Five Buckeyes to Watch in the 2014 Spring Game

By Jeff Beck on April 4, 2014 at 11:30a
C. Samuel. See Samuel Run.

Spring games are a time for unproven or unknown players to shine. It’s one thing to look good within the confines of the WHAC, it’s quite another to make plays in front of a huge audience at the ‘Shoe. There are a number of new and/or improved weapons Urban Meyer and co. will be looking to test next Saturday. Here are the five you should keep an eye on.

Curtis Samuel

Samuel’s name has come up again and again in practice notes and it’s easy to see why. The Brooklyn native is a straight burner with a clocked 4.36 40-yard dash. The true freshman is everything Meyer looks for in a playmaker and the hope is he can come in and see meaningful playing time right away.

Last August, Samuel spurned offers from the likes of Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, Miami and more to come play for the Buckeyes. Samuel was recruited as an athlete/WR, but during the Buckeye Kickoff Luncheon Coach Meyer mentioned him in the same breath as the running backs. In all fairness, it doesn’t matter where Samuel lines up according to his highlight tape. With Curtis, it might be a get him the ball and get out of his way situation.

According to Tim May, Samuel made a number of plays in one of the Buckeyes’ most recent practices. One of which included taking a ball in the right flat, breaking a few tackles then blasting five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan’s helmet off at the end of a 20-yard gain. That’s the A-B, 4-6 second effort Meyer’s been preaching and its probably going to get him on the field early and often. Keep an eye out for No.4 on the 12th , he might not be easy to miss.

Gareon Conley

Redshirt freshman Conley is another name that’s surfaced in post-practice notes. The Massillon product is competing with Armani Reeves and Eli Apple for the starting cornerback spot opposite Doran Grant. Conley certainly has the size to compete at the college level. At 6-foot and 190 pounds, he’s one of the tallest defensive backs on the roster (only bested by Apple at 6’1’’).

Conley was a solid wide receiver in high school, tallying 50 catches for 1,096 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. The hope is the instincts learned on offense coupled with two offseasons in the Buckeye’s system  will help Gareon become a solid option in 2014. He’s got the size to high-point the ball, the mind of a wide receiver and the praise of Meyer. New cornerback’s coach, Chris Ash, should be more than willing to release Conley on Saturday, and it’s up to Gareon to deliver.

Darron Lee

Lee is another redshirt freshman who is earning praise during spring practice. The kid is a flat out athlete who played QB, WR, S, and returned punts his junior year of high school before “focusing” his efforts in the secondary and at the quarterback position his senior year.

What’s funny is, none of those positions listed is what he’ll be playing at Ohio State. The 6’2’’ 225 lbs Lee is vying for a starting linebacker spot with the 2014 Buckeyes, and he just might win one.

In week one of spring ball, Lee surprised many when he started with the ones. That’s not an indictment on Lee. It’s simply the nature of the beast when Meyer’s recruiting machine is running full bore. The semi-unheralded Lee  was one of the lone three stars in the bangarang 2013 class, but as we all know, once you lace ‘em up in college what you did in high school goes out the window.

Lee has bought into Meyer’s motor mentality, and that seems to be enough for Urban. Here’s a quote from the head man:

"The guy that has stepped up, the guy that is playing 4-6 seconds, is a kid named Darron Lee. I have no idea what he’s doing and he probably has no idea what he’s doing, but I don’t care. I want to make sure that culture is out there. You’re not being graded on whether the kid knows what he’s doing right now. Where you are being graded on is as a unit leader. And as a coach, it’s whether you think a kid will play as hard as he absolutely can."

We’ve heard time and time again the coaches are less worried about defensive players knowing where they’re supposed to be and more concerned about how fast they’re playing. Lee is a perfect example of what the coaches are looking for.

Josh Perry

Meyer has called Perry one of top five most improved players on the team. The junior linebacker had a solid 2013 campaign notching 64 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack, but now the Buckeyes need someone to step in and fill the massive void left by the departure of Ryan Shazier.

Perry could help in that effort. Alongside Curtis Grant, he’ll be one of the most experienced members of the unit, so his leadership will be paramount in moving the group forward. Meyer has been tentative to hand out praise to the linebackers saying this of the unit back in December:

“They don’t look Ohio State-ish. We’re nowhere near where we need to be as far as the expectation level of the linebacker play here,” Meyer said. “We need to get back to that.”

Perry could be a big piece of that puzzle. Just three days ago, Meyer said “Josh Perry is turning into an Ohio State linebacker.” With months before the first snap of the 2014 season, quotes like this should bring some solace to those fearing a massive drop-off post-Shazier. A big game next Saturday would go a long way in cementing Perry in the Buckeye lexicon this fall.

Johnnie Dixon

Last but certainly not least is Johnnie Dixon. Both Meyer and wide-receivers coach Zach Smith have praised Dixon’s work ethic over the spring. The Florida product enrolled early in an effort to familiarize himself with the playbook and assimilate to life up North. It seems the extra face-time is only working in Johnnie’s favor.

Roughly a week ago Meyer laid out a wide receiver pecking order with Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Johnnie Dixon making the four deep. That’s high praise for a true freshman who should be preparing for his prom.

The 5’11’’ 198 four star had 17 receptions for 366 yards and six touchdowns in his high school’s five-game run to the state title. That’s the kind of production which drew the attention of Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Tennessee and just about any other southern powerhouse you can name. Meyer plucked Dixon out of SEC country with the hope he could make plays right away. At the  Buckeye Kickoff Luncheon Meyer said Dixon has shown “flashes of tremendous talent.” A quote like that should be enough to convince anyone to keep an eye out for Dixon next Saturday. But, if you’re a stickler for proof, take a look at this moving picture box:


These five players should be exciting to watch next weekend. It wasn’t planned, but four freshmen (redshirt or otherwise) made the list. That says a lot about the 2014 team as a whole. Many of them are young, many of them are inexperienced, but the cupboards appear more promising than they’ve ever been. Spring games exist to give fans a peek at the future. The five players above should do exactly that.


Comments Show All Comments

jpbuckeye's picture

Thanks Mr. Beck for a great write up and further motivation (not that it was needed) to carefully watch and watch agian the Spring Game. The defense promises to be a breath of fresh air.


P.S. Do you still play the guitar? I really love Blow by Blow and Beckola!

+3 HS
bodast67's picture

Those are 2 classic albums JPBUCKEYE !




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

Jeff Beck's picture

Basically my life consists of: put on my pants (one leg at a time), write for 11W, make gold records, repeat.

hodge's picture

Let's not forget his finest hour (not coincidentally, Rod Stewart's as well):

+1 HS
WhySoSerious's picture

Let's go..


Like the ball in the stands, we balls out

WhySoSerious's picture

September is way to far away. Time machine please. Looking forward too seeing these guys in action.


Like the ball in the stands, we balls out

One Bad Buckeye's picture

Not a good sign that Dixon already passed Marshall in the "pecking order".  I'm holding out hope that once Marshall recovers from his injury, he'll come out and light it up.  His HS highlight reel is insane.  I remember feeling like he was the next big thing when he committed.  

All the same, everyone of our WR's and skill players vying for a spot have insane HS highlight reels, haha.  Here's hoping elite competition yields elite results.  

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

Colerain 2004 G.O.A.T.'s picture

Marshall just had knee surgery for a meniscus. He will be back in the rotation when healthy.

I speak the truth but I guess that's a foreign language to yall.~~Lil Wayne

+4 HS
BroJim's picture

I hope so! He has the ability to do great things for us and himself.

I season my simple food with hunger

Seattle Linga's picture

Can't wait to see him full speed and recovered.

DefenceWinsChampionships's picture

I could be wrong, but I dont believe they play the same position. I think Marshall is an H, so he would be competing with Wilson for that role. Dixon is either an X or Z, playing on the outside. So I dont think Dixon being in the two deep is any reflection of where Marshall stands on the team.

+2 HS
Him1stftballl8er's picture

My thoughts exactly. They play different positions. And when Urban has mentioned Jalin, he's had good things to say. 

I'm really looking forward to watching:

1. The Oline

2. The WRs

3. The secondary

4. The LBs

5. Curtis

The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools. 

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

The coaching staff and their scheeming.

+1 HS
Barnsey69's picture

I clicked no for attending the Spring Game, but I may rearrange my sked now after reading this post...gotta see these guys live me thinks!

And "moving picture box" ha ha funny funny Dr. Jones.

Go Bucks!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+2 HS
teddyballgame's picture

I'll be watching Cardale a lot too obviously

mattanderson1985's picture

Just curious who were the Buckeyes to watch last year for the Spring Game?

Squirrel Master's picture

It probably would have been Dunn, M. Thomas, Spence/Washington, Curtis Grant and Decker. I don't know but those were the guys I was wondering about back then. Although I was interested in Eze too.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

-1 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

Curtis is unreal. Nothing against Dontre but I think Curtis is a bit bigger and stronger and he can run those inside runs that Dontre just couldn't power thru. Now Dontre supposedly has gotten bigger so that is good news. I just see Curtis being more of that guy you move around alot and Dontre as the guy you put in the slot.

and busting up Raekwon's helmet? that is just great news on two points, Curtis can punish a defender and Raekwon can track a player like Curtis! HELLO!!!!!


I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

+5 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

I think this is why they are both considered H's, but Samuel works with the RB's and Wilson with the recievers.  I wouldn't put either one of them into a box as to what Meyer and Herman will do w/ the guys. This offense can get both of them on the field at the same time also.  I wonder if Marshall will be a guy that plays the "H" and sometimes the outside reciever position.

Jbucks's picture

IMO Marshal is out of the race. He was supposed to be the Burner in the H, Dontre has that all in hand now, Dixon is nowe my guy to watch in the spring, passing Kwon simply because to me he has that put your head down run over 3 ppl then out run everyone else kinda mentallity & that intrigues me... Samuel will be in that Dontre spot from last year, a guy to watch but also kind of the distraction, he also doesnt seem to be a RB to me he seems more fit for a WR type of role

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

+1 HS
BoFuquel's picture

Watch the big uglies, they are the one's that count. You lose this one you ain't gonna win'em all. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

hetuck's picture

Wonder who returns punts? Lots of speed, but hands more important (painful memories of last season). 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

Jbucks's picture

id put money on Dontre & Curtis Samuel being the main 2, maybe EzE is in their too

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

TheBadOwl's picture

Kicks: Dontre and Samuel

Punts: Marshall or Dixon

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

Mean Mr Mustard's picture

I think Corey Smith is currently returning punts

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

IMHO I like him returning punts - I think he does a good solid job

alust2013's picture

If Perry can turn into the sort of wrecking ball Shazier was, he will be even more terrifying, given he is significantly taller and bigger.

...and Michigan still sucks.

+1 HS
Jbucks's picture

Perry is no where near Shazier, the only way we get better as a whole unit in the LB spot is if we have 3 giys who make plays, Shazier was a Monster dont get me wrong, but with the weak LB play his number are inflated mostly bcuz he was the only one able to make the plays consistantly, if we have 2 or 3 guys playing at a high level & together consistantly, Shaziers departure will be felt miminally & thats what we need

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

Horvath22's picture

Thanks for the rundown, Jeff.

Jeremypreemo81's picture

Is it just me or does Johnny Dixon remind you S. Holmes all over again?!?!?  Kid is a beast

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture


Adambob's picture

James Clark? Is he still recovering?

warriard1002's picture

I have to wonder and worry that I am not hearing more about the young guys in the trenches where games are won. We can have all the weapons we want if you don't win the battle up front these guys will be nothing more than wasted talent on both sides.

Seattle Linga's picture

Jeff stop posting these kind of video's - the season is so far away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


BuckInNashville's picture

Talent. Check.

Speed, Check.

Depth. Check.

Ball squarely in your court and offense on your shoulders  Coach Herman.

Scarlet_Buckeye's picture

I couldn't agree more with the 5 names (Samuel, Conley, Lee, Perry, Dixon) that were chosen.

I fully believe that the success of this year's team will ride on the hopes of these 5 players shoulders.  Why?

Because we know what we have in guys like Spence, Bosa, Washington, Grant, Powell, Miller, etc.

But these are names at key positions where there are some MAJOR question marks.

The only other name I would toss in there would be Eli Apple.