COLUMBUS, Ohio — Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin provided a glimpse of the potential two weeks after they arrived on campus.
Now the Ohio State wide receivers are living up to the standard the program has been expecting from them since they showed up in 2014.
The ability of the two Buckeyes to establish a positive example has been apparent once they turned heads with their relentless approach in offseason drills. It might have taken a bit longer for them and Johnnie Dixon to establish their presence in the front row of the “Zone 6” meeting room. Or for them to find their voices as leaders and earn the privilege of handing out discipline when a teammate forgets an iPad.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious, though, the future has arrived for the Buckeyes.
“It was probably like the second week of summer workouts, and we were just two guys who went hard in the weight room,” Campbell, now a redshirt junior, said after practice Thursday. “[Strength coach Mickey Marotti] came up to us and told us, ‘You two guys are going to change that culture in the receiver room.’
“At the time, we were young guys and we were just trying to figure things out. We didn’t even really know what that meant at the time. But now we definitely see it. It’s definitely real.”
The Buckeyes wouldn’t be able to fake it anyway, considering how closely the wideouts are being watched after the inconsistent production of a year ago. The pressure has increased with the program losing its top-3 receivers, leaving both a leadership void and experience. While Ohio State has been careful not to get carried away with projections for the unit, the early returns have been positive.
“It’s one of the best groups we’ve ever had culturally,” coach Urban Meyer said. “They believe in the mentality that we have here, and there are zero issues. It’s just show up and go to work, be at your body weight and give your very best.
“They are unproven, but those kind of players usually turn out to have very good career.”
The Buckeyes have been patiently waiting for those careers to blossom, but there’s no time to waste now. Campbell and McLaurin combined for only 24 receptions last season. Dixon has struggled throughout his career to stay healthy and chipped in 6 catches a year ago.
But all three have emerged behind the scenes, which has helped propel them into a strong start through the first week of practices. Along the way, it has raised the bar for a revamped offensive attack which needs the receivers to take a big leap forward.
“Coach Mick and I will talk about [the leadership] all the time, because it’s true,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. “You saw it within them back then, and now that it’s coming to fruition, it’s really fun to watch.
“I don’t think there was anything wrong with the culture previously. It’s just been enhanced. When you have guys like Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin spearheading the leadership in your room, there’s not a better kid on the team as far as the culture you want within a unit room. It’s just a daily grind. That’s showing up on the field right now, and it’s got to keep showing up on the field. Those kids have taken control of that.”
Their development has prompted Smith to cede some of his control to his veterans. Earlier in the week, Campbell, McLaurin and Dixon were handed the power to issue discipline for errors in the meeting room — most notably, forgetting to bring a team-issued iPad.
They haven’t had to use that authority quite yet. But the Zone 6 leaders decided anybody coming unprepared to a meeting would find themselves rolling down the practice field — a punishment as painful as it sounds.
“The big thing for us is accountability,” Campbell said. “You know, every guy in the room is held accountable, no matter what it is. Me, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon, we’re the head guys of the room right now and everything we put in to that is starting to surface.
“You know, nothing is really different about me. I’ve always kind of had the same attitude, the same mindset. I just think it took a little more [time] because I was a young guy then, and I couldn’t take over the unit like I wanted to — or like I even should have.”
Ohio State has known for years it had guys who could handle that responsibility. Now, it’s time to deliver.