NCF On The Trail: Urban Meyer

Big Ten teams need to find a way to increase athleticism through recruiting and Wisconsin is working hard in Florida to make that happen. Plus, UCLA quarterback commit Josh Rosen continues to be the gift that keeps on giving for the Bruins on the recruiting trail.

Early Offer: OU's big chance to impress 

September, 11, 2014
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Oklahoma is the place to be this weekend as the Sooners are bringing in a number of elite recruits for what is shaping up to be the biggest recruiting weekend by any program so far, and despite losing last week to Virginia Tech it looks like Ohio State is still in good shape with prospects.


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1. Much has been written about the defensive talent Florida State has been able to attract to Tallahassee under Jimbo Fisher, but what truly impresses rival coaches is the stockpile of offensive talent.

“We try to tell the recruits that they’re loaded everywhere -- quarterback, running back and receiver -- but they just keep picking FSU,” an ACC recruiting coordinator said.

Opposing coaches point to Fisher’s background as a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator as a big reason why FSU’s had success recruiting on the offensive side. And boy have they had success. The 2014 class featured the No. 2 receiver, No. 3 running back, No. 6 receiver, No. 7 tight end and No. 11 quarterback. It’s much the same in 2015. On Monday, FSU added No. 7 running back Johnny Frasier. He joins a class that has the No. 4 quarterback, No. 9 quarterback, No. 11 quarterback, No. 7 offensive tackle and No. 9 tight end.


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The Sound Mind Sound Body camp was full of top prospects from all over the country. The recruits, ranging from the 2015 to 2017 classes, came in for a two-day camp with on-the-field instruction and off-the-field speakers.

College coaches from nearly every Big Ten team, Stanford, Notre Dame and MAC schools were on hand to take in the event, and some were given the opportunity to speak to the prospects.

The coaches took advantage of the face time by spending time with top targets, including defensive end Jashon Cornell, running back Jacques Patrick, wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and others.

Given the nature of the camp there was plenty of recruiting news and visit updates from those top recruits.

Patrick takes in Michigan
Michigan is still in pursuit of a top running back after losing Damien Harris to a decommitment earlier in the year. Mike Weber and Jacques Patrick have been two big targets, along with Harris, and Patrick made his annual trip up to Michigan to see the campus and take in the camp.


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Momentum seems to be building for creating an early signing period in college football. The Conference Commissioners Association will discuss the idea as part of its agenda at a meeting later this month.

As with many things in life, the devil is in the details. The ACC recommended an early signing date of Aug. 1. The SEC at its meetings last month came out against changing the recruiting calendar, but would like to use the Monday after Thanksgiving if an early signing period does happen.

The Big Ten has not endorsed a specific stance on an early signing date as a conference. Based on interviews given to ESPN.com and other media outlets, most league coaches are in favor of it. Again, though, preferences on the when and the how differ.

Several coaches support the junior college signing period of mid-December as the right time to allow high school prospects who don't want to wait until February to sign their national letters of intent.

[+] EnlargeKirk Ferentz
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsIowa's Kirk Ferentz is among the Big Ten coaches who favor an early signing period after the regular season.
"To me, that would be the perfect time," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said last summer. "I still don't understand the resistance. All it is is an opportunity to sign. They don't have to sign. I don't think anyone is going to lose a scholarship. It just gives everyone a chance to lay their cards on the table and say, 'I'm 100 percent sure now' or, 'Still not quite there.' That would be great for both parties, I think."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, Wisconsin's Gary Andersen and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio are among others who back an early signing period in December.

"It sure would clear up recruiting for a lot of us," Andersen told ESPN.com. "In my opinion, if a kid's committed, let's have him go to the school where he wants to go, and we'll move on in recruiting and get the guys we want. I think it's the most logical answer."

A possible downside of having the early signing period in December would be that it puts more pressure on coaches to concentrate on recruiting late in the season, when championships could be on the line, or during bowl preparation. In-season recruiting pressures would grow even higher with the SEC's post-Thanksgiving recommendation.

Most who favor an early signing period say their schools and coaching staffs are spending too much valuable time, money and energy trying to re-recruit players who might have signed earlier. That's why some coaches, such as Indiana's Kevin Wilson, support a signing date before or right at the beginning of the season.

"I had guys who were committed in the summer who in the last weekend [before the February signing date] changed their minds," Wilson told ESPN.com. "It would be nice if there was an early signing period on the first of September. I don't know if we've got to move the calendar up, but we waste a lot of time and a lot of money babysitting kids who have made their decisions."

Michigan is one school that could have benefited in recent seasons from an early signing period. The Wolverines have sewn up the majority of their classes under Brady Hoke in the summer before the prospects' senior year of high school. Hoke's staff could have locked up those commitments and focused on filling out the final few spots or moving on to the following year's class.

Hoke would like to see an early signing date, but with a caveat.

"If there's an early signing period, there probably needs to be an early visitation period for those kids," he told ESPN.com. "Maybe the first two weeks in June to get on your campus."

That's a big deal for Big Ten coaches, who would love to see prospects be able to take official visits before the start of their senior year. An early signing date without an earlier visit calendar could put the league at a disadvantage against schools in more talent-rich areas. (We'll look more closely at this issue on Thursday in the blog.)

[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska's Bo Pelini says allowing earlier official visits must be a part of any move toward an early signing period.
Nebraska's Bo Pelini has said he would not support an earlier signing date without those earlier visits (and even then, he said he would need more time to study the issue). Schools such as Nebraska and Minnesota, which are farther away from talent-rich hubs, simply wouldn't see many benefits to an early signing day if the rest of the recruiting calendar remained the same. Players in blue chip-heavy areas -- such as the South, Texas and California -- would be more apt to take unofficial visits at schools closer to home and then could get pressured into signing before they ever made a trip up north.

Ohio State under Urban Meyer has thrived during the final weeks of recruiting before the February signing day, as his staff has built a reputation of being great "closers." So it's no surprise that Meyer was one of three SEC coaches to vote against a proposal to support an early signing date in 2008, when he was still at Florida. Meyer said at the time that "recruiting should be done in December, January and February. I think [an early date] speeds up 17- and 18-year-olds to make a decision that affects the rest of their lives."

Maryland's Randy Edsall has proposed that schools shouldn't even send out any type of scholarship offer until Sept. 1 of a high school prospect's senior year in high school, and then those offers would come from the university's admissions office, not the coaches. That would slow things way down and make sure prospects have achieved the necessary test scores and admission standards. Yet Edsall also said this spring that if recruiting continues at its current accelerated pace, that "there definitely has to be an early signing period."

There are other issues with the early signing date, including what protection the players would have if the coach left for another job after they signed. Plus plans change in recruiting all the time.

"I see the pluses and the minuses with it," Dantonio told ESPN.com. "If you have a committed guy and he signs with you, he truly is committed. That’s a positive. I also think if you take one quarterback and he thinks he’s the only one, and all of a sudden you take two, how does that all play out?

"I do think it keeps people from poaching off you, whether it be us poaching off somebody or somebody else [poaching]. It makes people hold to their word. If they don't want to sign then, they’re still open, and you know they’re open. But I would make it a mid-December type deal. I’m not in favor of August; I'm not in favor of September. I'm in favor of, ‘They've had a chance to at least visit and be on campus a couple places, so they have a feel.’”

College football does appear headed for an early signing date soon, if only the details can get ironed out.

"We get into these discussions, and everybody kind of has their own agenda of what's in the best interests for their school," Penn State coach James Franklin told ESPN.com. "But for a lot of different reasons, an early signing period makes sense for everybody."

Early Offer: QBs wanted in Columbus 

February, 21, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Ohio State has made quarterback recruiting a major priority under Urban Meyer and it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon; and it’s a good year for talent in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Washington. Will that translate to good classes for Washington and Washington State?


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Early Offer: Meyer key to DB commit 

February, 12, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: One of the better defensive back prospects in Florida is heading to Ohio State, and Urban Meyer is a big reason why; this weekend is Missouri’s chance to impress a number of top 2015 prospects; and one of the top 2015 prospects is making rounds on unofficial visits.

Meyer seals it for Edwards
Three-star safety Ben Edwards (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian) gave high marks to Ohio State assistants Tim Hinton and Chris Ash for playing a role in his decision to commit to the Buckeyes on Tuesday. But it was head coach Urban Meyer who made the biggest difference. “Who wouldn’t want to play for Coach Meyer?” Edwards said. “People down here in Florida still love him and talk about him all the time. He won two national championships and has always had winning teams. My family is also comfortable with me playing for him, so he definitely played a big factor in my decision.” Edwards picked Ohio State over offers from about 20 other teams.


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Early Offer: No doubting OSU's Meyer 

December, 17, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Ohio State moves up three spots in the RecruitingNation Class Rankings after the addition of five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan, but the Buckeyes aren’t done in the South yet; Notre Dame also moves into the top 10 after landing the nation’s No. 1 tight end; and the NJCAA All-America team features a number of well-known recruits.

Ohio State makes Southern push
Shortly after Ohio State landed five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), I asked on Twitter if it’s time to stop doubting Buckeye coach Urban Meyer’s recruiting efforts. Of course, fans from other schools all over the country jumped in and said the jury is still out (and several other things that aren’t safe for print). But even then the biggest Meyer critics might have to change their minds if he is able to also land No. 4 receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer) in the next couple of days. The Buckeyes currently have the nation’s No. 8 class and have some major momentum heading into the final push.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: With the first edition of this year’s BCS rankings released Sunday, we take a look at how the top five teams in are faring on the college football recruiting trail.


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Early Offer: ACC showdown will impress 

October, 18, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: The winner of Saturday’s Florida State-Clemson game will have something big to sell to recruits; one of Wisconsin’s earliest commitments is taking trips to other schools, including a trip to visit former Badgers coach Bret Bielema; and the nation’s No. 7 player and a top tight end are expected to announce this weekend.


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The Early Offer: Cal's chance to impress 

September, 11, 2013
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The Early Offer gives you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: California is going to roll out the red carpet for more than 150 recruits this weekend; fans will get a chance to see the nation’s top junior live on national television on Friday; and Ohio State continues to address concerns about team speed by adding another burner to its commitment list on Monday.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer join Twitter, demonstrating the power the social media vehicle has on recruits; Cameron Robinson’s decision is pushed back to next week, and one team is feeling better about its chances; and former four-star athlete Chase Abbington is making a big splash in the junior college ranks.

Welcome to Twitter Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer
Twitter has become one of the biggest recruiting tools for college football coaches. Not only do they use it for communication with prospects, since the rules on electronic communication are more lax than phone calls. Tweets are also a great way to share recruiting propaganda and are more likely to be read compared to letters that pile up in a recruit’s mailbox. The latest coaches to embrace the new recruiting world order are Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. “My good friend Bob Stoops talked me into this Twitter stuff -- let’s see how it goes,” Meyer tweeted Tuesday after opening an account and quickly gaining 30,000 followers. Stoops has had his own Twitter account for about a year but it had always been set to private -- until Wednesday. One of his first tweets was about going after national championship No. 9. It was recruiting through social media at its finest.

Robinson pushes back announcement date

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: reasons for LSU fans to be patient, Ohio State's start, and Sonny Dykes reloading.


Patience is a virtue for LSU

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#AskLoogs: Urban Meyer loading up

August, 5, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.


Load up at DT, DE, OL and CB. Those are the positions that define the SEC and Alabama right now. To compete with the likes of the elite teams in the SEC, Ohio State must become two deep in the front, with very little drop-off, if any, when rotating in the front. Meyer knows this all too well because his best teams at Florida did this and won championships.

Look at Ohio State's last two classes. In 2012, Meyer closed with DE Noah Spence, DE Adolphus Washington, DT Tommy Schutt, OG Joey O’Connor, DE Jamal Marcus and DE/OLB Josh Perry all near or at the top of the class. In 2013, the focus moved to the secondary with CB Eli Apple, CB Gareon Conley, CB Cam Burrows, S Vonn Bell and then rounded it out with ILB Trey Johnson. See the pattern? He is loading up here for a reason and it’s not to win the Big Ten -- it’s to win the whole thing. The big question is can Ohio State lure top defensive line prospects out of the South and away from the SEC/ACC?

Brandon Harris makes the rounds 

June, 6, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The explosion of offers and attention was overwhelming enough for Brandon Harris when spread over four months.

But it was nothing compared to the 72-hour window a week ago that essentially offered confirmation that the four-star quarterback (Bossier City, La./Parkway) has arrived on the national scene and isn’t going away.


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