COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a little nervous energy to burn on what had already been a very full morning, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer headed for the treadmill.
He was awaiting a call from five-star safety prospect Vonn Bell, another highly-regarded piece to what was already a highly-rated puzzle in regards to Ohio State recruiting. In two months on the job last year, Meyer somehow managed to put together one of his signature top classes. With 14 months this time — and a 12-0 record last fall — he had set the bar very, very high.
Just a few minutes before Bell was due to make his announcement, Meyer’s phone rang. On the other end was Bell, and he simply asked Meyer, “You know I’m coming, right?”
Meyer swears he didn’t.
“I was on the treadmill because I couldn’t take it anymore,” Meyer said. “I had to get away.”
It turns out Bell was waiting, more than anything else, for television purposes. That’s National Signing Day in 2013.
The Buckeyes secured three more high-level commitments on Wednesday, and in the process claimed Scout.com’s No. 1 ranking of 2013 recruiting classes. A 24-man class includes four five-star prospects and 17 four-star prospects.
The guys who said they were coming faxed in their letters of intent early Wednesday, and Meyer pointed out several were already on campus. Scoring Florida wide receiver James Clark was at least a mild surprise, strengthening a strong finish that included flipping multi-purpose back Dontre Wilson from Oregon and securing a late afternoon commitment from running back Ezekiel Elliot, who recently visited his home-state school Missouri.
Meyer said he was never concerned about Elliott picking Ohio State.
Of course he wasn’t.
“I thought it was going to be a very good day,” Meyer said, “but I’d put it in the great category.”
National acclaim comes because it’s a national class — 11 Ohio natives and players from nine different states signed on Wednesday — and because it’s a very gifted one. Meyer filled some holes, too, specifically at linebacker and with the kind of explosive perimeter players last year’s offense lacked.
The Buckeyes didn’t lose last fall, but QB Braxton Miller nearly got himself killed. Miller is a pretty precious investment Ohio State will try to both protect and enhance by adding playmakers around him. Junior-college receiver Corey Smith (an Ohio native), Clark, Wilson and high school quarterback-turned-all around weapon Jalin Marshall all figure to compete for time immediately.
Wilson and Elliott step into a running back room that already returns workhorse Carlos Hyde and several other big backs. The defensive side of the ball has more immediate needs, and five-star defensive lineman Joey Bosa, five-star linebacker Mike Mitchell and four-star linebacker Trey Johnson might fill them.
Those are just guesses. Meyer said he and his staff don’t recruit anybody to redshirt, and that this year’s class has a chance to live up to its reputation because of the time and effort his staff was able to devote to securing it.
“Last year we were like cowboys just out trying to find players,” Meyer said. “This year was (the result of) a very impressive cycle of recruiting.”
Meyer said he “wouldn’t disagree” with the notion that the Buckeyes are chasing the best programs, mostly in the SEC, and in doing so there was “a concerted effort to go find fast guys.” He did, and he found a bunch of guys that can help a good roster better.
Expectations in and around Ohio State are higher than ever. Meyer welcomes that; he thrives on it, actually.
Championships aren’t won on National Signing Day, but paths are created. Meyer & Co. are setting the bar very high, and they’re recruiting guys gifted enough to reach it. Maybe even sooner than later.