Ohio State Football: 3 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

Ohio State wide receiver Johnnie Dixon during their spring NCAA college football game Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

The Ohio State football team will receive a huge boost in a few weeks when members from the country's No. 3 recruiting class report for fall camp.

With the coaching staff searching for playmakers, freshmen such as Damon Webb, Marshon Lattimore and Jamarco Jones will compete for a spot in the Buckeyes' two-deep rotation.

Despite the influx of new talent, Urban Meyer is hoping for big contributions from a trio of freshmen who enrolled early for spring camp. Whether they're providing a boost to a depleted unit or replacing a longtime starter, these three players must step up.


Raekwon McMillan

The Buckeyes had big issues at linebacker last season, so Meyer hit the recruiting trail hard in order to fix them.

That turned out to be a successful endeavor. Ohio State pulled in a 5-star and three 4-star linebackers this February, giving Meyer the kind of depth at the position he needed.

Raekwon McMillan could play a big role in his first year with the Buckeyes.
Raekwon McMillan could play a big role in his first year with the Buckeyes.Credit: 247 Sports

Raekwon McMillan was the crown jewel of the group.

The 6'2", 242-pound bruiser was rated the nation's top inside linebacker after piling up 159 tackles, 35 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks during his senior season. He chose the Buckeyes over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Georgia.

With the loss of Ryan Shazier, who was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ohio State's linebacker unit needs a playmaker. McMillan came in this spring and competed with senior Curtis Grant at middle linebacker.

McMillan will take that position battle into fall camp. A strong month could end with a starting role in Ohio State's defense.


Johnnie Dixon

Ohio State's most inconsistent unit on offense lost its most consistent performer when wide receiver Corey Brown graduated last year.

Meyer will look to seniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer to provide steady production, but more help could come in the form of Johnnie Dixon.

The 4-star blazer out of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, came to Ohio State because of Meyer's past success with receivers. According to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern, Dixon knows what he needs to do in order to see the field this year.

“I feel like if I work hard enough, I can hit the field and I can make an impact,” Dixon said.

Zach Smith, Ohio State's wide receivers coach, was impressed with Dixon this spring, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.

Johnnie’s been impressive. He is a lot like Dontre [Wilson]. He’s a grown man for an 18-year-old. He comes in and handles his business. He handles his business outside of this facility, he handles his business in the classroom. So I’m excited about where he is going to be.

Now, he is a typical freshman. He’s still learning and still trying to figure everything out. He has the commitment to be great, and he is doing everything we are asking him to do right now. That’s usually a formula for success.

If Dixon keeps working through that formula, Ohio State could get a much-needed boost on the perimeter.


Sean Nuernberger

It isn't glamorous, but the kicker plays a pivotal role on every team. The Buckeyes have a huge hole to fill with the loss of three-year starter Drew Basil.

Basil provided a steady leg to the Buckeyes, going 33-of-40 on field-goal attempts in three seasons. Ohio State's offense was dynamic enough to reduce his contributions over the years (he kicked just 10 field goals in 2013), but he had big moments. His four field goals pushed the Buckeyes past Michigan in a 26-21 victory to cap a perfect season in 2012.

Senior Kyle Clinton was the early favorite to replace Basil, but 3-star Sean Nuernberger surged down the stretch. That was capped by an impressive spring game, when he connected on seven of his eight field-goal attempts. Clinton was successful on just half of his eight tries, which opened the door for the true freshman. 

If Nuernberger continues his strong play this fall, he could be kicking field goals against Navy in Ohio State's season opener.


All recruiting information per 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412