The secret is out. Terry McLaurin has a nasty streak.
Actually, several Ohio State receivers seem to be playing with an edge, something coach Urban Meyer encourages.
“I think coach Meyer is trying to drive that in everybody, really,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said Thursday as the Buckeyes prepared for Maryland on Saturday. “What we’re talking about is it’s OK to be, you know, nasty or kind of gritty, and have something to you when it comes to playing football.
“Then outside when we go to class and go about daily social activities you can be a nice guy, but you don’t have to be nice on the football field. … I think that’s something the receivers are showing.”
None more so than McLaurin, who until his vicious block on a Rutgers defensive back last week had never shown that side in a game. He said he was getting even for a cheap shot earlier in the game.
“Coach Meyer kind of has a saying, ‘There’s no negotiating with a wild dog inside the lines of play,’ ” McLaurin said. “I kind of approach it that way. … I like to play with that aggression, but I’ve just got to be smart on the tail end of it.”
He said the Rutgers defensive back told him “We’re even” after the play. But the usually polite McLaurin showed no remorse despite two 15-yard penalties (unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct). The fury of his play did not surprise his teammates.
“I see it from him every day,” said fellow receiver Johnnie Dixon, who had two touchdown catches at Rutgers. “When he wants to flip that switch to be not a nice guy, he can switch it.”
McLaurin led the team with five catches last week, and his fire was indicative of the receivers as a whole.
“They’re grinders, they’re not complainers,” Meyer said. “They’re the most selfless group — for me to say, ever (in his coaching career), they might be ever. That’s a pretty bold statement because 2014 was/became a selfless group.”
But this year’s bunch was seen going into the season as a remnant from an underachieving corps in 2016. Can they separate from defenders? Can they catch the ball consistently? Will they block?
With Parris Campbell, McLaurin and Dixon leading the way, they’ve checked almost all of those boxes the past three weeks against inferior opponents after all but disappearing in a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma in week two. So judgment on whether their improvement is real will have to wait for more evidence.
But the attitude appears to be real.
“We’re taking everything day by day, but we’ve got to be more aggressive when it comes to the games and stuff like that,” Dixon said. “There’s a lot of people doubting us. That pushes us a little more to go beyond.”