Meyer Nabs 14 ‘Competitors’ From Buckeye State
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — What was once expected to be a recruiting class in the mid-teens quickly ballooned into a full-scale 25-man mission for new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
When Meyer assumed control of the OSU football program back in November, he set out with two obvious pursuits in his plan to get the Buckeyes back on track after their first losing season in 23 years.
“My goal right now is to put together a fantastic recruiting class,” Meyer said during his introductory press conference on Nov. 28.
“And I think Ohio State deserves the best group of assistant coaches in America.”
A little over two months later and Meyer finally has his coaching staff in place with the recent hiring of defensive assistant Bill Sheridan. He also has one of the top recruiting classes in the country.
The Buckeyes head into National Signing Day with the No. 3-ranked class in the country by all three major online recruiting services—Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports. They currently have 23 commits in the class and could pick up a few more before it’s all over.
Since Meyer took the job, Ohio State has landed some premium out-of-state commitments from players like Noah Spence (Pennsylvania), Tommy Schutt (Illinois), David Perkins (Indiana), Joey O’Connor (Colorado) and the duo of Camren Williams and Armani Reeves from Massachusetts, of all places.
Yet the strength—the core—of Meyer’s first recruiting class at Ohio State will come from the 14 players he plucked out of his own home state.
“I'm from Ashtabula. I know Cleveland very well. I've recruited Ohio,” Meyer said.
“It's a state where you have a high school coaches association, several thousand coaches show up to it. Football is really, really important in the state of Ohio. Cleveland, Ohio, Columbus, Cincinnati, this is as good of football as there is in America. It's certainly well coached as any in America.”
We caught up with John McCallister, a highly regarded talent evaluator who has been scouting the state of Ohio since 1989. There were a number of players who caught his eye in this class, but no one more than U.S. Army All-American Adolphus Washington.
“He is a defensive end, but if he gets really big, he can slide inside and play down inside. He’s that strong,” McCallister said of the 6-4 defensive end out of Cincinnati Taft.
“He’s really active, he stays on his feet, he has good balance and he’s a competitor. He plays through the fourth quarter. He just plays every down and I respect that. Plus he’s a great kid.”
Finding kids with both integrity and a competitive fire that burns close to what Meyer has inside himself was critical for his first recruiting class. In fact, it has become the staple of his recruiting philosophy.
“I recruit the best player, and competitive nature, his desire to win, is without question the most important thing,” Meyer told Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel.
“I used to be into, ‘Is he a three-quarter (throwing motion)? Does he have four fingers on the laces or five?’ I don’t care anymore. Will he choke you to win a checker game? If he does that, I’ll take him.”
That competitiveness is a trend McCallister spots across Ohio State’s 2012 recruiting class, although not all of the kids were initially recruited by Meyer and his staff. That is particularly true of a kid like St. Ignatius tight end Blake Thomas.
“He’s gotten better and better. He runs well. He’s a good character kid. He has better than average hands and he’ll block,” said McCallister, a former high school coach who now works as director of the McCallister Scouting Report.
“I know at Ignatius he played some slot, so he can move around and do some different things. His receiving has really improved. He’s athletic enough that he can do more than just block.”
Blocking is all the Buckeyes will want or need from offensive linemen Taylor Decker (Vandalia Butler), Jacoby Boren (Pickerington Central) and Pat Elflein (Pickerington North). Decker is the big catch of the group, a true left tackle who could be a fortress on the left side of the line, but but both Boren and Elflein are probably going to end up playing inside.
“Jacoby Boren is probably going to end up at center. He’s a tough guy, a real competitor, but his height could be an issue,” McCallister said.
“He almost has to play center. He’s quick. He’s like his brothers. They’re all tough guys. They just have to find a position for him.”
His brother, Zach Boren, is the starting fullback at Ohio State and his oldest brother, Justin, was a two-year starter at guard for the Buckeyes. Zach in particular was viewed as a player without a position, but he has done quite well for himself, and could be a captain on next year’s squad.
One guy who comes into this class without a real position yet is Josh Perry. The Olentangy product is already enrolled at Ohio State, along with Boren and four others from the class, but it’s too early to tell if he will be able to play linebacker for the Buckeyes.
“He’s a tough one. I think they’re going to have to experiment with him and he’s probably going to have to put his hand down,” McCallister said of the 6-4, 228-pound Perry.
“He’s probably going to have to learn to come off the edge. I don’t know if he’s quick enough to play outside linebacker. He’s explosive. He’s a state-ranked long jumper, but they will have to see if he can turn his hips and move in space the way they want from an outside linebacker.”
The Buckeyes also have two legitimate outside linebacker prospects in this class in Perkins and Williams, but they also have a trio of stalwart defensive ends in Spence, Washington and Se’Von Pittman, a Canton McKinley kid who originally committed to Michigan State.
“Pittman is much like Adolphus in the fact that he’s big and strong and runs pretty well,” said McCallister.
“He’s tall and he’s long and he’s a tough competitor. He doesn’t quite have Adolphus’ motor.”
On the back end of the defense, McCallister sees Bedford defensive back Tyvis Powell starting out at cornerback, but said he may have to move over to free safety.
“He’s fast enough, but how well will he change direction,” McCallister asked rhetorically.
The one big hitter in this class from the defensive backfield is Glenville safety De’van Bogard.
“He is probably going to play inside at strong safety because he can come up to the line and stop the run,” McCallister said.
“His size is going to hurt a little bit, but he is just a tremendous competitor. I like the physical part of him and plays fast and he closes fast.”
The same goes for Najee Murray, a 5-11 defensive back out of Steubenville. Murray tackles well enough to play safety, but could get a shot at cornerback with some of the low numbers at that position.
“Like a lot of those guys they’ve recruited, he’s a tough guy,” McCallister said of Murray.
“He’s a competitor. I think sometimes that is as important as anything else.”
Meyer would obviously agree.
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