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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2014

OSU freshmen McMillan, Dixon already impress Meyer

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State football team’s most exclusive society featured an unexpected pair of guests last week.

Two freshmen.

While many of their older teammates ate off of paper plates, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and receiver Johnnie Dixon were with coach Urban Meyer’s highest-achieving veterans — the Champion’s Club — enjoying steak dinners at the Fawcett Center.

“I don't know if we've ever really had freshmen make Champion’s Club, and that’s on purpose,” Meyer said. “But they’re guys that are over 3.0 students, take care of their business, act like pros, act like grown men.”

On Monday, the frosh-veteran divide only broke down further as the Buckeyes opened preseason camp.

With music thumping at the team’s outdoor complex McMillan and Dixon participated in the later, more advanced of two practice sessions. The other first-year players were indoctrinated in the morning.

Their inclusion validated the hype around the five-star McMillan and Dixon, sure. But more than anything, it underscored one of the biggest themes of camp: The freshmen have to be a bigger part of the team this year.

Last year, despite Meyer’s enduring and vocal anti-redshirt platform, 15 members of a hyped freshmen class did just that — including five-star receiver Jalin Marshall and five-star cornerback Eli Apple. Another heralded prospect, five-star safety Vonn Bell, did see significant time until the Orange Bowl.

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

This year, with another top-five recruiting class on campus, he said that needs to change.

“I’m really impressed with the freshman class,” he said. “Just the body types of [linebackers] Dante Booker, Kyle Berger, Sam Hubbard, all the way to [receivers] Noah Brown and Parris Campbell — long athletes. And you have [cornerbacks] Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith. We’re going to try and get those guys ready to play.”

Then there’s McMillan and Dixon, two headliners who enrolled at OSU in January. The four-star Dixon will be in the fray at receiver while McMillan, a Georgia native ranked among the nation’s top recruits, is expected to challenge senior Curtis Grant for the starting middle linebacker position.

“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.”

SPRINKLE REINSTATED: Defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle is back on the team — though not without conditions — after pleading no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge for his role in a bar brawl last month.

Meyer removed Sprinkle from the program after the second-year backup was charged with cocaine possession, rioting, and failure to disperse. Prosecutors dropped the cocaine charge, though, after Sprinkle reportedly passed a drug test following his release from jail. He entered a no-contest plea last week to a charge of attempted failure to comply.

Sprinkle has been taken off scholarship for the summer semester and will be suspended for the season opener Aug. 30 against Navy.

Contact David Briggs at:

dbriggs@theblade.com,

419-724-6084 or on

Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.



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