Big 10

Despite Offseason Controversies, Urban Meyer Remains Big Ten’s Best Recruiter

May 11, 2016

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Although college football has entered the quietest portion of its offseason, Urban Meyer‘s name has made a habit of staying in the headlines recently.

And not necessarily for the best of reasons.

While satellite camp announcements have seemed to be the only consistent mainstay in the college football news cycle this spring, the Ohio State Buckeyes head coach has come under attack publicly not once, but twice from prospects whom the Buckeyes once had interest in but ultimately didn’t land.

The result has been a pair of mini-controversies during a particularly slow period on the sport’s calendar, which when combined with one another, have made Meyer’s notoriously aggressive recruiting approach a hot topic of conversation.

Yet despite the negative press, Ohio State has never been hotter on the recruiting trail.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Just look at the recruiting rankings, where the Buckeyes currently lay claim to the nation’s top-ranked 2017 class.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it based on a pair of recent interviews on SECCountry.com, the first of which ran in early April. In a Q&A with David Collier, 2016 Kentucky signee and 4-star offensive tackle Landon Young recalled his recruitment, where he claimed to be “treated like crap” by Ohio State’s three-time national championship head coach.

In particular, the Lexington, Kentucky, native took issue with Meyer’s response to an inquiry about why the Buckeyes waited so long to offer him after he had previously attended a camp in Columbus.

[Meyer] said, “Well, if you look back at that time, you were how big?” I said, “6’7″, 270, just like I am now.” He said, “Well, you were an insubstantial tackle, an insubstantial player,” so he was saying I [didn’t] even amount to being able to be recruited by Ohio State as a 4-star tackle. He said, “Now what offers did you have?” I said, “I had my one from Kentucky,” and he said, “Well, you were an insubstantial player with insubstantial offers from an insubstantial school.”

That sort of put me on a bad note because that’s the team I’m committed to.

From there, it didn’t take long for the “Recruit Says ‘Urban Meyer Treated Me Like Crap‘” headlines to spread across the Twittersphere like a rash.

Approached with the accusation at a spring practice press conference, the Buckeyes head coach admitted he saw the story. And while he defended himself, he also said he’d examine his program’s philosophy when it comes to such matters.

“I was very disappointed in our staff that we didn’t offer him earlier,” Meyer said of Young. “Then about the treatment thing, we don’t do that on purpose, if that’s his feelings. I went back and talked to our staff about it because we don’t want that out there. But when you have one out of 650 [prospects] that say someone is treated bad—you know?”

A couple of days later, Young took to Twitter to issue a public apology to Meyer.

Crisis adverted.

Or so Meyer thought.

Just a few weeks later, former Ohio State commit and 2017 4-star receiver Bruce Judson gave an interview to the same site Young did, SECCountry.com. Speaking to Zach Abolverdi, the Cocoa, Florida, product explained his reasoning for de-committing from the Buckeyes last October, which included an anecdote about Meyer not even knowing who he was as he showed fellow 2017 prospect Richard LeCounte III around Ohio State on a visit.

[Meyer] was like, “How you doing, you like your visit?” I said, “Yeah.” Then he’s like, “What up Richard LeCounte? Are you showing this guy around?,” I was like, “Coach, I’m showing him around.” He asked me, “Who are you?” I told him Bruce. He said, “Oh, Bruce Judson from Florida. The speedy guy.” I was like, “Yeah.” He said, “I’m glad that you’re on board and glad you got up here.” After that, I knew I was de-committing.

Cue the negative headlines and this time, make them double. Aside from this offseason’s satellite camp calendar unfolding, there isn’t much to talk about in college football this time of year.

But while he has yet to take part in a public forum since Judson’s interview ran on May 5, Meyer has hardly needed to defend his actions. At this point in his coaching career, the Buckeyes head coach’s track record speaks for itself, particularly when it comes to his recruiting.

Since arriving in Columbus in 2012, no coach in the Big Ten has been able to rival Meyer on the recruiting trail—not even Michigan Wolverine head coach Jim Harbaugh, for all the attention his own controversial tactics have garnered at Michigan.

But before Harbaugh was making noise with spring practices in Florida and satellite camps in Australia, it was Meyer ruffling feathers by ignoring unwritten rules about recruiting prospects already committed elsewhere in the conference.

“I honestly think prior to Urban Meyer arriving in the Big Ten, a lot of the recruiting was very basic. There was a feeling of some sort of gentlemen’s agreement where, ‘We are the Big Ten and this is the way that we recruit,'” Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell told Bleacher Report.

“[Former Wisconsin coach] Bret Bielema went nuts about Urban Meyer stealing his recruits and stuff like that. I don’t think they really looked into how things are done elsewhere, which is pushing limits and really being aggressive.”

A step ahead of his in-conference competition after six years in the ruthless recruiting land that is the SEC, Meyer has signed five top-seven nationally ranked classes at Ohio State—each one ranking the highest in the Big Ten in its respective year.

And for all the hubbub about Young and Judson’s comments, Meyer isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. Already, his 2017 class is drawing comparisons to his 2013 haul, which helped catapult the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Playoff championship in 2014.

That class also played a key role in Ohio State dominating the conversation of the NFL draft from a college football perspective, with five first-rounders and 12 overall players picked during last month’s selection show. That gave Meyer an equalizer—and them some—to use against any negative publicity this offseason has brought, as the Buckeyes’ recent pipeline to the NFL has served as one of his most potent recruiting weapons.

“It was like a three-hour infomercial for our program,” Meyer said of his program’s heavy first round presence as he served as a guest analyst for the NFL Network during the second day of the draft.

A three-hour informercial on national television is always going to sell better than a couple of viral stories that hit the web during the doldrums of the college football offseason. As for the tiffs caused by the pair of SECCountry.com interviews, consider them the price of doing business for one of college football’s most aggressive—and successful—recruiters.

It’s tough to argue with the methods, as Meyer remains unmatched on the Big Ten recruiting trail.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report’s Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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