Tested and Proven, Zone 6 Returns Intact — So Now What?

Parris Campbell Ohio State Football Buckeyes


Today is the final day for college football’s underclassmen to declare for the NFL, and as long as nothing changes, the same group of Buckeye receivers who practiced during bowl prep will also be practicing during spring camp.

In other words, everybody in Zone 6 is back once again.

The transfer of 2017 freshman Trevon Grimes (2 games played) keeps this from being a completely clean sweep, but for all intents and purposes, the entire band is back together and they’re currently in the studio working on a new album for this fall.

H-back Parris Campbell and wideout Johnnie Dixon announced their returns last week, which gives the Buckeyes two of the most-explosive receivers in the Big Ten.

H-back K.J. Hill and wideout Terry McLaurin haven’t yet announced their return, so they could still spoil the party, but both are expected back. And both would be critical to Ohio State’s success in 2018.

Hill led the Buckeyes with 56 receptions out of the slot this season, and McLaurin is the Evan Spencer of this group, but more productive as a pass catcher.

If you’re going to break in a new starting quarterback, returning nine receivers who caught passes a season ago is a pretty good way to go about it.

Five of those players — Campbell, Dixon, McLaurin, Binjimen Victor, and C.J. Saunders — had receptions of at least 40 yards this past season, which is the most for any one team in the Big Ten. And now they’ll be adding Demario McCall into the mix at H-back following a redshirt this past season.

McCall is making the transition from running back to H-back, and while he is going to have some talented players in front of him, he showed in 2016 — and 2017 when he was healthy — that he was capable of big plays. Even in limited play, McCall has four plays of 30+ yards in his career. That will grow in 2018.

Rising juniors Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor will continue to solidify the X position. They combined for 47 receptions, 692 yards receiving, and nine touchdowns in 2017. That’s a pretty good year from a talented duo. Rising sophomore Jaylen Harris will try to get into that mix in 2018, as may redshirt freshman Ellijah Gardiner and incoming freshman L’Christian “Blue” Smith.

Ohio State entered 2017 needing to find an X receiver that they can rely on. Both Victor and Mack had their moments, and there will be many more moments to come.

On the other side, Dixon and McLaurin provided some pretty big plays, combining for 47 catches, 858 yards, and 14 touchdowns. That’s a very productive year from the Z receiver, and with an increased usage of the deep passing game in 2018, those numbers are only going to go up.

Dixon and McLaurin will also have some company from the likes of incoming freshmen Kamryn Babb and Cameron Brown, but snaps for true freshman are going to be hard to find with so many players coming back.

And we still haven’t talked enough about what the return of Parris Campbell means to the Buckeyes. Only Penn State running back Saquon Barkley had more plays of 50 yards or more than Campbell’s five in the Big Ten this past season.

Nobody else on the Ohio State roster can do what Campbell can do with the football in his hands. He gets more corners than Starbucks. He can turn a hand-off or a quick screen into a long nightmare for the opposing defense. He has elite speed and the strength to break tackles. Expect him to be heavily involved in the offense in 2018.

The bad news for the Buckeyes, however, is that there are only so many footballs to go around next season.

Still, returning made sense for all involved. No receiver on the Ohio State roster is a finished product yet, and they know that. There are a number of areas where they can each improve, and that will all be part of their individual journeys in 2018.

Together, however, they could put the Buckeyes on the path to yet another Big Ten title, if not much, much more.


9 Responses

  1. I still think Victor is a horrible receiver and with all of the talent in “Zone 6” he and Gardiner are not needed. I will take a receiver who can block and has good hands over someone who has minimal abilities like Victor. NOT impressed. Been around the game a long time.

  2. James Mills, Who the heck is Roberto Duran. Do not believe we have a wide receiver by that name. I firmly believe Duran is a boxer. Also C. J. Saunders Is a wide receiver not an offensive lineman. You really know The Ohio State University Buckeyes football team don’t you?? Also who is CEO Meyers? I believe his name is Head Coach Urban Meyer. Be more respectful of the coach who has brought respectablity back to OSU Football. I am sure you were crifitcal of Woody (if you were around then) and Earle and Tressel. Wow some fan you are. Know your facts before to post comments like yours.

  3. I look for Victor and/or Gardiner to transfer. Mack is too good to keep off the field as is Jaylen Harris. Victor has big shortcomings, one is hanging onto the ball. With Hill, Campbell, Mack, McLaurin, Dixon, and Harris as well as McCall(he may transfer as well) and with the incoming Freshman, there is simply no room for Victor and/or Gardiner. Have never been impressed with Victor. He cannot block to save his backside.

    1. I think KJ Hill, Austin Mack, Terry McLaurin and Johnny Dixon are all excellent receivers. They make plays when the quarterback actually delivers the ball to them on time. Roberto Duran isn’t much of a receiver. Actually he’s proven to be a lousy vertical receiver. Good at the line of scrimmage or inside the box and dangerous once the ball is in his hands in that range. Speed to burn. Just not a receiver. A playmaker? Yep.

      McCall before getting banged up a little proved that he was capable of running wheel routes and we know he’s a burner. Maybe even faster than Roberto.

      We really only have HS highlights of Jaylen Harris. I projected him as a future star and I won’t change that opinion. Not the fastest receiver but he has tremendous hands and his route running is exceptional. I think the hardest part for him has been trying to learn to run dink and dunk running back release routes as opposed to what he’s used to in actual receiver routes he learned in HS. Yep I said it. His HS route tree was FAR superior to what Ohio State runs. CEO Meyers receivers are offensive linemen first and then dink and dunk drop off catchers. SO much talent being wasted at receiver. Of course we want receivers who can block, but right now that is their primary occupation.

      Example is CJ Saunders. Yep, he’s a walk-on. Yep he’s an outstanding receiver. But he doesn’t project into CEO Meyers ideal of offensive lineman. He says he needs to get bigger and stronger. Through natural course in winter and summer conditioning, of course. But to force it on a guy who simply catches passes at a high level is counter productive IMHO. We don’t want linemen who can catch out there. We want receivers who can also block. The receiver aspect of the position should be the priority. BUT again. What has it mattered over the past few years with a quarterback unable to exploit their talent.

      I don’t have any idea what is up with Ben Victor. Immense potential and he still hasn’t figured out how to catch the ball away from his body consistently. His height should make him a nightmare matchup for defenders. Part of the problem has definitely been the accuracy issues with JT Barrett. Maybe with a decent passer he can emerge.

      The Buckeyes have had no shortage of outstanding receivers. Just a lack of a quality passer and a more open play selection philosophy. The CEO has almost perfect JT Barrett clone in Tate Martell, but I think even the player roster is getting tired of dink and dunk offense that doesn’t exploit the full range of player talent, especially out wide for the vertical game.

      Bad practice to project players to transfer.

      With Dwayne Haskins or Joey Burrow starting every receiver should get an opportunity to do what they were recruited to do. Be a receiver. If Tate becomes the starter nothing will change in the Buckeye passing game from what its been the last several years. I know………..all those JT records. They look pretty on a resume’ but they don’t tell anything even close to the story. Tate IS a better passer than JT but will the CEO open up his philosophy to exploit those skills or keep hiding behind dink and dunk and the old faithful security blanket? I’m taking the return of guys like Johnny Dixon, Terry McLaurin and, KJ Hill as a sign that they know something we don’t know. That being that the offense is going to undergo massive changes for 2018 and they are actually going to have the opportunity to audition for the NFL as receivers other than linemen. Their money seems to be on Dwayne or Joey winning the start.

  4. “Zone 6,” “Zone 8,9, 10, whatever” doesn’t mean a darn thing without a consistent, pass-first QB who can hit receivers downfield. When defenders don’t respect your arm it doesn’t matter how many weapons you have.

    1. Listen to Charlie. He’s exactly right. Lessor teams still have difficulty matching up with the talent gap and even JT with his weak arm could exploit them. Better rosters burn Meyers offense and JT’s arm to the ground. All the DC has to do is match receivers with just a couple yard variance and JT isn’t going to throw the ball their way. So they lock them up and collapse the box which tends to stifle to offense altogether.

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