Ohio State Recruiting: 2014 and 2015 Duds Cause Offensive Woes

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer looks on against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer looks on against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Misses on the recruiting trail have hurt the Ohio State offense.

Urban Meyer is one of the best recruiters in college football.  His Ohio State classes have routinely finished in the top three nationally and in two weeks he’s going to haul in the No. 2 class that would be No. 1 if he had more scholarships to offer.

So why has the Ohio State offense struggled the last two seasons?

Back-to-back whiffs in signing elite-level offensive players in the 2014 and 2015 classes.

One has to wonder why Meyer has struggled to match the success he’s had recruiting and developing defensive talent with the offensive side of the ball.

Only the 2013 Ohio State recruiting class produced at least five legitimate playmakers with J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, Billy Price, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Marcus Baugh headlining the class.

By comparison, every defensive class has produced a minimum of five difference makers with the 2013 class leading the way with Joey Bosa, Darron Lee, Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Chris Worley, Michael Hill and Tyquan Lewis.

A closer look at the 2014 and 2015 classes explains why the offense has underperformed and reveals why the 2017 season hinges on the 2016 players living up to expectations. Here are the offensive players in the classes and their star ratings.

2014:

Player Rating
Curtis Samuel 4
Noah Brown 4
Jamarco Jones 4
Parris Campbell 4
Terry McLaurin 4
Johnnie Dixon 4
Demetrius Knox 4
Brady Taylor 3
Kyle Trout 4
Marcelys Jones 4
Sean Neurnberger 3
Stephen Collier 3

Curtis Samuel lived up to expectations for one season.  An early departure to the NFL cuts short his payoff, but without him in 2016 there would have been a few more losses.

He finished his career with 1,286 yards rushing, 1,249 yards receiving and 24 touchdowns.

Jamarco Jones just completed a strong first season at left tackle and will be the anchor for what many in Buckeye Nation are praying will be a drastically improved offensive line in 2017.

Noah Brown showed promise before a season-ending injury derailed his 2015 season.  2016 started fast with an impressive game against Oklahoma, but he largely faded as the season progressed.  He finished his career with 411 yards receiving and seven touchdowns and is now leaving for the NFL.

Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon have a combined 290 yards receiving and three touchdowns over three seasons.

At least Campbell is a legitimate threat on special teams otherwise this trio would be a complete disappointment.

It took an injury to freshman Michael Jordan against Clemson to find out how Demetrius Knox would perform and that did not go well.  He was unprepared for the moment.  Perhaps spring practices will help elevate his play.  He’ll compete for a guard position.

Brady Taylor, a local kid that was a heart-warming story when he was offered a scholarship, has yet to see the field in a meaningful game.  He’ll be the backup center again this year.

Kyle Trout is expected to transfer.  Marcelys Jones lasted one season before transferring to Kentucky where he was kicked off the team for violating team rules.

Rounding out the class are quarterback Stephen Collier who already graduated and kicker Sean Nuernberger who had a successful freshman season, lost his job to Jack Willoughby in 2015 and did not play last year due to injury. He is expected to start this year.

The 2014 class has produced two elite players and one good player. Ouch.

Sep 10, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Mike Weber (25) against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 10, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Mike Weber (25) against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2015

Player Rating
Mike Weber 4
K.J. Hill 4
Isaiah Prince 4
Eric Glover Williams 4
Joe Burrow 3
Torrence Gibson 4
Alex Stump 3
A.J. Alexander 3
Branden Bowen 3
Matt Burrell 4
Kevin Feder 4
Grant Schmidt 4
Liam McCullough 2

While it is a little early to label the 2015 class a disappointment, it is trending in that direction.  For the 2017 to be special, a few of these guys need to  significantly improve their level of play.

The top player in the class is Mike Weber who despite being the third option last year, managed to rush for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns.  Meyer spent a lot of capital to get Weber to campus and he’s paying off.  Expect his load to increase to keep the hits off Barrett.

Isaiah Prince had an up and down first year as the starting right tackle.  He footwork was questionable and he gave up too many sacks. That’s the bad news.

The good news is he has eight months with Mickey Marotti and Greg Studrawa to fix the flaws.  This a key off-season for Prince because he has to develop into solid pass protector and road grinder for the offense to have success.

K.J. Hill accomplished in an injury-shortened, redshirt freshman season what Campbell, McLaurin and Dixon have done combined so there’s promise that he’s going to be the man in 2017.  Another off-season should improve his consistency.

Everybody loves the backup quarterback and Joe Burrow certainly fills that role admirably.  Some fans want to know if Burrow is the answer to the passing game deficiencies.  Bottom line is if he were a better option, Meyer would play him.  For now, it looks like Burrow will be the perpetual backup for his entire career.

A.J. Alexander was the backup to Marcus Baugh in 2016, but the spot might be short-lived with freshmen Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell and Kierre Hawkins battling for playing time.  My bet is Farrell or Hausmann win the job at the No. 2 tight end.

Eric Glover-Williams spent the last two seasons vying for time in a loaded secondary.  He is now moving over to wide receiver.

Is this a sign that he was evaluated improperly?  Probably not.  I think it is more symptomatic of the stellar 2016 defensive back class and overall need at H-back with Samuel’s departure.  Regardless, he is entering year three without making an impact.

Alex Stump redshirted in 2015 and caught one pass last year in the Rutgers game which is not saying much.  If that game went on much further, fans would have seen a few plays.

With last season’s performance, all positions are the offensive line should be open for competition.  In reality it is probably just the right guard spot.

Branden Bowen is going to back up Jones for another year or perhaps push Prince and capture the right tackle spot.  He’ll make an impact, but it might be 2018 before he sees the field regularly.

Kevin Feder and Matt Burrell will be in the mix to capture a spot.  If they fail to win a role this year, odds are slim that either will become a fulltime starter during their career without an injury to someone else.

Perhaps the most painful loss in this class is Torrence Gibson.  A gifted athlete that seem poised for a breakout season was suspended by the school and now has transferred to Cincinnati to play for Luke Fickell.

Last on the list is Grant Schmidt who transferred to Cincinnati last May.

The 2015 offensive class has produced one elite player and two good players.  Double ouch.

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of an Ohio State Buckeyes helmet against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of an Ohio State Buckeyes helmet against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Analysis

Kevin Wilson was hired to transform the offense and make it lethal again.  The cupboard is a little bare from the 2014 and 2015 classes, but the 2016 Ohio State class is showing promise.

Austin Mack, Benjamin Victor, DeMario McCall and Antonio Williams will all be part of the mix this year. Victor, Mack and McCall will start and Williams carries will increase to keep Weber fresh as the season progresses.

Hausmann or Farrell will push Baugh to get better and Wilson is also the tight ends coach so he’ll bleed every ounce of talent from one of them.

Michael Jordan is already a starter so he’ll be a star for at least the next two seasons providing he stays healthy.

There is buzz around Dwayne Haskins, but he won’t beat out Barrett.  He’s set to compete for the job in 2018.

Coupled with the 2017 class which looks to be outstanding, the future is bright for the offense to become explosive again.

This article originally appeared on