COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer hasn’t been perfect on the recruiting trail during his time at Ohio State. But his mistakes have a funny way of working out just fine — if not turning into outright improvements.
The latest example came in the Class of 2018, when a recruiting swoon in December left Buckeyes fans reeling. In a span of two weeks, Ohio State lost 5-star defensive end Brenton Cox, 4-star safety Jaiden Woodbey and 4-star quarterback Emory Jones. To top it off, Fairfield, Ohio, 5-star tackle Jackson Carman chose Clemson over the in-state Buckeyes.
Ohio State exited the early signing period with the nation’s No. 1-ranked class in the 247Sports composite team rankings, but the Buckeyes had just one tackle and no defensive ends among their 21 signees. Those were two of the biggest positions of need, given the lack of depth at tackle and the departure of three defensive ends to the NFL.
Some impressive work led to solutions at defensive end. With Cleveland Heights, Ohio, 4-star defensive end Tyreke Smith looking like a done deal to Penn State in early December, Meyer found a way to flip that recruitment back in the Buckeyes’ favor. He also landed longtime Michigan lean Tyler Friday, a 4-star prospect, and beat out Nebraska and Texas A&M for 4-star prospect Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Though recruiting services listed Friday as a defensive tackle and Jean-Baptiste as an outside linebacker, both versatile players were recruited to Ohio State as defensive ends.
The offensive line recruiting situation appeared a little more dire, as 4-star tackle Rasheed Walker always seemed to favor Penn State over Ohio State despite the ground the Buckeyes were gaining, and a host of elite schools were after 5-star tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere. With Ohio State needing another elite tackle, the possibility of getting either seemed to be waning.
And yet Meyer pulled another rabbit out of his hat and landed Petit-Frere, thanks to an official visit the weekend before National Signing Day. At his news conference Wednesday, Meyer was asked what it meant to be able to sign another top offensive lineman. He didn’t hesitate when outlining the importance of landing Petit-Frere.
“We had to,” he said. “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. And you throw a 3.8 GPA on top of that, a very intelligent guy, a very mature guy, and he’s a great finish to that class.”
Once again, Meyer had shown how foolish it was to doubt him. After failing to sign the No. 2 tackle in the country, he went out and landed the only player at that position who was better.