May 10, 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer established himself as one of college football’s premier closers on the recruiting trail during last decade’s successful stretch with the Florida Gators.
Now approaching his fifth season in Columbus, Meyer continues to attract America’s top talent. The three-time national champion has secured a top-10 recruiting class each national signing day since he arrived at OSU, with the Buckeyes bringing in four top-five hauls and never finishing lower than No. 7 overall in 247Sports’ composite class rankings.
A top-ranked class has eluded Ohio State—and every other college program aside from one–during this impressive span. Alabama, led by Meyer’s most notable coaching contemporary in Nick Saban, is riding an unprecedented six-year streak of No. 1 classes.
Still nine months shy of next national signing day, Ohio State is sitting atop national class rankings and in excellent shape to finally steal the Crimson Tide’s recruiting crown. No coaching staff has accumulated more blue-chip commitments than the Buckeyes for 2017.
“It’s developed to become one of the best classes Ohio State has seen, and we’re not done yet,” 4-star pledge and Ohio State legacy Brendon White told Bleacher Report. “I want every great athlete to join us because that creates great competition.”
Rest assured, further reinforcements are on the way for a group that already boasts a pair of 5-star prospects and 10 4-star athletes, totals unsurpassed on the 2017 recruiting trail. Several standout players across America are taking long looks at a Buckeyes class that includes 10 percent of the nation’s top 60 overall high school juniors, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.
“It’s been awesome to watch this thing kind of snowball since I committed [in January 2015],” No. 1 offensive tackle recruit Josh Myers said. “These huge commitments keep coming. We have an incredible group of talent at practically every position.”
The Buckeyes boast six pledges considered top-three overall prospects at their respective positions, and no commitment falls outside the top 25 in that category.
As the table above illustrates, this is a regionally diverse collection of athletes. The class is represented by seven states, ranging from the product of a Las Vegas powerhouse (defensive tackle Haskell Garrett) to a linebacker attending high school in enemy territory (Ann Arbor linebacker Antjuan Simmons).
For now, the potential collective impact of these players is simply a projection. Verbal commitments aren’t binding for the Buckeyes or the celebrated teenagers, but it’s difficult to ignore the promise, even if things won’t come to fruition until summer 2017.
“When we get to campus and actually start practicing, people are going to see we’re ready to chase championships,” White said. “That’s when it’s time for us to come together, work hard and find out where this journey takes us.”
The journey began three years ago for Akron quarterback Danny Clark, who kicked off Ohio State’s rewarding 2017 recruiting cycle when he committed midway through his freshman year. The Archbishop Hoban High School star has spent his prep career targeting elite peers to join him in Columbus.
“If you’re playing a backyard football game, you’re going to get the best players in your neighborhood,” he said. “You don’t want to go into a game with scrubs. We find kids with serious talent, and we go after them. That’s all there is to it.”
It’s a sentiment that’s far easier said than done for most college coaches. This is where Meyer, a legend in the eyes of young playmakers who grew up watching him hoist championship trophies with two storied programs, makes all the difference.
“He’s as big as it gets,” Myers said. “Coach Meyer is literally a king in his castle. He’s straight-up famous but acts normal and treats people like he truly cares, which creates a feeling of comfort on campus.”
The future Hall of Famer carries a 50-4 record through four seasons at Ohio State, has helped multiple assistants land head coaching jobs and, most importantly in the eyes of recruits, can point to his exemplary track record of producing NFL talent.
The Buckeyes commanded a major spotlight last month in Chicago, as 12 Ohio State players were selected in the 2016 NFL draft. That total featured five first-round picks and a single-school record 10 athletes off the board before Round 4.
“If you’re a high school player who wants to reach the NFL—and 99.99 percent of recruits do—there’s no better place than Ohio State,” Clark said. “Coach Meyer and his staff do a great job getting guys prepared for football and life after college.”
The draft’s developments demanded attention from top-tier Buckeyes targets, including 5-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones:
Peoples-Jones, a Detroit talent considered the country’s No. 1 overall pass-catcher, includes Ohio State on his list of contenders. He has plenty of company in that regard.
The most compelling potential additions to this class could come in the form of a package deal.
Following Martell’s recent decommitment from Texas A&M, speculation has mounted that Ohio State may emerge as the university to beat moving forward. Both are now projected to sign with the Buckeyes based on experts’ projections in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball predictions, though other contenders will challenge along the way.
“It’s no joke if we add those two guys,” Myers said. “Bringing in two seriously good players like them would take a strong class to an even greater level. It’s definitely something I’m monitoring.”
Meyer already enjoys significant momentum on the 2017 recruiting trail. Imagine if he’s able to land the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and a top-five receiver in one fell swoop.
“If they decide Ohio State is the perfect spot for them, what’s stopping anyone else?” asked White.
Even Clark, a quarterback whose path to playing time would become more challenging with Martell on board, understands the importance of establishing elite depth across the roster.
“Coach Meyer is a smart guy,” he said. “Every big-time program needs to have at least four legit quarterbacks at one time. Just like Ohio State showed in 2014, that depth is so important. The star Heisman candidate (Braxton Miller) gets hurt in the offseason, then J.T. Barrett dominates the Big Ten and sets records before breaking his ankle in the Michigan game, then the third-stringer (Cardale Jones) rises up and wins a national championship.”
Ultimately, this is why coaching staffs invest countless hours into each recruiting cycle. Injuries happen, some players underachieve and others depart early for a professional payday.
“As guys leave the program, younger players have to step up big-time and take care of business,” Myers said. “That’s how you maintain success, and we’ve seen that happen every year in Columbus.”
Despite losing a dozen NFL draft picks from its 2015 squad, Ohio State is still primed to enter this fall with a Top 10 ranking. As the Buckeyes continue to string together exemplary signing days, this program’s mantra has never been more clear.
Don’t rebuild; reload.
“We’ll be ready when it’s our turn,” Myers said.
Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports‘ composite ratings.
Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.
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