After finishing as the third-rated recruiting class last season with Urban Meyer only being hired in late November, it isn’t surprising that with a full year to recruit Ohio State landed the top class in America for 2013.
Meyer and his assistants were relentless on the recruiting trail, and were still operating with three less scholarships due to NCAA sanctions. This was a broad, national effort, and Ohio State was particularly successful in the state of Texas, with the bulk of the credit going to offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
Ohio State needed desperately to add speed on offense, especially after having little success last season making plays on the outside, and that mission was accomplished in grand fashion.
Jalin Marshall is the highest-rated offensive player in the class, and he was Meyer’s first commit that has the ability to change the scoreboard from anywhere on the field. The progress Marshall made in Orlando for the Under Armour All-America game playing wide receiver was amazing, and it’s scary to think how good he can become as he gets more reps at the position. He should be on the field from Day-One, and be an instant factor offensively.
More serious speed was added with the late commitments of Dontre Wilson and James Clark, and like Marshall, this has been missing from the Buckeye attack in the past two seasons. Ohio State will be able to open up the field, which should make it even easier for Carlos Hyde to continue to batter defenses between the guards. Corey Smith will also see immediate playing time, and he should be able to be the first-down maker of the group. Smith can go across the middle and catch the football in the intermediate zones, another skill lacking the past few seasons. Do not count out tight end Marcus Baugh as another freshman contributor next season, as his speed and athleticism stand out. It’s hard to see Ezekiel Elliott contributing much next season, but the tailback has an impressive skill set, and Meyer loves to play freshmen.
J.T. Barrett is on campus as an early-enrollee, and Ohio State will need to decide who gets the backup reps to Braxton Miller next year. While Kenny Guiton would get the nod in a close game scenario, an interesting question would be who gets the third team reps in blowout situations, Barrett or Cardale Jones? Barrett was hand picked by Tom Herman as his guy, so it will be telling to try to determine who succeeds Miller in 2015.
Offensive line recruiting would be the only sub-par position group, and Meyer will make sure it is the prime focus of the 2014 recruiting class. Of the two commits, Evan Lisle would be the highest rated, and a player that would benefit from a year in the weight room.
Defensively, Ohio State needed linebacker help, and not so much quantity like last year’s group, but quality and the ability to play early. Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson are different types of players, but both will get every opportunity to see the field next season for the Buckeyes. With only Ryan Shazier as a proven linebacker commodity, these two freshmen have a great chance at seeing early playing time.
The defensive backfield group would compare favorably to any group in the country, and Ohio State brought in an amazing talent haul. Cameron Burrows, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley will start out at cornerback, and it’s not hard to envision two of them in the two-deep backing up Doran Grant and Bradley Roby. At the safety position, five-star Vonn Bell is going to be on the field next season in some role, likely at the STAR position. Jayme Thompson could also see himself earn playing time, and he is physical enough to contribute on special teams right off the bat. Darron Lee and Christopher Worley might not have their positions defined early, as both could play safety or linebacker, but they could also be special teams contributors next season.
Meyer loves defensive linemen, and he brought in another impressive group in this class. Five-star Joey Bosa has his sights set on a starting position, and he might have the talent to pull it off. At worst, Bosa will be in the two-deep if he can stay healthy in the fall. Tyquan Lewis, Michael Hill, Billy Price, Tracy Sprinkle and Donovan Munger are all athletes that will be battling to get on the field, as Ohio State lost all four starters from last year.
Breaking down the class by the recruiting numbers, Ohio State landed the overall recruiting title by scoring a total of 5,206 points, a staggering amount. The strength of the class would be that out of 24 commits, only three are ranked less than four-stars.
Aside from raw numbers, recruiting is as much about filling needs as it is collecting talent, and Meyer hit a home run in this area, especially adding speed. Next year, the emphasis needs to be on the offensive line, as it is already a huge priority for Ohio State and will continue to be throughout the coming year.
Can Meyer and Ohio State continue to recruit at this level? Seeing as how landing top classes has become almost routine for Meyer, there is absolutely no reason to see any end in sight, and it’s apparent the Buckeye head coach is thoroughly enjoying himself at Ohio State.
The tradition, facilities, and overall Ohio State environment lends itself to being a recruiting powerhouse, but make no mistake, it’s the man at the top driving the train and Meyer is the master at the recruiting game. And he is still in the process of reshaping this roster to what he feels he needs to win, so what type of product will Ohio State put on the field when Meyer’s recruits are in position? That thought should be staggering to future Buckeye opponents, and it’s one that should have Ohio State as national title contenders on a yearly basis.