Ohio State and Urban Meyer just finished up a historic run.
The Buckeyes won 50 games from 2012 to 2015, the most ever by any major college football program in a 4-year stretch. They lost one Big Ten regular-season conference game in that span, added the school’s eighth football national championship and saw a record 10 players selected in the first three rounds of this past May’s NFL draft, including five first-round selections.
It’s a good time to be a Buckeye.
If the results that Meyer and his staff are seeing on the recruiting trail are any indicator, things aren’t likely to slow down any time soon. The latest commitment, 5-star offensive lineman Wyatt Davis, came Friday night and it has the college football world buzzing about the next wave of talent that is on its way to Columbus.
How good is the Buckeyes top-ranked 2017 class? Let’s take a closer look at the strength of the Ohio State football brand.
If you follow recruiting you know that – whether you like it or not – stars do matter. Star rankings are obviously a subjective way to view football prospects, but it’s turned out to be a fairly effective method of projecting future successes.
Yes, the occasional 2-star slips through the cracks and ends up an NFL star (See: Watt, J.J.) and sometimes a 5-star, “can’t miss” prospect fizzles into nothing. But generally speaking, these ratings tell an accurate tale of what your favorite college football team is getting down the road.
That being the case, the Buckeyes have some big-time players coming down the pike.
Of Urban Meyer’s 14 current commitments, 13 are ranked as 4-star prospects or better. Ohio State has three 5-star pledges (offensive linemen Joshua Myers and Wyatt Davis and defensive back Shaun Wade), matching the number committed to the rest of the Big Ten and just one less than the four committed to the SEC. Right now only Ohio State and Alabama – with two – have multiple 5-star prospects committed.
Ohio State’s lone 3-star commitment? Kicker Blake Haubeil. Still, Haubeil is ranked as the country’s top overall kicker, meaning that the Buckeyes have verbals from four different players ranked as the best at their position. Quarterback Tate Martell is the highest-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country and Myers and Davis top the list at offensive tackle and offensive guard, respectively. That doesn’t mean it’s a top-heavy group for the Scarlet and Gray: all 14 commitments are ranked in the national Top 20 at their position.
You want national respect? How about this? Two weeks from now, at Nike’s The Opening in Beaverton, Ore., 10 Ohio State commitments will participate (a record 11 were selected; offensive lineman Jake Moretti will miss the event due to injury). They’ll be recruiting and generally “representing” the Buckeyes. Which future Ohio State players will you – and college football fans all over the world – get a chance to see during this five-day recruiting bonanza?
- Quarterback Tate Martell
- Running back J.K. Dobbins
- Offensive lineman Josh Myers
- Offensive lineman Wyatt Davis
- Defensive tackle Haskell Garrett
- Linebacker Antjuan Simmons
- Defensive back Shaun Wade
- Defensive back Isaiah Pryor
- Defensive back Marcus Williamson
- Athlete Brendon White
Buckeye Nation has gone country-wide
Historically, Ohio State has focused its recruiting efforts on Ohio. That’s a wise approach in a talent-rich home state that continues to pump out NFL talent as frequently as anyone. However, their recent success – and Urban Meyer’s reputation in the Southeast and the West Coast – has helped open up doors they’ve never really tried to open before. (He led Utah to an undefeated season in 2004, remember? Today’s prospects and their families certainly do.)
The Buckeyes have commitments from high schools in eight different states so far this cycle. California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Texas are represented, and that doesn’t include the likes of Isaiah Pryor, from Lawrenceville, Ga., who committed before transferring to Bradenton (Fla.) powerhouse IMG Academy prior to the start of his junior season.
The Buckeyes have even gone directly to the heart of Wolverines territory this year and landed a player (Antjuan Simmons) from Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School which sits directly across the street from Michigan Stadium.
How close is Ann Arbor Pioneer to Michigan Stadium? Pretty close. pic.twitter.com/TZYggkRS24
— Jeremy Birmingham (@Birm) March 1, 2016
Going national, taking Ohio State to places they’ve not been before? That’s not new for Urban Meyer and his recruiting mastermind, Ohio State’s director of player personnel Mark Pantoni. In 2015 alone the Buckeyes picked up commitments from three states they never had before: South Dakota (Grant Schmidt), Arkansas (K.J. Hill) and Utah (Branden Bowen). This year, they’re scouring places like Mississippi and Nevada, making a mark not only in new states but a handful of the country’s most prestigious high school programs.
Ohio State has always done well at Ohio’s top high schools, but in recent years it has made itself a serious player at places like Cass Tech (Detroit), St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and now are doing the same from coast-to-coast. They’ve picked up commitments from 2014 and 2015 national champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), 2013 national champion St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and powerhouses like Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian Academy and the aforementioned IMG Academy, where two future Buckeyes (Pryor and Ohio-native Marcus Williamson) will roam the secondary this fall for the Ascenders.
More on the way?
If the Buckeyes recruiting class ended today, it’d be a pretty darn good one. Unfortunately for the rest of the Big Ten, that’s not likely to be the case. There are a number of big-time prospects still on the Ohio State recruiting board and the pieces may be in place for what could be the best recruiting class in modern college football history.
This last Thursday night, Tate Martell let fans take a glimpse into his personal recruiting board, but it doesn’t really tell the full story about where the Buckeyes sit with their top remaining, uncommitted, targets. What players could still – realistically – end up in Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class?
Ohio State is near the top of the list for Mississippi 5-star tailback Cam Akers, a bruising running back from Clinton. He’s got the Buckeyes, along with Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State and others, in his top group and is expected to visit Columbus for the third time later this summer.
At wide receiver, the Buckeyes are the team to beat for 5-star wideouts Trevon Grimes and Tyjon Lindsey, each of whom has an August decision scheduled. While Nebraska is working hard to unseat Ohio State for the lead in Lindsey’s recruitment, it’d be a fairly big upset (as of today) if either of these 5-star prospects ended up anywhere but Columbus.
Utah 4-star defensive lineman Jay Tufele lists Ohio State as the leader in his recruitment, though he’s not yet visited the Buckeyes. He’s the country’s third-ranked defensive tackle and things are likely to accelerate quickly in his recruitment when he makes his first visit to Columbus.
The Buckeyes are at the top of the list for Hyattsville (Md.) 5-star defensive end Chase Young, who is close to a decision and will visit Ohio State for their big recruiting event of the summer, Friday Night Lights, on July 22.
A pair of Texas linebackers, Kennedale’s Baron Browning and Plano’s Anthony Hines III, visited Ohio State this spring and the Buckeyes moved way up the list for each. Browning, a 5-star outside linebacker that checks in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, is expected to return for Friday Night Lights as well. He’s the brother of former Stanford defensive back Barry Browning, who played for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, but Ohio State may be the favorite right now.
Ohio State already holds a trio of big-time commits at defensive back, but they’re not finished in the secondary:
- Texas 5-star safety Jeffrey Okudah (Grand Prairie) made two trips to Columbus in the last six weeks and has listed the Buckeyes as his leader for much of the last year.
- Colerain (Cincinnati) 4-star prospect Amir Riep has a final two of Ohio State and Michigan State, and he visited the Buckeyes twice last week. Ohio State is the presumptive leader as he approaches a decision though the Spartans have made it close thanks to a focus on depth-chart challenges he may face as a Buckeye.
- Clairton (Pa.) cornerback Lamont Wade – the top-ranked corner in the country according to Rivals.com – is still seriously considering Ohio State despite some concerns about a lack of early-enrollment opportunities in a crowded recruiting class.
- The Buckeyes also will get an official visit from Calabasas (Ca.) 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes, who remains right at the top of their wish list.
If Meyer and his staff can seal the deal on Akers, Grimes, Lindsey, Young, Browning, Okudah and Riep, they’d finish with the highest average star ranking (using the 247Sports.com rankings) of all-time, 95.89, which would best the mark of 93.64 recorded by Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide in 2015. The Buckeyes team “score” – if they finish with those seven players – would check in at a whopping 322.35 – the second highest finish ever – just missing Meyer’s mark of 323.66, set at Florida in 2010. That, coincidentally is the last time a school other than Alabama won the national recruiting “championship.”
Can Meyer and the Buckeyes stem the Tide? They seem to be on their way.