Urban Meyer produced a perfect record in his first season as Ohio State coach, but he knows he had an imperfect team.
One of the deficiencies was a lack of field-stretching speed on offense, the kind he was accustomed to having at Florida when doing battle in the SEC. He hit the recruiting trail intent on addressing that issue, and he’s bringing in some blazers at the skill positions that could compete in any conference.
“Urban doesn’t miss a beat. He goes right after what he thinks is the thing that’s going to improve his team the most,” said Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep Magazine and national recruiting editor for Scout.com.
“You’ve got to recruit. You’ve got to fix your problems. And Urban is a problem-solver.”
Going into signing day today, Meyer has a top-three class in the eyes of the leading recruiting Web sites, thanks largely to a bevy of swift play-makers.
He already had Middletown athlete Jalin Marshall, St. Louis running back Ezekiel Elliott and Mississippi junior-college wideout Corey Smith in the fold and then was able to convince Dontre Wilson, an all-purpose back from Texas, to come aboard Monday after having once made a verbal commitment to Oregon.
The Buckeyes’ class is ranked third by both Scout.com and ESPN.com and is tied for second with Florida in the Rivals.com ratings, one spot behind Alabama.
Last year, in barely two months on the job, Meyer turned a mediocre class for the Buckeyes into one of the nation’s best. It was ranked third by Scout, fourth by Rivals and sixth by ESPN.
“I think he’s kind of seen as a rock star by high school prospects,” said Bucknuts.com recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic. “Obviously, he had tremendous success at Florida — two national championships. Then after going 12-0 at Ohio State, he’s just seen as one of the top college football coaches in the country, no question.”
Meyer’s ability to flip committed prospects is becoming renowned. Gareon Conley of Massillon, who was once pledged to Michigan, is one of the 24 players currently in OSU’s 2013 class, as is linebacker Trey Johnson, a Georgia native who once was bound for Auburn.
Last year, Meyer snatched four recruits from Penn State, two from Notre Dame and one each from Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Wilson’s commitment gives the Buckeyes eight players in the Rivals top-100, including Marshall (35), Trotwood defensive back Cam Burrows (39) and Centerville offensive lineman Evan Lisle (90).
“They’ve done a great job on the defensive line for the second year in a row. They really brought in a spectacular group of defensive linemen,” Kurelic said. “Linebacker is a big need, and they’ve got two potential impact linebackers in the class. Secondary wise, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a much better group of cornerbacks headed to one school.
“They’ve pretty well filled their needs in a balanced way on offense. Another offensive lineman or two would have been nice, but they’ve got all the positions pretty much covered.”
The Buckeyes are still in the running for two top prospects making signing decisions, Georgia safety Vonn Bell and Florida receiver James Clark. But they’re not likely to fall far in the rankings even if they stay at 24.
Despite the clout of OSU, Meyer’s back-to-back top-five classes in the Rivals ratings aren’t the norm. The Buckeyes had only three in previous coach Jim Tressel’s 10 years and had an average class ranking of 13.4
Meyer also has shown an ability to recruit coast to coast, getting top cornerback Eli Apple from New Jersey and tight end Marcus Baugh from California. While Tressel relied heavily on Ohio talent, Meyer has 14 out-of-state players and 10 native Buckeyes.
“People have asked me questions about Urban Meyer recruiting well in places outside the Midwest and maybe that’s because of his coaching background — the fact that he was in Florida and succeessful for so long,” said Wallace, who is based in Laguna Beach, Calif. “My feeling is, I don’t care where Urban was from. If he thought the player that was going to help him was from Florida, he’d go down and get him. He didn’t have to be the Gator coach.
“Urban’s an exceptionally aggressive, confident guy. I don’t even know if they come more so than him. It’s hard to distinguish the true difference between (Alabama coach) Nick Saban and Urban. They both think they’re going to win all the time. They’ll both do whatever it takes to do it. And they’re not bashful about it.”
1. Florida (26)*
2. Alabama (23)
3. Ohio State (24)
4. Notre Dame (23)
5. Michigan (27)
6. LSU (26)
7. Texas A&M (32)
8. USC (13)
9. Georgia (30)
10. Florida State (18)
*Number of commitments
2. Ohio State
2. Florida (tie)
4. Notre Dame
7. Texas A&M
10. Southern Cal
2. Ohio State
3. Notre Dame
4. Texas A&M