Freshman Class Already Earning Meyer's Praise

By Kyle Rowland on August 5, 2014 at 2:45p
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan spent time with the upperclassmen at Ohio State's first practice of fall camp.
53 Comments

When Ohio State’s Champions’ Club recently convened, a rare sight unfolded in the Fawcett Center. Mingling with a group of upperclassmen were two true freshmen who have never played a down for the Buckeyes.

Already, Raekwon McMillan and Johnnie Dixon have broken into the exclusive club. It’s not Augusta National, but Urban Meyer doesn’t offer free handouts.

“[They earned it] in the spring,” Meyer said of the two early enrollees. “It’s rare. I don’t really think we’ve ever had freshmen in the Champions’ Club. They’re over 3.0 (GPA) students, take care of their business, act like pros, act like grown men. So we let them practice with the grown men today.”

The morning session consisted of rookies, before the veterans gathered for an afternoon practice under sunny skies on the outdoor fields at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

McMillan and Dixon were both must-get recruits for Ohio State, the best at their respective positions. Each hails from the South, a fertile recruiting ground that supplies the nation’s best teams with talent. McMillan gives the Buckeyes much-needed support at linebacker, while Dixon adds depth at wide receiver.

Everything in Columbus is about scarlet and gray – except in Meyer’s incentive-based faction. Gold status is coveted by all, but had by few. Those who reap the rewards are served a tasty steak and potatoes dinner as the peasants eat hot dogs off paper plates.

It’s a rank McMillan and Dixon hope to keep, and Meyer longs for more freshmen to join the upstart duo.

A year after an abnormally high amount of first-year players were redshirted – 15 in all – 2014 began with promise for the rookies. Meyer stepped to the podium after practice and gushed about the 23-man freshman class.

“I’m really impressed,” he said. “Just the body types of Dante Booker, Kyle Berger, Sam Hubbard, all the way to Noah Brown, Parris Campbell – long athletes. Then you have Marshon [Lattimore] and Erick Smith. We’re going to try and get those guys ready to play. Really good day with the young guys.”

Impact freshmen are who Meyer recruits. He doesn’t simply want players who will turn into elite college players over time; he wants them ready-made to succeed. Last year served as a lesson when the bulk of one of the nation’s top-rated recruiting classes stood on the sidelines.

“That’s my fault, especially on defense. I was disappointed,” Meyer said. “We had six to seven players who didn’t play who are very good players.”

The group of didn’t-plays or played-sparingly includes Vonn Bell, Gareon Conely, Eli Apple, Mike Mitchell and Jalin Marshall. Mitchell, a five-star linebacker, transferred to Texas Tech in the spring. The remaining quartet is expected to contribute in 2014. Or as Meyer says, “They have to.”

Throughout Meyer’s career, freshmen have been vital to his team’s success. In 2006, Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin helped guide Florida to a national championship. It’s an era where first-year players are advanced enough to play for college football’s best programs. Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy as freshmen. During the first decade of the 2000s, there was a three-year stretch of sophomores winning the bronze stiff-arm trophy.

It’s play now, win now. And there’s reason to believe the current freshmen and beyond will enter college even more seasoned than their predecessors. A new NCAA rule allows coaches to meet with players for up to two hours per week, a change many Big Ten coaches at media days were calling a game-changer. 

“It’s awesome. We had several meetings with our freshmen [during the summer],” Meyer said. “We’re able to work with our freshmen on the field. Freshmen get homesick – every one of them. Even the ones who say they’re not, they are. It’s big to be around coaches and be able to go to the coach’s home and for us to be able to monitor their academics.”

Names like Demetrius Knox, Curtis Samuel and Jamarco Jones stand out when scanning the 2014 recruiting class. All three – and many more – will receive and opportunity to play when Ohio State takes the field against Navy. But McMillan and Dixon are garnering the most attention.

McMillan enters the fall with much fanfare. He’s expected to push senior Curtis Grant for the starting middle linebacker spot, and if McMillan loses that battle, playing time is still in his future.

“He is a grown man,” Meyer said. “He handles his academics. He’s a mature guy. He has worked very hard this summer off the field to learn this game. He has leadership qualities. I’ll be disappointed if he’s not one of those big names someday at Ohio State.”

That displeasure will extend to the entire Class of 2014 if there aren’t immediate dividends.

53 Comments

Comments

BuckeyeGrownFloridaLiving's picture

Really excited about this Freshmen class!

JohnnyKozmo's picture

Can't wait to see McMillian out there.  Please let the NCAA allow mirrored visors back, so he can truly be the 2nd coming of the Big Kat.

+7 HS
WezBuck28's picture

I wish we could get something similar to the ones the 49'ERS wear..get a block "O" with the buckeye leaves..I think that would look sweet as hell!

+1 HS
M5gatronBuckeye's picture

Going to be pretty exciting to watch this year, as usual

"I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win"
Michael Jordan

avail31678's picture

Cool write up.  It's great to hear these things.  Meyer seems to lean towards not-so-poisitive reviews, or at least brutal honest reviews and comments.  To hear such positive things makes me giddy.

+1 HS
d5k's picture

To be praising the freshmen after day 1 of camp rather than de-recruiting or just refusing to mention them by name seems huge.  The new 2 hour per week rule might be related to the lack of de-recruiting.  Perhaps they already went through that phase in the summer.

+2 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

Keep in mind the rule change so Urb has seen so those guys during the summer each week. And I'm sure giving them a dose of Mickey Marotti doesn't hurt

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

+1 HS
SHAKENBAKE68's picture

Be careful if you go down to watch the Buck's Defense practice.  They got a chip on their shoulder!!

EDIT: Thanks for the instructions!

Go Bucks!!

There is no such thing as "friendly fire"..

+5 HS
Wilkins78's picture

Copy URL, click the picture icon (mountains and sun), paste URL :)

+15 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Here's the gif he linked, it's pretty funny!

RUN!!!
Oh shoot, beat me to it!

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

+4 HS
RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

Definitely worth watching twice!

+1 HS
apack614's picture

Building for the future is always a good thing.

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

TimmyZ's picture

Can we stop calling manziel and Winston "freshman" that won the heisman?? They were RS freshmen. A full year adjusting to college and learning the system. They didn't show up in June and win the heisman in December. I know it's semantics, but it's annoying, IMO. 

+38 HS
BGSUBucksFan's picture

Totally agree.  Their talent is undeniable, but they weren't freshmen.  A year and a half is a long time to prepare for an already naturally gifted athlete.

+4 HS
0therion0's picture

Would give you a sticker, if I could. This really gets under my skin. As mentioned, Manziel and Winston were special players who did something over-the-top impressive during their first year as starters. But continuing to call them freshmen winners will devalue the accomplishment when/if a true freshman ends up winning the award.

I stopped being cool before it was cool to not be cool. #TrendSetter

+9 HS
cinserious's picture

Danny Clark, 2017 TRUE freshman Heisman trophy winner. See ya' at the 'Heisman House".

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+10 HS
apack614's picture

Agreed!

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

TUNBUCK89's picture

Here's wishing for a great and most importantly injury-free fall camp.

+7 HS
kc_buck's picture

It wasn't explicit in the write-up, but I also thought the article implied that Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel played as true-freshman.  Neither did; both were redshirted.

+1 HS
southbuc's picture

What is Champions Club?

+1 HS
lsjSnail's picture
Here is Champions Dinner

+4 HS
exnwohiobuckfan's picture

So it's what I imagine the premium lounge is like?

+4 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

The premium lounge is better.

+3 HS
Blackbeards Delight's picture

Not nearly as nice as "The Grown and Sexy lounge".

Crunchy Peanut Butter Bitches.

- Me

 

+9 HS
Boxley's picture

The new waterfall, that actually distibutes, frothy local brewed beer is pretty good though.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Homey1970's picture

You should know, Mr. Burgundy. 

+3 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

We are going to have a shit load of guys touching the ball and trying to tackle the ball that have 4 years of eligibility left. Going to be a very fun season.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+1 HS
Braxton2Devin's picture

"We don't redshirt here"

-1 HS
The Rill Dill's picture

ENOUGH!!!-----Urban DID NOT say, 'we don't redshirt here'.  He said, 'we won't recruit a player, only to redshirt him'.  BIG difference.

+2 HS
Killer nuts's picture

If a dog is gonna bite he's gonna bite as a pup

+9 HS
ToetotheFace's picture

I'd rather us not have any Mike Tyson or Suarez types out there.

+2 HS
ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

Cooper's infamous quote... but I'll give him credit for using this philosophy to get talent to OSU during his tenure.  

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
Homey1970's picture

....and blowing the season with a scUM loss!

Go give'em a Big Bear Hug Cooper!

+2 HS
Jbucks's picture

seeming as the conversation previous to this question is about redshirted FR. not being the same as true Freshman i hope i dont get derailed for this question but considering all the redshirts from last year how many FR./ RFR. do we have on this team and gow many players do yall think will see the field for the first time this year?

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

cinserious's picture

I imagine in a few years, we see a 'Baby-Boomer' type phenomenon with a disproportionate number of players belonging to basically one class. 2014 is a decent size class (23) and then add the 15 or so redshirts from 2013. 

Of course in the SEC, a typical recruiting class amounts to nearly 40 anyway, so go figure.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

bellarebuckeye's picture

Can't wait for Navy! We are going to learn a lot about these LB's, and I think were going to see a lot of our little speed burners.

mtrotb's picture

Until Urban starts playing people it is all talk like last year.  Could of, would of, should of, is all hollow words to the frosh from last year.  When they get on the field then I will believe.

mtrotb

-4 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

He played Bosa, Wilson, and Elliot.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+2 HS
Wilkins78's picture

Sorry, just three in a row like that is too much.  *"Could've, would've, should've..."  Have, not of. 

ToetotheFace's picture

I kind of hope Dixon doesn't interfere with Thomas' playing time, I've been waiting to see this guy get a chance for a while. tOSU almost has too many weapons, it is going to be disappointing to see who gets left out.

Poison nuts's picture

Two different types who will likely not interfere with one another IMO. Thomas is a tall, prototypical receiver type. OSU is short on guys like him. Thomas will get his chance & if he's as good as it seems he could be, I bet he'll get all the reps he can handle.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

cinserious's picture

Michael Thomas has the physical attributes and the skillset but he won't sniff the field if he can't get a grasp on the offense that Urban and Tom Herman are running. 

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

Poison nuts's picture

Is that what you think has happened to this point? He's had a hard time learning the offense?

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

luckynutz's picture

If Im not mistaken, Urban stated that either he doesnt have a handle on what they are trying to do, or doesnt fully understand the offense yet. Same thing really...just cant remember how it was worded. So that sounds like he doesnt have the mental side down yet.

Poison nuts's picture

Thanks, I honestly hadn't heard that. Appreciate the response!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

luckynutz's picture

I think he said it at some point during media days.

ToetotheFace's picture

Yeah I realize they are two different types, but Thomas hasn't been getting much praise from Meyer, and with so many potential WR options(Wilson, Devin, Dixon, Corey, Greene, etc.) somebody is going to get left out almost entirely. I'm hoping it doesn't happen to MT again.

MN Buckeye's picture

I hope the staff treat this freshman class different from last year's.

+1 HS
BeijingBucks's picture

And to think at these kid's age i was focused more on chasing 'hot chicks' (who in hind sight deserved those sarcasm quotes) and... Food and video games?  

Pretty sure no one called me a grown ass man until sometime last year 

 

 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

+4 HS
cinserious's picture

I was into 'hot chix', video games, and eating Little Caesars and Dominos back when both were still cheap but actually worth a damn.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+1 HS
Homey1970's picture

I've never been called a grown-ass man, and I'm 43.

+5 HS
BAR43's picture

I have always thought Dixon was going to be something special and I was hoping he would make an impact this year. there is something about his style that kind of stands out. I think the best think that describes it is "aggressive". He runs his routes, catches ball, and just overall has an aggressive demeanor. Might not be best comparison, but I feel like he is a smaller version of Terrell Owens. He just gets after it, and hope he cracks the line up in a big way this season.