COLUMBUS — Ohio State and Urban Meyer had the benefit of retaining a mature trio of wide receivers over the last few seasons in Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon. At some point in their careers, all three saw their opportunity to leave early for a shot at the next level, but none of them felt that is was the time to go and decided to return to Columbus for another year.
That, however, can no longer happen as they all played their finals snaps for the Scarlet and Gray last season and sent Meyer out with his seventh-straight win in The Game, a second-consecutive Big Ten Championship and his first-ever Rose Bowl title.
Now, all three will head back to Lucas Oil Stadium in just under two weeks to show their skills at the NFL Combine as they try to raise their stock ahead of the NFL Draft in late April. Campbell and McLaurin are already being projected as early-round selections, but it seems like the conversation about Dixon is lacking.
So, Lettermen Row is taking a closer look at Dixon, what he brings to the table and why he is being slept on despite being one of the great Ohio State receivers in recent memory.
Johnnie Dixon is a clinical route runner
Obviously, to be a successful receiver at any level, a player has to have the talent and skill to be able to compete. But the one part of being a wide receiver that can literally set him apart from the competition is how well the player runs their routes — and that is where Dixon truly excels.
After dealing with knee issues his first few seasons, Dixon finally had the opportunity to get significant playing time during his redshirt junior season. That year, he caught 18 balls for 422 yards and eight touchdowns and led the team in the yards-per-catch category at just over 23 yards. Brian Hartline took over Zone 6 heading into Dixon’s final year and brought route running to the forefront, and it seemed to help Dixon as more than doubled his catches and racked up over 200 yards more than the season before.
He has the speed, he has the hands, but an NFL franchise should be sold on Dixon just by looking at how he just blows by people.
Johnnie Dixon gives non-stop effort
Any team looking to draft a receiver will, of course, be looking for the best prospect for their franchise. For Johnnie Dixon, though, his persistent effort on every rep is a rare quality for any player at any level and could be a reason he is selected in April.
People seemed to always know that the West Palm Beach, Florida-native was going to be special, and whether it was a drill at practice or a fourth down against Michigan, Dixon was always giving maximum effort. Two plays that stand out from this past season encapsulate who he is as a player: In matchups with Oregon State and Penn State, after Dwayne Haskins interceptions, Dixon nearly ran a combined 70 yards to chase down the ball carrier on both occasions.
If just those two occurrences don’t make teams interested in Dixon’s work rate and his will to not quit on a play, I’m not so sure what they’re looking for.
Johnnie Dixon doesn’t need the ball to make plays
Scoring touchdowns is what every receiver is obviously trying to do each time they touch the ball. However, Johnnie Dixon and seeming like every member of Zone 6 learned wide receivers don’t have to be making catches to be making plays for Ohio State.
Consistent effort is never an issue with Dixon. And when he’s not preventing pick-sixes, he is clearing lanes for his teammates downfield to get to the end zone. His blocking was evident throughout his career with the Buckeyes, especially his final season, but none was likely as important as the final seal to allow Binjimen Victor to jog into the end zone and kick off the comeback in Happy Valley last year.
Putting points on the board and racking up yards is the ultimate goal, but as Dixon has shown, receivers can do just as much without the ball.
Johnnie Dixon is a deep threat
Sure, his former teammate and good friend Parris Campbell may get the recognition for his unbelievable speed, but Johnnie Dixon has some speed of his own. And combined with that footwork and route running, is a nightmare to cover down the field.
Getting an advantage at the snap of the ball is something Brian Hartline and Ohio State have a major focus on with the receivers group, but that only goes so far if the defender is able to catch up soon thereafter. However, with Dixon, his skill set allows him to be a major focus as a deep-ball threat for defensive backs, and he put that on display multiple times last season.
It didn’t matter the situation — during a blowout loss at Purdue or a vital catch in the fourth quarter of the Big Ten Championship — Dixon was a threat down the field. And that aspect of his game makes him a dangerous NFL prospect.
Johnnie Dixon is a leader by nature
As Lettermen Row found out last summer, Johnnie Dixon is a man of many talents. But a quality that made the former Ohio State receiver so key for the program since his arrival was his ability to lead and be a role model for others on and off the field.
The former four-star prospect was seen as a top recruit coming into Columbus, but dealt with serious tendinitis and arthritis in his knees the first three seasons which nearly caused him to quit the game in 2016. Dixon, though, fought through the adversity and ultimately had two excellent statistical seasons to close out his Ohio State career to leave a legacy with the rest of Zone 6. During that final year, he was named a captain, became a father and helped lead the program to another conference crown and Rose Bowl title in Urban Meyer’s final season.
Through it all, Dixon continued to show why so many people in and out of the program look up to him as a player and a person — and NFL teams are always looking for a leader.