You can’t fake the hugs.
You can fake a smile. You can fake a handshake. You can fake a promise, a compliment, a sales pitch. You can fake a nod and a wink in stereo duplicity.
You can’t fake this:
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 14, 2017
Urban Meyer doesn’t fake the miles. Or the interactions. Or the relationships. Or the satisfaction Ohio State’s venerated football coach still gets from reeling in the studs, whether it’s 5-star prospect Jaelen Gill from the Buckeyes’ backyard in Westerville or — in this case — 4-star plugger Tommy Togiai, a defensive tackle from the far-flung hills of Pocatello, Idaho:
Committed Go Buckeyes!!! pic.twitter.com/L5X1YllypA
— Tommy Togiai (@Big_Tom71) December 13, 2017
“If he wasn’t No. 1, he’s been right there all along, anyway,” veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said of Meyer. “Urban Meyer is an incredible recruiter, obviously one of the top five in the country along with [Nick] Saban and [James] Franklin and [Jim] Harbaugh and Dabo Swinney.
“It really doesn’t come down to the schools, or the Big Ten, or the coaching philosophy; [it comes down to whether] the head coaches preach a recruiting philosophy, which is really just a tremendous amount of effort and work. I’ve said this in the past: Show me a head coach who’s a terrific golfer and I’ll show you a lousy recruiter.”
When it comes to the 2017-18 recruiting cycle, Meyer’s been putting for dough, racking up eagle after eagle. And as we approach the turn, there’s only one leader in the clubhouse.
With the new early signing period commencing on Wednesday, Ohio State is in line to claim the No. 1 class in the country through late December, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. If that holds, it’s believed to be the first time this decade that a Big Ten school has finished No. 1 in the 247 composite at the end of a major recruiting window.
“I think it is a combination of Urban Meyer’s success at Ohio State, his ability to recruit nationally — which he’s done since he was at Utah and then at Florida — and how well Ohio State is turning players into NFL players,” offered Brandon Huffman, national college football recruiting editor for 247Sports. “You combine his winning, his ability to recruit nationally and the development of players, and he essentially checks off all the boxes a coach needs to be successful as a recruiter.
“And it overrides any regional disadvantage that may appear. A player from any region in the country knows he has a chance to compete for a Big Ten title, a national title, and a spot in the NFL draft playing for Urban Meyer.”
‘Ohio State has a lot to sell right now’
You can’t fake results. The Buckeyes have been knocking at the door for 247Sports’ top spot for years: No Ohio State class since 2012 has landed outside the top eight, and three of those hauls — 2013 (No. 2), 2014 (No. 3) and 2017 (No. 2) — ranked among the top 3 nationally.
It takes a plan. It takes commitment. It takes a village. It also takes a finisher, and nobody closes the sale like Urban down the stretch. Of the Buckeyes’ 21 commitments at the start of the week, six were sealed after Labor Day, once the season was already in full swing.
“When it comes to crunch time, he has regularly won some battles that he had to come from behind in recruiting,” said Allen Trieu, 247Sports’ Midwest football recruiting manager. “I always think that he’s good for a handful of those a year. Ohio State has a lot to sell right now, especially up [in the Midwest].”
Because here’s the thing: A brochure with a front page that reads LEAGUE TITLES + COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF + NFL PIPELINES plays anywhere and everywhere. Midwest. South. North. East. Far west. Pocatello, Idaho.
Of those aforementioned 21 commits, only four hail from states in the Big Ten footprint. The Bucks have so far roped in more kids from Florida (four) than Ohio (three) while pulling in 10 prospects from SEC-first states.
“Zach Smith, the receivers coach, has done a really good job at recruiting the state of Florida,” Trieu said. “There’s no doubt that Urban’s roots down there — there’s no doubt that it helps. When you’re Ohio State, they’re going to canvas the country and a good number of these [national] kids are going to come to them as well.”
‘It’s not rocket science’
You can’t fake hustle. Many hands. One rope. Everybody pulls, everybody pitches, everybody preaches.
In 247Sports’ most recent 2018 recruiter rankings, four Ohio State assistants — co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, running backs coach Tony Alford, Smith, and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa — sat among the top 13 in the country.
— Hoop Group (@TheHoopGroup) December 16, 2017
“That’s another key,” Lemming noted. “Now it’ll be 10 really good assistant coaches [soon]. I’ve watched Urban Meyer and Nick Saban get rid of their coaches because they’re not good recruiters. You see that a lot. These guys understand that you win with impact players. And I’ve talked to a lot of guys like Meyer and Saban and Mack Brown, and they say no matter how good a coach you are, you win with impact players.”
You can’t fake speed.
You can’t fake talent.
You can’t fake banners.
“They’re consistently competing for the College Football Playoff,” Trieu said. “They’re consistently competing for the Big Ten title, and they’re consistently sending guys to the NFL. It’s not rocket science. Those are three factors kids are trying to find.”