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Ohio State receiver Johnnie Dixon is ready to live up to expectations

Also, Dabo’s giving the Buckeyes plenty of bulletin board material.

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Ohio State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

“For the first time in his Ohio State career, Dixon is able to stack good practice and scrimmage performances on top of each other. It’s another indicator that a player who always had outstanding ability also appears to have reliability.”

- Tim May, Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State’s wide receivers have a lot to prove. Johnnie Dixon has a lot to prove. The West Palm Beach-native came to Columbus as a top recruit in 2014 with sky-high expectations, but has never been able to get healthy enough to be a consistent contributor on the field.

Following the Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson in January, Dixon considered ending his playing career because of chronic knee pain. However, after sitting down with head coach Urban Meyer, receivers coach Zach Smith, and the team’s medical staff, he decided that he was going to accept the pain and try to play through.

Now on the other side of that decision, Dixon is establishing himself as one of the Buckeyes’ most exciting playmakers during camp. Reports indicate that he is showing the explosion that has alluded him in years past, and May reports that the staff is getting ready to make the call to his family, letting them know that Dixon is going to be a starting receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State’s WRs, affectionately known as Zone 6, have been a point of concern for OSU fans for a few years. Despite seemingly top-line talent, the wide receiver corps hasn’t been able to recreate the big-play ability that helped the Buckeyes earn the first CFP title following the 2014 season. However, this season with Dixon, Binjimen Victor, Terry McLaurin, Austin Mack, and others (not to mention Parris Campbell who moved from WR to H-back in the off-season), new offensive coordinators Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day should have plenty of weapons to rebuild the passing game around.

If J.T. Barrett is able to reestablish the team’s vertical passing game, it will give running backs Mike Weber and Demario McCall much more room to operate around the line of scrimmage, and hopefully more opportunities to put points on the board.

“The Buckeyes are replacing three starting defensive backs for the second straight season. Expect junior cornerback Denzel Ward to take full advantage of his newfound playing time and set the tone for the secondary.”

- Sports Illustrated Staff

The best and brightest over at Sports Illustrated have released their preseason Top 25, and Ohio State comes in at No. 3. With Alabama (natch) and Florida State in the top two spots, the SI crew thinks that cornerback Denzel Ward will be a major factor in getting the Buckeyes back to the College Football Playoff.

Given his productivity as a rotational player last season, with OSU losing three defensive backs to the first round of the NFL Draft, Ward is now the de facto leader in the secondary. As the article notes, it doesn’t hurt to be playing behind a dominant front seven either.

In addition to Ward, there are four SI Top 100 players suiting up for the Buckeyes in quarterback Barrett, defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa, and center Billy Price. Alabama has nine such players, FSU has six, as does No. 5 Southern California. The fourth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys are the only top-five team to have fewer than the Buckeyes, coming in with just two.

OSU is one of four Big Ten teams to make the Top 25. Penn State comes in at No. 8 on SI’s list, with Michigan at 11 and Wisconsin at 12.

“And then we get ready to play Ohio State and I start watching the tape, I watch every single game, and I go in and tell our guys. I’m like, 'Boys, these guys are in trouble.'”

- Dabo Swinney, via Alex Kirshner, SBNation

Urban Meyer better make some room on the bulletin board at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, because Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is not only continuing to rub salt in the Buckeyes’ wounds following the embarrassing 31-0 Fiesta Bowl blowout, but he’s also taking the entire Big Ten Conference to task.

Swinney has never been one to mince words, and in a radio interview on WCCP in South Carolina earlier this week, he took the opportunity to pump up his conference at the expense of the Big Ten.

He continued in the interview, “I mean, I've watched the whole league. I've gone through the whole league both sides. These guys are in trouble. And that's exactly what happened. Again, that’s a credit to our league.”

To be fair, Ohio State was completely outmatched and out-coached in last season’s College Football Playoff Semifinal, but football starts anew in 22 days, and time will tell if the Buckeyes get an opportunity to redeem themselves against the Tigers and/or the ACC.