Early Enrollees Adjusting To College Life

For seven members of Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class, the allure of starting their college careers early was too much to resist. Those Buckeyes are hoping their head start will pay off down the line.

It is never easy going from the so-called big man on campus to a small fish in a little pond.

Idioms aside, that is life for the seven early enrollees who officially joined the Ohio State football team in January. With their productive high school careers finished, quarterback Stephen Collier, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, offensive lineman Marcelys Jones, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, kicker Sean Nuernberger, halfback Curtis Samuel and offensive lineman Kyle Trout had moved on to life as a college student.

Two of the group, Dixon and McMillan, met with the media on Signing Day and talked about the adjustments the early enrollees have had to undergo.

"(The adjustment to college life) hasn't been too bad for me," said Dixon, a product of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer. "It hasn't been to rough. Getting to classes was new to me. They're so far apart, and the times are different from high school. There, it's class after class after class. Here, it's class, then you've got a break and then another class.

"We've been working hard, too, in the weight room and on the field running."

Another Southerner, from Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County, McMillan has also attempted to quickly adapt to his new surroundings.

"It's a total change," he said. "The workouts, the time that we spend at the Woody (Hayes Athletic Center), the time that we spend academically, everything's a culture shock. But if you want to be great, you have to put in the time."

Student-athletes enrolling early is not a new phenomenon, but it is a trend that seems to be growing. The seven newest Buckeyes represent 30.4 percent of the 23 members of Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class.

Dixon and McMillan said the decision to start their collegiate lives early will provide noticeable benefits. McMillan, for example, already has his eyes set on spring practice. Enrolling early helps him get a head start on preparations.

"In the last couple of years, you see in spring ball that the guys who do well and thrive during spring ball are the ones who play," said McMillan, the 2013 Butkus Award winner as the top high school linebacker in the country.

Added Dixon: "I feel like there's so much (to benefit from) right now, from the weight room to getting into the running already. You already know how it's going to be like later on."

Both Dixon and McMillan were highly-touted prospects. Both earned four-star ratings from Scout.com, but they both know none of their high school accolades matter anymore. For the newcomers, it is a clean slate.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer reiterated on Signing Day his preference to have incoming freshman not redshirt and contribute right away. Both Dixon and McMillan want to do just that. They both play positions – wide receiver and linebacker – that have not been strengths for the Buckeyes in recent years.

"Every day I come in with a mindset that the five-star stuff and the high school stuff doesn't matter anymore," McMillan said. "All of that can be thrown in a trash can because I'm just a freshman in college right now. We got here in January and nobody knew us on the football team. I had to come in and work hard just like everybody else and make a name for myself so I can be on the field."

Dixon said his NFL aspirations made Ohio State the right place for him, and he wanted to get started on reaching that goal right away by becoming a quick contributor on the field.

"I feel like if I work hard enough, I can see the field and make an impact," Dixon said.

One adjustment both Dixon and McMillan had to quickly make was getting used to snow and cold Midwestern weather. Dixon had last seen snow in 2013 on a trip to New Jersey with friends but needed to do plenty of shopping before heading north.

"I had to buy lots of clothes," Dixon said. "I really didn't wear coats down in Florida. It was just gym pants every day for me."

Added McMillan: "It's not really hard because if you really want to be somewhere, you're going to go regardless of what temperature it is or how much it snows outside. Once you fall in love with a place, you want to be there all the time."

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