COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has a delicious analogy when it comes to the construction of his current roster. According to the Ohio State head coach, the 2017 Buckeyes are like an Oreo.
That’s right. The cookie.
“We have a really strong lower class. Our (2017 early enrollees) are really impressive, the nine guys that are here. Our ’16 class (is too), and then we have really strong leadership,” Meyer said on his call-in show on National Signing Day. “We have a void in the middle here that we have to get more production out of that group. That’s the ’15 class.
“I think (strength coach Micky) Marotti said it best. It’s like an Oreo cookie. You’ve got strength at the bottom, strength at the top and then there’s a squeeze from some of the guys who haven’t done enough around here to produce and be a part of it.”
Whether or not the 2015 class will live up to its billing in the coming year is a story for another day. But as the 2018 recruiting cycle picks up steam, Meyer now finds himself tasked with making sure he isn’t comparing his roster to a cookie again two years from now.
A week after signing a historic 2017 class, Ohio State might appear to have all the momentum it needs on the recruiting trail. After all, the Buckeyes just inked the nation’s second-ranked class, which featured five 5-star prospects and the highest average player rating in 247Sports history.
Now is not the time to begin questioning Meyer’s recruiting prowess. But it’d also be inaccurate to assume that Ohio State’s 2018 class will be anywhere as impressive as its predecessor.
In 2017, the Buckeyes’ pitch to prospects sold itself. The class began with Ohio State winning the College Football Playoff championship in 2015 and was bolstered by the Buckeyes’ impressive showing in the NFL draft the following year. Meyer often refers to recruiting momentum as being the “flavor of the month.”
In both 2015 and 2016, Ohio State was the flavor of the year.
“There’s a variety of things that kids look for,” Meyer said. “The success we’ve had recently and the exposure that this program has had for the right reasons has really been beneficial.”
When it comes to the 2018 class, the Buckeyes aren’t fighting an uphill climb, but it is fair to say that Meyer and his staff will have more questions to answer when pitching prospects than they did a year ago.
For one, Ohio State is coming off an embarrassing 31-0 loss to Clemson to close the 2016 campaign. The Buckeyes are also in the midst of the most transition on their coaching staff they’ve dealt with under Meyer, with three assistant coaches having left from the 2016 team.
Each of those factors came into play too late to affect Ohio State’s 2017 class. Of the Buckeyes’ 21 signees, 16 had committed to OSU by the end of the 2016 calendar year.
Often it takes a full calendar year to see a tangible effect — good or bad — on the recruiting trail. Nobody knows that better than Meyer.
Two years ago, one would have thought the Buckeyes possessed all the momentum on the recruiting trail they needed. Ohio State was coming off the first-ever College Football Playoff championship and was hardly hurting for exposure on a national level.
“It was like a 30‑day infomercial,” Meyer said on signing day in 2015. “Go pay for positive advertisement for 30 days and see what that looks like.”
What it looked like on that day, however, was Meyer’s lowest-ranked class at Ohio State — the 2015 haul he now refers to as the cream in the Buckeyes’ Oreo of a roster.
Make no mistake, Ohio State’s national championship sales pitch wasn’t ineffective — far from it. The long-term returns would reveal themselves with top-five classes in both 2016 and 2017.
But in 2015, the Buckeyes were dealing with the residual effects that stemmed from a 2013 season that ended with another loss to Clemson and the departures of key recruiters in assistant coaches Mike Vrabel and Everett Withers. Just like this past recruiting cycle, it was too late for those changes to make much of a difference in Ohio State’s 2014 class. Rather, it wasn’t until a year later that the Buckeyes felt the tangible effects.
For what it’s worth, Ohio State is off to a strong start for 2018, with commitments from three top-60 prospects. Earlier this week, the Buckeyes picked up a pledge from 4-star safety and California native Jaiden Woodbey, an indication that Ohio State still possesses country-wide appeal.
“Ohio State is a national brand and will always be and always has been,” Meyer asserted on signing day.
But how big of a national brand are the Buckeyes? We’ll find out in the next 12 months.
Or perhaps more accurately, the next two years — and whether there’s still a cream-filled center in the middle of the Ohio State roster.