- By David Jablonski Staff Writer
Johnnie Dixon stood next to Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin on Friday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. All three Ohio State Buckeyes wide receivers met with reporters together. That’s become a tradition with that position group.
On this day, it made extra sense because all three could have decided to leave Ohio State and enter the NFL Draft and all three decided to stay, joining a number of teammates who will return for the 2018 season.
“Sometimes it’s bigger than the money,” Dixon said. “Passing up a brothership like this would be crazy. There’s going to be opportunities there, and if it’s in God’s plan, I’ll be there next year. Just being able to come back and spend this time with these guys for another year, I wouldn’t trade it.”
Dixon will be a fifth-year senior in the fall, as will McLaurin and Campbell. Wide receiver K.J. Hill, running back Mike Weber and defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who will be redshirt juniors, are among the other players who decided to stay at Ohio State.
Even with defensive end Sam Hubbard, linebacker Jerome Baker and cornerback Denzel Ward entering the draft, Ohio State will be less affected by early departures than in recent years.
The return of Jones, who had 20 tackles and five tackles for a loss, will help a defensive line losing Hubbard and seniors Tyquan Lewis, Tracy Sprinkle and Jalyn Holmes. The returning linemen who were part of a deep group in 2017 will get more playing time in 2018.
“Personally, that was a huge push,” Jones said. “I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t take that into mind. At the end of the day, it’s not all about me. I had to think past myself and just think about the guys that are here.”
Ohio State has seen two wide receivers drafted in each of the past three years. Now the entire position group returns. Hill led the team in catches with 56. Campbell led the way in receiving yards with 584. Dixon led the group with eight touchdown catches. The only target in the passing game Ohio State loses is senior tight end Marcus Baugh.
The excitement of playing with a new quarterback — Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow or Tate Martell — was one reason the receivers decided to stay at Ohio State.
“I just feel like the offense can be electrifying again with more passing,” Hill said.
“That’s enticing for receivers,” McLaurin said, “but at the end of the day, we’re going to be a veteran group, so we’ve got to step up our play. With a new quarterback, it’s going to be different for them because they’re going to be running the whole offense, something they’ve never done before. We want to be that group that can make plays and take the pressure off them.”
Weber’s return gives Ohio State’s running game the possibility of having two 1,000-yard rushers next season. J.K. Dobbins had 1,403 yards as a freshman. Weber gained 626 a year after rushing for 1,096.
Earlier in his career, Weber expected to leave for the NFL after his redshirt sophomore season. When he walked off the field after the Cotton Bowl, that was still a possibility.
“It was kind of 50-50 at that point,” Weber said. “I really didn’t know at that point. I really wanted to come back and finish what I started, and that’s what I did.”