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Football: Dixon, Burrow and McLaurin shine in spring game

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OSU redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon hauls in a touchdown reception during the 2017 spring game. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

Though points were hard to come by for Ohio State the last time the Buckeyes stepped on the field, scoring was plentiful on Saturday during the Scarlet’s 38-31 victory in the 2017 spring game.

Redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett wasted no time as he led the Team Gray offense down the field on the first possession, hitting redshirt sophomore tight end A.J. Alexander in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.

Alexander and redshirt junior wide receiver Parris Campbell were Barrett’s favorite targets Saturday afternoon. Alexander caught four passes for 36 yards while Campbell reeled in five passes for 46 yards. Barrett completed 8-of-12 passes for 71 yards including the aforementioned touchdown.

In the first, with Barrett and the starters in the game, OSU played a glorified game of two-hand touch, not wanting to injure key players.

“It’s either you don’t play some guys or you kind of restrict the tackling and keep guys up,” Meyer said. “And I wanted them to experience the crowd and play and finish a good spring.”

On the starting quarterback’s last play of the day, redshirt sophomore cornerback Damon Arnette intercepted his pass when redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard pushed an offensive lineman into Barrett. The quarterback subbed out after just one quarter and three offensive possessions.

Questions remain about whether the addition of co-offensive coordinators Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day can improve the deep passing game. But the spring game provided reason for optimism.

“It went very well,” Barrett said. “Before, we were just shooting them. We weren’t necessarily making them at first. But then, with (wide receivers) coach (Zach) Smith and (quarterbacks) coach Day, just really finding landmarks for those throws.”

The duo of quarterbacks battling to win the backup spot behind Barrett, redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow and redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins, took full advantage of their opportunities. Burrow completed 14-of-22 passes for 262 yards and Haskins went 26-of-37 for 293 yards.

Meyer acknowledged the tight competition after the game and was not ready to determine who will act as Barrett’s backup in the fall.

“I want to watch the film and have conversations with our coaches. We haven’t had that yet. I know it is very close, but I’m not prepared to say who is 2, who is 3, et cetera, yet,” Meyer said.

Burrow completed three touchdowns in the five minute window late in the first quarter and early second quarter.

“Obviously the focus on deep balls this spring was high and I think we got a lot better, a lot more accurate this spring,” Burrow said.

Team Scarlet redshirt junior wideout Johnnie Dixon and Team Gray redshirt junior receiver Terry McLaurin caught two touchdowns apiece. Dixon caught six passes for a game-high 108 yards.

Dixon, who has dealt with knee issues since arriving in Columbus, was one of the most encouraging signs for the OSU offense.

“I was so happy to see him have great success today, because we really need him,” Meyer said. “And he just has to have a great summer. So he stayed healthy. That’s the most important thing.”

Junior wide receiver Eric Glover-Williams led Team Gray with seven catches for 64 yards.

Of the teams’ combined 105 plays, 74 were passes.

Even redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber got in the action as he tossed a 17-yard pass to Barrett in the first quarter. Weber rushed just five times for 13 yards. Redshirt freshman Demario McCall led both teams in rushing as he took six carries for 83 yards.

Freshman quarterback Tate Martell played for the first time as a Buckeye, taking his first play from scrimmage up the middle for a 5-yard rushing touchdown.

OSU capped off the game with Jacob Jarvis, a team inspiration who suffers from muscular dystrophy and is a mainstay on the sidelines, driving his wheelchair across the goal line for the final score as time expired. The team quickly surrounded him in the endzone. OSU coach Urban Meyer said senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes and redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis approached him with the idea.

He has a lot of love for us and we love him back. It’s just a real spiritual feeling that you can’t really explain,” Lewis said.

While there were no play-stopping injuries during the game, senior left tackle Jamarco Jones unexpectedly sat out.

“It was a beautiful day. Got a lot of work done. The best thing was we’re injury-free today,” Meyer said.

Spring game festivities took place outside the whistles as well. Before the game, the Buckeyes gathered at the 50-yard line for the circle drill. Then, during halftime, students raced against senior wide receiver Elijaah Goins and competed in passing drills against Barrett, Burrow, Haskins and former OSU quarterback Cardale Jones and H-back Curtis Samuel.

Former OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott, defensive end Joey Bosa and safety Tyvis Powell were among the former Buckeyes in attendance for Saturday’s game.

OSU opens the 2017 season in Bloomington, Indiana on Aug. 31, when the Buckeyes travel west to take on the Indiana Hoosiers.

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