June 15, 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A week before Ohio State saw 12 of its players—including five first-rounders—picked in the NFL draft, I asked Buckeyes wide receivers coach Zach Smith what plays better on the recruiting trail: national championships or the ability to put players in the pros?
“I don’t know that either sells better,” Smith said. “They all want both.”
Having played wide receiver for Urban Meyer at Bowling Green before serving as his graduate assistant at Florida and eventually rejoining him in Columbus, Smith knows that with his boss, he has the luxury of not having to pick just one pitch.
With camp season in full force, recruiting currently rules the college football world and no coach in recent months has had more success at luring talent to his program than Meyer. On Sunday, the Ohio State head coach bolstered what was already the nation’s top-ranked 2017 class when he received a commitment from 4-star quarterback Tate Martell, the country’s No. 1 dual-threat signal-caller.
Any short list of college football’s top salesmen undoubtedly includes Meyer, who has signed four top-five classes since arriving in Columbus in 2012 and is well on his way to a fifth. But unlike his recruiting contemporaries—Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, Jimbo Fisher and that might be it—the fifth-year Buckeyes head coach doesn’t have to stick to one script.
Much like his explosive spread offense, the key to Meyer’s approach on the recruiting trail is an unmatched versatility, which allows him to shuffle around his pitches like chess pieces based on any one prospect’s given desires.
Want rings? Meyer’s got eight of them—five conference titles and three national championships that span a 14-year head coaching career.
Hoping to win the Heisman? Meyer’s coached one winner of college football’s most prestigious award—Tim Tebow in 2007—and has seen his quarterback finish in the top five of Heisman voting in six of his past 11 seasons as a head coach.
Looking to land in the NFL? Meyer’s penchant for putting players in the pros dates back to Alex Smith being selected first overall out of Utah in 2005, continued through his time at Florida and has only amplified at Ohio State, including a 2016 class that Chase Stuart of FiveThirtyEight.com deemed “the most impressive in modern NFL history.”
“We’re pretty creative around here,” Meyer said in the lead up to this year’s draft, where recruiting staffers documented the Buckeyes’ big weekend on social media as Meyer served as an analyst for NFL Network, only increasing his program’s already abundant visibility.
But what separates Meyer’s pitches to prospects most has been his ability to adapt to the ever-changing recruiting landscape.
Saban and Fisher can sell championships too, Harbaugh is on the cutting edge of a recruiting revolution and all three have developed numerous pro prospects over the course of their careers. But none have the ability to mesh those draws as Meyer has, using a modern approach to tout his multipronged resume.
Consider Meyer’s willingness to take part in several satellite camps this summer, a Harbaugh-staple that Saban and Fisher have been reluctant to embrace. Per Ryan Donnelly of Rivals.com, Meyer and his staff are slated to take part in nearly a dozen satellite camps this month, including stops in Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia and Michigan.
But rather than use the platforms to emulate Harbaugh, whose fashion choices at such camps have kept him front and center in the college football news cycle, Meyer has been able to deliver his own messages—as was the case during the speech he gave at the Buckeyes’ stop at New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson earlier this month.
“You want to get noticed? Work really hard. Shut your mouth, do the right things, be selfless,” Meyer said in a video of the speech posted by NUC Sports. “Be a great teammate, don’t draw attention to yourself. You want to draw attention to yourself? Be the hardest working guy out there.”
Meyer’s ability to sell his own message on the camp circuit is reminiscent of his decision to join Twitter three years ago after realizing its value as a recruiting tool to promote his program. Despite not having college football’s most-talked-about social media account—that distinction belongs to Harbaugh—Meyer does lay claim to the most followers, with more than 514,800 users subscribing to @OSUCoachMeyer‘s tweets.
And much like his presence at satellite camps, Meyer has made his Twitter account his own, as evidenced by a recent tweet promoting an endorsement from his most famous former player, Tebow—a reminder of all the recruiting tools that remain at his disposal.
Looking for a celebrity coach? Meyer can do that, having sat courtside at each of the past two NBA Finals thanks to his relationship with NBA megastar LeBron James.
Want someone entrenched in X’s and O’s? Meyer’s your man, as evidenced by a combined 50-4 record in the past four seasons at Ohio State, a career .851 winning percentage and a trophy case only Saban can claim to match.
After the Buckeyes won the first-ever College Football Playoff championship in 2015, Meyer was well aware of the impact his time in the limelight had on the recruiting trail.
“I tell people it was like a 30‑day infomercial,” Meyer said on signing day in 2015. “Go pay for a positive advertisement for 30 days and see what that looks like.”
And after Ohio State’s heavy presence at this past NFL draft?
“It was like a three-hour infomercial for our program,” Meyer said during his NFL Network coverage.
For the past four years, the Buckeyes have had plenty to sell and have used as many means as possible to promote their pitches.
And on the recruiting trail, there hasn’t been a product more popular with prospects than Ohio State and the “buy one, get them all” deal its head coach allows it to deliver.
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. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports‘ composite.
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