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Aug. 4, 2017

by Chris Cullum | Athletics Communications Assistant

Earlier this week, head coach Urban Meyer referred to his crop of wide receivers as one of the best groups he’s ever been around, culturally speaking. Later in the week, wide receivers coach Zach Smith said the culture around his group has gotten even better during this offseason, and it starts with Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin.

“Coach Mick, four years ago, grabbed me in the middle of one of our two-a-days and he said `Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin will change your room’,” Smith said. “You saw it within them back then and now it’s come to fruition; it’s really fun to watch.”

As we inch closer to the start of the 2017 season, Campbell and McLaurin appear to be the next men up for a wide receiver group that lost its top three pass catchers from last season. Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown, and Dontre Wilson accounted for 133 receptions last season, leaving a lot of touches up for grabs heading into this year. As the two most experienced receivers on the roster, Campbell and McLaurin will be expected to soak up a lot of those yards that are there for the taking.

Nevermind the fact that they combined for just 24 catches last year, and had four games with more than one reception; as far as that’s concerned, you might as well be talking about two completely different players. That’s what an offseason’s worth of training and growth can do for a player’s outlook.

“A lot better,” Smith said when asked about how much better Campbell and McLaurin can be in 2017 compared to past seasons. “The improvement from the end of fall to right now has been night and day. It’s been constant development. What happens with a lot of kids is they think they’re training hard, they think they’re working on their game, they think they’re acting like a pro, but when it comes time it doesn’t happen for them. And after going through that struggle of not realizing their expectations, there’s a different motivation and a different level of commitment to training. They’ve had that all offseason.”

As far as Campbell goes, he’ll look to take over at H-back a year after Samuel provided the Buckeyes with production all over the field. But don’t look for a Samuel clone on the gridiron this fall: “I’m not Curtis Samuel, but I’m definitely the H-back in this offense,” Campbell said when asked about his role.

“This is his time to go be that guy,” Smith said of his offensive weapon. “He’s always been a role player, always been a really good player, but he’s never had to be the guy. We had Michael Thomas, we had Curtis Samuel, now it’s Parris’s turn to be the guy on offense.”

McLaurin on the other hand will look to slot in at the Z, where he’ll be counted on to beat man coverage. After catching 11 balls and hauling in a pair of touchdowns in 2016 he’ll be looking for, and will be expected to deliver, a much larger role in the offense. It’s a task he’s ready to handle; maybe sometimes a little too ready.

“When I get out there the coaches have to calm me down because I get so excited,” McLaurin said. “I want this so bad, I care about this team so much and I care about our guys.”

Another thing McLaurin cares about? Getting his hands on the football.

“The difference with me this year is I got an attitude,” the junior said about his mindset coming into this season. “I’m not accepting being average. Every time that ball is in the air, it’s mine. No excuses.”

For a unit that has seen six players drafted to the NFL over the last two years and others depart via graduation, the need for Campbell and McLaurin to step up is paramount. Expectations for the two Buckeyes will be high, from both themselves and their coaching staff. Their day is coming, and it’s one they’ve been preparing for since they came to Columbus

“When Terry and I came in, probably the second week of summer workouts, he (Coach Marotti) came up to us and said we were going to change the culture in the wide receiver room,” Campbell said, echoing the same anecdote Smith spoke of just minutes earlier.

There will be catches, touchdowns, and big plays to be had in 2017; expect Campbell and McLaurin to fill all three of those categories for Ohio State this season.