COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer always has made clear his thoughts on team recruiting rankings: As long as recruiting services are keeping score, he wants his teams finishing first.
“I have fun with [trying to land] the No. 1 class,” he said on Wednesday. “I don’t want people to think that’s what we recruit for. It’s not at all. But it’s something we keep an eye on.”
So far, that hasn’t happened at Ohio State. His last No. 1 overall recruiting class in the 247Sports composite team rankings came in 2010 with Florida. In each of the last two classes he’s come incredibly close, finishing second in close battles to Alabama in 2017 and Georgia in 2018. Though it wasn’t the highest-ranked class this year, Ohio State’s 2018 point total of 317.06 would have been the No. 1 class in 13 of the 18 years since the internet era of recruiting began.
But in one crucial area ― average player rating ― Meyer’s classes finished No. 1 in each of the last two classes. Ohio State’s 2018 class averaged a 94.29 rating per player in the 247Sports composite rankings, beating Georgia and USC (each 94.23) by the slimmest of margins. One year earlier, the Buckeyes averaged 94.59 per signee, nearly a full point ahead of second-best Alabama (93.76).
In recruiting, with a finite number of scholarships available, quality is always more important than quantity. Every time Ohio State signs a player, that’s one player who either has to come off the current roster or can’t be offered in a future recruiting class. The Buckeyes could have won the team title in 2018 if they’d brought in a couple of in-state additions, but instead, 3-star running back Tavion Thomas signed with Cincinnati and 4-star linebacker Christopher Oats signed with Kentucky. Those additions would have put Ohio State No. 1 in the overall rankings, but two current players would have been forced off the roster for recruits who would have ranked 23rd and 26th in the Buckeyes’ class.
Furthermore, if the goal is to draw the most fair comparison between recruiting classes, comparing by player average controls for the amount of spots teams have to offer in a given year. In 2017, Alabama edged out the Buckeyes in the team rankings by signing eight more players than Ohio State. But the Buckeyes used fewer spots on lower-ranked players.
Pound for pound, Ohio State has had the best, most talent-efficient class in each of the last two seasons. And in a sport with a limited number of scholarships, that judiciousness should pay off far more than adding players just for the sake of finishing No. 1 in the overall standings.