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Pressure on unproven Ohio State wide receivers

Top six wideouts have 55 career catches between them

There is a front row in the Ohio State Buckeyes wide receivers meeting room. It’s an actual row of seats. When receivers coach Zach Smith talks about his guys in the front row, he isn’t speaking figuratively.

Six players sit in front. Right now, they are: fourth-year juniors Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin; redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill; and sophomores Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack.

COACHES POLL: Ohio State one of four teams in top 10

Those receivers have 55 career receptions between them. All but one of those catches came in 2016.

“I was a young guy at one point sitting in the back of the room,” Campbell said Thursday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center after Ohio State’s fifth preseason practice. “Over my years here, the development I went through and everything I put in, it’s definitely an honor to be in the front of the room.”

Here’s a look at Ohio State’s six top wide receivers, ranked in order of career receptions:

1. Hill (18): He scored Ohio State’s first touchdown in 2016, grabbing a 47-yard pass from J.T. Barrett against Bowling Green. Hill caught 17 more passes and finished with 262 receiving yards.

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Hill hopes to be one of Ohio State’s top deep threats. That has been a major focus since the end of last season.

“Without the deep ball, in this offense, you really have no offense,” said Hill, the only player on the roster from Arkansas. “You have your run game first. Second is the deep ball. If you don’t have the deep ball, you don’t have intermediate and short routes because they know you aren’t going deep.”

2. Campbell (13): He earned three starts in 2015 and nine in 2016, totaling 121 yards on 13 catches. He earned third-team All-Big Ten honors as a return specialist last season. Now he steps into the hybrid back role, where Curtis Samuel excelled last season.

“I’ve developed as a player,” said Campbell, who’s from LeBron James’ high school, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. “I’ve developed as a leader. My attitude and effort, everything I’ve put into this program, it’s starting to surface. Me, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon are kind of the head guys in the room right now.”

3. McLaurin (11): After redshirting in 2014, the Indianapolis Cathedral graduate was a key player on special teams in 2015. Last season, he started four games and gained 114 yards on receptions. He scored two touchdowns.

SECONDARY QUESTIONS: Greg Schiano on defensive backs

“The mentality, the attitude, I feel like that’s back,” McLaurin said. “That starts with Coach (Urban) Meyer and Coach (Kevin) Wilson and Coach Smith. Every ball that’s in the air, we want it. We’ve got to have it.”

4. Dixon (7): After playing in two games in 2014 and then earning a medical redshirt because of knee issues, Dixon caught one pass in 2015 and six last season. He played in seven games last season because of the same knee problems. However, Dixon didn’t miss a practice in the spring and said he’s healthy now.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve had in a while,” said Dixon, who’s from West Palm Beach, Fla. “I haven’t been healthy since my early high school years.”

5. Victor (4): As a true freshman in 2016, the Pompano Beach, Fla., native caught a 25-yard touchdown catch against Maryland. He had a 21-yard reception in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson.

“Around bowl season, I felt like I got more comfortable with the play-calling,” Victor said. “I got a chance to go in and make that catch. It was very important to me.”

6. Mack (2): A four-star recruit from Fort Wayne, Ind., Mack appeared in all 13 games as a freshman but mostly on special teams. His two catches totaled 15 yards.

“It’s an eye-opening thing,” Mack said. “Every freshman who comes in, especially in fall camp, it’s a new reality: Ohio State football. You get humbled.”

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