plays after the catch, and each of them made exactly the strides this spring that their coach wanted to see.

"It was their time," Smith said. "Terry, Parris and James Clark, it was kind of like, all right, it's your turn to kind of run the show, and they really did. Fifteen practices and didn't miss a rep, went really hard, executed at a really high level, so I'm really pleased with all three of them."

As for Dixon, this spring was the healthiest he has been at Ohio State in quite some time.

"Johnnie Dixon had a great offseason," Urban Meyer said at the start of spring practice. "He’s as healthy as he’s been since he’s been here. He’s much stronger than when he first got here."

Dixon has had to deal with arthritis in both knees, and because he is not yet past that, his coaches are being very careful with what they are asking him to do. Working with strength coach Mickey Marotti has helped him greatly, and his knees have gotten noticeably stronger since his arrival.

"Just the strength," Meyer explained. "He would do, Coach Mick will help you, but the squats were pathetic just because of the injuries he had in high school. In his first year, he could do 135, maybe a couple reps. Now he’s repping out over 400 pounds. I don’t want to give you numbers because I don’t know exactly. The point is that the leg is four centimeters wider than it was because of the muscle in his quads."

Following spring practice the entire staff was happy with the work that Dixon had gotten. And while he's not a finished product, Smith believes that the path to get there is now available to his receiver.

"Johnnie for the first time was really able to practice," he said recently. "He had kind of two different traumatic knee issues that he finally now is getting through. This spring we limited him more thinking we need to have him 100 percent full strength, no issues, come fall. So the stuff we asked him to do he did extremely well. We didn't ask him to do everything, so you can't really evaluate him as a complete receiver when you don't ask him to do everything you need him to do, but he has the skill set and how he executed everything else I would imagine given he's healthy he will be able to do that."

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