Recruiting never stops, and if you take a day off, you fall behind. Join us every night for a daily recap of Ohio State recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes and a glimpse at what’s coming next.
‘Two out of three ain’t bad’
It was a banner day for Ohio State on all fronts. The Buckeyes landed their highest-ranked recruiting class of the Urban Meyer era and in fact secured one of the best classes of the Internet era of recruiting rankings. Although some Buckeye fans may have been disappointed to finish No. 2 behind the Georgia Bulldogs’ historically successful class, Ohio State’s recruiting class was a massive success by any measure.
The Buckeyes celebrated National Signing Day by adding two brand new commitments to the fold in their 2018 class, including the top-ranked prospect in their class. Ohio State led the day off by adding the signature of 5-star tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, a Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep product, the country’s No. 1 tackle, and the No. 7 prospect overall in America. Petit-Frere chose Ohio State over offers from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Florida.
By adding Petit-Frere, Ohio State shored up its single most significant remaining need in the 2018 class in the most dramatic way possible. The Buckeyes desperately needed to add depth and talent at tackle moving forward and adding the best player at the position in the country is a critical upgrade for Ohio State.
“Yeah, we had to [add a tackle]… Everybody in the country is looking for the tall, athletic elongated guys that can bend and they’re hard to find. That’s why they’re paid so well in the NFL because those body types are hard, hard to find,” Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said. “And you throw a 3.8 GPA on top of that, a very intelligent guy, a very mature guy, and [Petit-Frere is] a great finish to that class.”
Of course, Petit-Frere wasn’t the only addition. Bringing in a 5-star and top ten prospect overall can tend to drown out many other storylines, but the tackle’s decision shouldn’t overshadow the impact of the Buckeyes reeling in 4-star New Jersey defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste’s commitment, which was actually news broken by Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano during an Ohio State press conference, was a real recruiting win for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State had to battle and defeat Nebraska, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech in the final days of Jean-Baptiste’s recruitment. Many programs joined his recruitment late to pursue the 6-foot-5, 215-pound defensive end from Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic and the relationships that Jean-Baptiste has developed with Meyer, Schiano, and defensive line coach Larry Johnson were able to carry the Buckeyes through those pursuits.
While Petit-Frere will have a realistic chance to compete not just for a spot on the two-deep, but for a starting role, in year one, Jean-Baptiste is likelier to bide his time before seeing the field. Ohio State will want to see the talented pass-rusher add muscle and good weight to his frame in order to be prepared to compete in the Big Ten. He was a highly productive sack artist as a senior, but the expectation will be for Jean-Baptiste to physically grow and improve before playing.
Meyer recaps National Signing Day
As is annual tradition, Meyer took the podium in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on National Signing Day to discuss the Buckeye recruiting class. His press conference on Feb. 7 has been somewhat overshadowed by the larger early signing period, where Meyer recapped the class as a whole at length, but the conversation on the actual National Signing Day allowed Meyer to focus in on a small handful of topics. First up? Meyer made sure to make perfectly clear exactly how important recruiting is to the Ohio State program and how it factors into what he expects from his assistant coaches.
“The one thing about here, and I made it clear, you can’t coach here at Ohio State unless you’re an elite recruiter. Just can’t. That’s nonexistence,” Meyer said. “I’ve heard the old days, he was a guru of this or a guru of that, he’s not a great recruiter, you can’t coach here. Recruiting is the name of the game and our coaches all did a very good job and very proud of them.”
On that note, Meyer took the time to praise perhaps his most important assistant for pulling a rabbit out of his hat on perhaps the most important recruitment of the year for Ohio State.
“Greg Schiano was knee deep in [Petit-Frere’s recruitment], as well as [Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa]. And it was one that this had been going on for a couple years. He’s the most thorough evaluator I’ve ever recruited. From A to Z, we sat in my office for about two hours and I had him go through each program and he kind of volunteered all kinds of information I’ve never quite heard,” Meyer recalled. “And he’s the one that shared the information about, a big selling point here is when I was talking to JK Dobbins, who was his host, about his relationship with the coaches on the staff. And he volunteered, because JK’s a relationship-type person as well. So obviously he’s got to come here and perform, but if you’re a betting person, bet on this guy to have a great college career on and off the field.”
Meyer went on to discuss the importance to him of landing the country’s top-ranked recruiting class and how much he and his coaches were hunting for the top spot in the team rankings this season. While he may have downplayed the importance, Meyer has been on the record in the past discussing his desire to finish first for the recruiting national championship.
“..If they are keeping score, you try to win, and, but is that the end-all? Of course not. Will that matter? I think it matters that successful teams have great players. And the rankings, that’s something we keep an eye on, but that’s not an end all… I have fun with the number one class. I don’t want people to think that’s what we recruit for, it’s not at all. It’s something we keep an eye on. At Ohio State you should, the coaches here have always recruited very well. If you can’t recruit at Ohio State, you should — you’re not a very good recruiter.”
Finally, Meyer looked ahead to what he’ll have to accomplish for the 2019 class. He made it clear that there’s no time for the Ohio State staff to rest on their laurels and that he expects his Buckeye coaches to be underway winning again on top 2019 prospects around the country.
“Well you get paranoid, paranoia, how do you keep it rolling. Like we’re going to celebrate a very high-ranked class, a bunch of players on paper that look fantastic and look even better in person. And then we post it and everybody — tomorrow you get — you better have the next guy on the phone for us,” Meyer said. “We already had a blitz, I want to say yesterday, a blitz is I think we had 43 calls made in this office to the top [class of 2019 prospects] in America for next year. So that’s the paranoia I guess that I live with, is how do you top this year with next year’s?”
That’s the question being asked by every coach in the country in the rat race that is college football. I have little doubt that Ohio State will continue to recruit at an elite level under Meyer, precisely because he constantly has a mentality of self-improvement and a ceaseless work ethic.
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