COLUMBUS, Ohio – A trio of Ohio State wide receivers scored their first career touchdowns on Saturday during Ohio State’s 58-0 laugher against Rutgers.
In the second quarter, it was Terry McLaurin, a redshirt sophomore from Indianapolis, who made a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone.
Then it was Parris Campbell, a redshirt sophomore from Akron, taking a pitch and showcasing his blazing speed by outrunning the Rutgers defense to the pylon in the third quarter.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, it was junior Johnnie Dixon from Miami, who dipped through the Scarlet Knights defensive line, passed the goal line and immediately took a knee in prayer to celebrate. In a flash, the trio – all members of Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class – saw years of hard work pay off.
It’s been anything but easy for this group. While they were all well-regarded out of high school, they came to Columbus at a time when the players in front of them were simply too talented to pass up. In the 2015 season, Mike Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Braxton Miller and others absorbed the bulk of the wide receiver playing time, though Campbell started the season opener at Virginia Tech, dropping what would’ve been his first career touchdown early in that game.
Special teams has been the place to find Campbell and McLaurin. The injured list was where you’d find Dixon, a Top 100 prospect from Dwyer High School who has been riddled with sore knees since his arrival in Columbus in January 2014. The road to playing time, meaningful playing time as a wide receiver, hasn’t been bumpy.
But on Saturday, as a pair of exceptionally talented freshmen from the 2016 signing class (Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor) made their first career catches and gave the nearly 106,000 fans in attendance their first glimpse of what could be Ohio State’s future at wide receiver, the old guard made sure fans didn’t forget about them. Last week, it was Noah Brown who burst back on the scene following a devastating leg injury, and, this weekend, it was Campbell, McLaurin and Dixon.
“We’re just so happy for each other,” McLaurin said. “I feel like that’s what’s so great about this unit this year. When Noah had so many touchdowns last week, we were all just so happy for him. Whoever goes in there and makes the play, as a unit we’re happy for him as if we scored.”
Until this game against Rutgers, the only way this group had experienced the joy of the end zone had been by living vicariously through teammates, such as Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown. Not anymore. These are players who’ve been leaders of the offense, the weight and locker rooms, the grinders and special teams who’ve put team above their own statistics. So this moment mattered, to their coaches as well.
“It’s really important to them,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said Saturday. “They’ve all had a great training camp and they’ve stayed patient, they’ve kept good practice habits and they’ve not got discouraged. We wanted to find opportunities for them.”
According to J.T. Barrett, whose four touchdown passes on Saturday eclipsed Bobby Hoying as Ohio State’s all-time leader in touchdown passes, patience is major piece of the equation in Columbus right now.
“I think it’s great,” J.T. Barrett said. “Stay the course, everybody eats.”
While it may not be what their quarterback had in mind, McLaurin was clear postgame: Tonight is a time for celebration.
“Just a little tidbit,” McLaurin added. “Me, Curtis and Parris are roommates and we all scored today. We’re going to enjoy that one tonight. We showed up and made plays.”