When Johnnie Dixon arrived at Ohio State, Urban Meyer said he couldn't even squat his body weight.
"He would do, and Coach Mick would help him, his squats were pathetic in high school," Meyer said Tuesday. "His first year he could do 135, maybe a couple reps. Now, he’s repping out over 400 pounds."
Meyer quickly clarified that statement, saying he didn't know if they were the exact figures strength coach Mickey Marotti had to work with when Dixon arrived in January 2014. His point resonated, however: Dixon's lower body is much stronger as he trots out for 2016 spring practice than it was when he came to Columbus from South Florida at 187 pounds.
"My point is, his leg is four centimeters wider than it was because of the muscles in his quads," Meyer said.
A burner from Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Dixon joined Parris Campbell, Noah Brown and Terry McLaurin as four-star wide receivers in Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class. Campbell started the season opener last season, Brown would have had he not broken his leg and McLaurin was an integral piece on special teams.
Dixon nabbed his first career catch (for 29 yards) in Ohio State's 42-24 victory at Virginia Tech Labor Day Night, but then was barely heard from the rest of the season. His continued knee issues kept him from building anything consistent during his second year with the program even though the unit endured a host of injuries.
Tuesday, Meyer outlined the statuses of those players on roster who got hurt last season and where they stand for spring practice. Dixon was among them because of his knee issues, but the wide receiver participated fully in drills on the first day of spring ball.
"Johnnie Dixon had a great offseason," Meyer said. "It’s the healthiest he’s been since he’s been here."
Dixon outlined his issues with cleveland.com's Ari Wasserman in the University of Phoenix locker room after the Fiesta Bowl, describing it as an ongoing battle.
"I reinjured myself a couple weeks ago, and I'm just trying to battle it out," Dixon told cleveland.com. "I'll be back. I'll have a pretty good summer of rehab. But some days I'll have a really good day, and the next I felt like I couldn't run.
"I was feeling pretty good through the first few practices for the bowl, but then I took a bad step out of the chute one day and re-injured it. Our first practice (in Arizona), I was feeling pretty good and looking pretty good, just the next day, it was just bad. I couldn't run."
Dixon went under the knife in September 2014, a whole 19 months ago. A player with that much talent and potential not getting a chance to translate it to the field is unfortunate, but Ohio State is hoping he can produce this fall.
They need him to, with receivers Jalin Marshall, Michael Thomas and Braxton Miller all leaving the program after 2015 for the NFL. It all depends on if he can remain healthy and move beyond the chronic knee problems that plagued his first two college seasons.
"No, we’re not past it yet we’re just being very cautious. He will do nothing other than vertical routes all spring," Meyer said. "Then by June, he gets to the plant and drive."
Curtis Samuel is working his way back from January foot surgery, which means Ohio State's top-6 pass catchers from a year ago are not available this spring either because they're gone or hurt.
With trainers constantly watching and working with him with the hope he will get a chance to use the high end speed God blessed him with this year, is this finally Dixon's time?
"If he can help us be a vertical receiver because he’s legitimately fast, then we’re going to be good," Meyer said. "He looked great today."
Will he look great Thursday? Or next week? Will his knees hold up?
That remains the question.