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Ohio State Football: 3 Buckeyes Who Could Surprise People This Spring

September 29, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Michael Thomas (83) after the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Ohio State won 17-16       Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

Spring practice kicked off for Ohio State on Tuesday, marking the official start of the 2014 season.

The 15 practice sessions will provide Urban Meyer and the coaching staff with an opportunity to evaluate the roster while trying to piece together the first installment of the 2014 depth chart.

While Ohio State has a lot of talented and experienced players returning, it needs to identify 10 new starters.

These three players haven't seen much of the field during their collegiate careers, but a strong showing this spring could propel them into big roles this fall.

 

Johnnie Dixon, WR

Ohio State needs to replace Corey Brown, who led the team in receptions and receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. Brown paced the Buckeyes' receiving corps with his solid route running and sure hands.

Those are the attributes Johnnie Dixon can offer.

The true freshman enrolled early to take part in spring drills. His top priority should be learning the playbook, but Dixon—who will wear the No. 1 jersey that Dontre Wilson sported last year—showed he has the athleticism to play on Tuesday.

If the former 4-star recruit can mentally grasp his role, he'll make a big impact this fall.

 

Darron Lee, LB

While much of the attention will be on 5-star freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan, an early enrollee, Darron Lee has a great opportunity to lock down a starting spot.

The sophomore from New Albany, Ohio, came out of high school as a 3-star quarterback and safety prospect, but he added some weight during his freshman season last year and moved to linebacker.

Darron Lee played quarterback at high school, but he made the switch to defense for Ohio State.
Darron Lee played quarterback at high school, but he made the switch to defense for Ohio State.Credit: 247Sports

According to Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer, Meyer said Lee's emergence began at the end of last season and extended throughout the winter workouts. 

The Buckeyes return Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, but they need to identify a third linebacker to replace first-team All-American Ryan Shazier.

With the momentum Lee has gained, it appears that he's well on his way to earning a starting role.

 

Michael Thomas, WR

In Ohio State's two losses last season, the receiving corps—with the exception of Corey Brown—was nearly a no-show.

Outside of Brown's contributions, the other Buckeyes receivers had a grand total of four catches for 11 yards against Michigan State and Clemson.

That just didn't sit right with Michael Thomas.

Ramzy Nasrallah of Eleven Warriors recapped a since-deleted Twitter rant from Thomas, who sharply criticized the Buckeyes' receivers for their lack of production.

Coming off a redshirt season in 2013, he'll be trying to provide a spark that the offense lacked last year.

Thomas has all the physical tools to be an outstanding receiver. The 6'3", 202-pound standout is a rangy athlete who can high-point the tough catches. According to his team profile, Thomas caught 86 passes for a 1,656 yards (a state high in California) and 21 touchdowns during his senior season of high school.

Thomas can show he has the skill to back up his wordsor tweetsand become a major piece of the 2014 offense.

 

All stats via Ohio State's official website. All recruit rankings via 247Sports.com.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.

Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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