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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Meyer still puts premium on Ohio

By Brad Bournival

An offer goes out to a Georgia athlete. It's one of 20 to the Peach State from Ohio State in the Class of 2014.

Click, clack.

Urban Meyer sends assistants to Florida and Texas, and more offers are issued. The Sunshine State now has 23 juniors with offers from the Buckeyes. The Lone Star State has 14.

We must protect this house? It hardly seems like it these days.

Ohio athletes hold just 12 offers from Ohio State and make up only eight percent of the ones handed out by the Buckeyes in the junior class.

As the 2014 class gets deeper into the recruiting season, there are fans wondering out loud why Meyer is disregarding the Buckeye State and heading north, east, south and west for recruits.

Yet, in the end, he’s really not. He's just being more choosy with the in-state talent.

Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer is fighting a perception that he's not recruiting hard enough in Ohio.
While 61 percent of Ohio State signees came from Ohio during the Jim Tressel era, Meyer certainly isn’t forgetting about the state. In 2012, 16 of the 25 (64 percent) who signed hailed from Ohio, while in 2013 -- his first full class – 11 of the 24 were from the Buckeye State.

“Coach Meyer recruits the best kids whether or not they’re from Ohio,” Cleveland St. Ignatius linebacker and Buckeyes commit Kyle Berger said. “So far, we’ve done a great job in getting five great kids from around here. Hopefully we can get some more.

“People are used to Coach Tressel getting the top 15 from Ohio and going from there, whereas Coach Meyer gets the best of the best no matter where they’re from.”

Cincinnati Moeller linebacker Sam Hubbard had committed to play lacrosse on scholarship at Notre Dame but decommitted and will play football for Meyer next year.

“It really is Ohio first,” Hubbard said. “I’ve talked to him a lot about recruiting, and he says Ohio is No. 1 because he has a great relationship with the coaches. He wants kids that want to come to Ohio State because it’s their territory. He recruits Ohio hard and wants the best of the best.

“He wants to lock down Cincinnati and he wants to keep kids from Ohio here. With five of the seven commits this year from Ohio, it shows. Coach Meyer wants people at Ohio State who want to be at Ohio State.”

The Meyer effect

Two national championships at Florida earned Meyer the attention of prospects. Going undefeated in his first season in Columbus kept him white-hot in recruiting circles. An overall winning percentage of .835 doesn’t hurt either.

“He seems like a great coach to be around,” Carmel (Ind.) wide receiver Austin Roberts said. “He’s upbeat. He is always wanting to compete, always wanting to win, and that’s an attractive quality.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one that wants to win a national championship. We all want a coach that is very passionate about what he does. Urban Meyer is one of those guys.”

As Meyer says, schools are like the “flavor of the month” when they start winning. Alabama keeps rolling in the recruiting world because it wins on the field. The same can be said for any program fresh off a title run.

But it’s more with Meyer, according to recruits.

“Everyone I’ve talked to hasn’t said a bad thing about him,” Berger said. “Like Raekwon McMillan, he absolutely loves Coach Meyer. Quenton Nelson -- it was a bummer he committed to Notre Dame -- but one of his points about why he loved Ohio State so much was Coach Meyer.

“It’s just the way he talks to us. The first time I talked to him I knew I wanted to play for that man. There’s just something about how he relates to the kids.”

Fast-break frenzy

Fans have to accept that Meyer won’t get them all. He lost linebacker Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) to Michigan in the 2014 class and saw nine Ohioans choose the Wolverines in 2013.

Raekwon McMillan
Raekwon McMillan, the nation's No. 1 ILB, is one of 20 Georgia prospects with an Ohio State offer.
But that’s not earth-shattering news as Michigan has plucked two Heisman Trophy winners out of Ohio in the last 25 years in Fremont Ross cornerback Charles Woodson and Cleveland St. Joseph wide receiver Desmond Howard.

Why so many Ohioans are looking elsewhere now is because of an evolution in recruiting, said Detroit Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher.

Prospective athletes want to lock up their college choices early to concentrate on their seasons and their studies. Sometimes that even includes enrolling early.

“I don’t know if Urban is more of a national guy,” Wilcher said. “He’s Ohio because he’s from Ohio. He still wants to make sure he can maintain the border of the state even if he is recruiting the bordering states more.

“If you look at the records and the things Ohio State has been doing, it’s attracting more kids. Therefore, kids are committing a lot earlier. When you offer a kid, you try to hold that offer. If you take it, you have to hold to it because you made a commitment to him. If these kids don’t commit early, the spot might be gone. You only have 85 scholarships -- 82 for Ohio State per NCAA sanctions through 2014. Kids don’t wait. Rosters fill out before the season even starts sometimes. That’s the problem right there. It’s more than just national and local, it’s just about the commitment of the kid right now.”

The next step

Meyer will get his national four- and five-star recruits, but will nab his fair share of Ohioans as well.

“He’s getting the best players that want to be there,” Hubbard said. “Players want to go to teams that win national championships. Ohio State is going nowhere but up because of the mindset he brings, the way he recruits and how he treats his players like men.”

While Meyer still will comb Ohio for the best, it might mean a few more out-of-state stars coming to the state’s capital. And that sits just fine with future Ohio State Buckeyes.

“It’s great to have Ohio kids, but Coach Meyer wants to expand and that’s great because you get a mix of both,” Berger said. “All the kids I’ve talked to love Coach Meyer. If the state of Ohio maybe doesn’t have a lot of good players, he’ll get a couple from Ohio and then get what he needs from other states.”