It doesn’t raise red flags, per se, but it does raise an eyebrow. Or six. Of 247Sports’ top 12 prep football recruits from Ohio in the Class of 2018, four as of Friday had signed or committed to Ohio State, while three remain up in the air.
Meanwhile, five — nearly half — were pledged elsewhere: two to Michigan State; two to Kentucky; and one, the state’s overall No. 1, Fairfield’s Jackson Carman, to Clemson.
What’s notable is that Urban Meyer’s first six recruiting classes with the Buckeyes averaged six of the top 12 Ohioans each year as ranked by 247Sports. The six classes before that averaged more or less the same (5.6 of the top 12 Ohioans) going back to the winter of 2006. So while 2018 isn’t far off the pace, it isn’t exactly going out of its way to hit it, either.
“There’s a definite change in philosophy from [former coach Jim] Tressel to Meyer,” Bill Greene, Ohio recruiting analyst with 247Sports, told Land of 10. “Tressel always wanted to take the top 10-to-15 kids in Ohio every year, and then go outside the state to fill the gaps. Urban, for the most part, has recruited outside the state first and kind of comes back [in] — they work simultaneously.
“Recruiting has changed so much for everybody, really. Social media has made the world a lot smaller now. I just think Urban’s priority is to get the absolute very best football players that he can get in his class every year.
“Let’s say he wanted to take 10 [Ohioans] every year — I don’t know if all that matters; I think he just wants to get the highest-quality roster that he can get together. If they’re from Alaska, it doesn’t matter.”
Meyer is oh-fer-Alaska in this cycle, but there is a kid from Jacksonville. And Brooklyn. And Nashville.
And, heck, even Idaho.
The 2018 haul — which 247 ranks No. 1 in the country with less than 2 weeks to go until National Signing Day — has more of geographically diverse feel than usual, with finds from 12 states, the most in a Buckeyes class since 2014.
But there’s a flip side — as of late Thursday afternoon, Ohio natives made up just five spots of the 23 enrollees, signees or hard commits in the group, or 21.7 percent.
“It always hurts to be playing against an Ohio guy.”
— Blake Thomas, a former Buckeyes tight end and Cleveland native
Depending on how the final numbers shake out, that’s on a pace to slip below the 28.6 percent representation in the 2017 class (6 of 21), the previous low bar for the Meyer Era, and looks to be a lock for a second straight class with fewer than 40 percent of an Ohioan vibe.
“There are [some] high school coaches around the state who aren’t real fond with what’s going on,” Greene continued, “but [Meyer] was hired to win games, and he’s doing that at a pretty high rate. It’s just a different way to build a roster. His way is a lot different than the way Tressel had done it. I can’t argue with success. Can’t argue with the won-loss record.”
Nor can you argue that the local pool of prep talent has seen better days. The 247Sports composite cites only 12 Ohioans in the Class of 2018 as 4-star or 5-star gets; over the previous six winters, the state averaged 17.4 elite targets, and most analysts see the Class of 2019 — the current crop of Ohio juniors — veering closer to the usual median.
“I think it’s a fluke and it also speaks to how well Urban recruits nationally,” noted Brandon Huffman, national college recruiting editor at 247Sports.
“He gets his, in-state, but has such a wide, national appeal that he doesn’t need to make it exclusively home-grown kids when he can reel in elite national players — [New York native Jeremy] Ruckert, [Florida native Brian] Snead, [Idaho native Tommy] Togiai, et cetera.”
Still, Greene thinks Xavier Henderson and Trenton Gillison, a pair of 4-star finds at Pickerington Central High who wound up in Sparty’s clutches, could’ve been good fits in Columbus. Although he also feels Meyer’s got a good shot to land 4-star linebacker Christopher Oats from Cincinnati’s Winton Woods High.
“It always hurts to be playing against an Ohio guy,” former Buckeyes tight end and Cleveland native Blake Thomas noted. “Coach Meyer has a different recruiting philosophy as far as players go.
“Different coaches see things in different ways. Some guys … they mold the players around the team. Coach Meyer’s philosophy is, ‘We’ll get the best player in the country and we’ll mold our offense around that.’ That’s something you learn from guys like coach [Bill] Belichick, especially, who’s obviously done very well with the same type of philosophy.
“[Meyer’s] thing has always been, ‘We’re going to get the best player we can recruit on our team and we’ll form our offense around that.’ He can really mold his offense around what he wants it to be. It’s not stagnant. It’s not just a spread. It’s been, ‘The guys that we have, who are the playmakers? How are we going to give them the ball?’ ”
Because some years, the pendulum swings the other way. The Buckeyes, for example, already have seven offers out to Ohioans in the Class of 2019 and at least one more extended in the Class of 2020.
“Seven kids offered already, that’s pretty good,” Greene said. “They’re probably the favorites to land all seven of them — they’re almost guaranteed to get those kids. And I think we’ll see a change next year, and then I think he’ll take it on a year-by-year basis.
“I don’t know that it’s hurt them. The results on the field don’t show that. The recruiting rankings sure as heck don’t show that.”