Big Finish Helps Meyer Knock 2013 Class Out of Park
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There’s swinging for the fences and then there’s shooting for the stars. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer did a little of both on Wednesday. In what has become typical Urban Meyer fashion, he managed to exceed even his own expectations.
And that was before the Buckeyes landed an affirming commitment from 4-star running back Ezekiel Elliott out of St. Louis.
“It was a great day. I thought it was going to be a very good day, but I would put it in the great category,” Meyer said at his afternoon press conference inside the team room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“We went to bed last night with three guys we were very on edge with where we were at. I thought if we hit one out of three, we’d be all right. Two out of three would be a good day and three out of three was going to be knock it out of the park.”
Of those three guys – Dontre Wilson, Vonn Bell and James Clark – the OSU coaches were most concerned about Bell. They felt good with where they were at with the 5-star safety out of Georgia, but the longer things dragged on the more uncomfortable it can become for competitive guys like Meyer and safeties coach Everett Withers.
Bell was supposed to deliver his decision by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, but the time came and went without word from Ohio State’s top remaining target in the 2013 class. ESPN didn’t want Bell to spoil his live announcement scheduled for 10 a.m. on National Signing Day, but it made for some anxious moments in Columbus.
“Vonn Bell called me two minutes before he walked on the stage,” said Meyer, who has been down this road many times before.
“He said, ‘You know I’m in, right?’ I said, ‘No, I didn’t know you were in. Congratulations.’ We hit three out of three, so we’re very pleased.”
Wilson, a 4-star running back out of Texas was a Monday night decision. He picked Ohio State over Oregon, where he had previously been committed, and the in-state Longhorns. It was a long process for the Buckeyes to find the playmaker they had been looking for to fill the Percy Harvin role in their offense.
Meyer credited offensive coordinator Tom Herman for never giving up on the dynamic speedster out of DeSoto, who reopened his commitment after Chip Kelly left Eugene for the NFL last month.
“It’s not challenging when you go 12-0 and Urban Meyer is your head coach, and you’re wearing the Block O on your shirt,” said Herman, who was instrumental in getting not only Dontre Wilson, but also quarterback J.T. Barrett and linebacker Mike Mitchell out of Texas.
“Those three things certainly help you, but I think the biggest thing in the state of Texas, and really out of state area, is you have to find and identify the kids who fit your need and have that reciprocated interest in you.”
Wilson is a sub-10.5 guy in the 100 meters and Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton said he has the kind of world-class speed that could make him an All-American sprinter, if that’s what he really wanted to do.
“Honestly, the great athlete sticks out like a sore thumb,” said Drayton, who was at Florida with Meyer when he coached Percy Harvin, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.
“The intangibles is what makes it tough. Does he quite have the maturity that we’re looking for to do what we’re going to ask him to do? Is he ready to do that? Does he have the football IQ or the physical capabilities? The intangibles may force a kid on the field early, but the skill set of that elite athlete sticks out like a sore thumb.”
Drayton said Meyer will work closely with Wilson, who will be asked to do a lot of the things Harvin did at Florida when the Gators were winning BCS National Championships.
In the end, his late addition to the class did not scare away Elliott, an elite-level tailback out of St. Louis, or Clark, a speedy wide receiver out of Florida. The Buckeyes were forced to jump in late on Clark after James Quick opted to go with Louisville instead, but they loaded up they appear to be loaded with playmakers heading into 2013.
The addition of Elliott, the last player to fax his Letter of Intent to Ohio State on Wednesday, the Buckeyes solidified a home run class that will rank first or second on just about everyone’s national list.
“Everything was fine. I understand on the Internet and airwaves there were issues. There's never been an issue with Ezekiel,” Meyer told reporters after Elliott’s 5 p.m. commitment.
“He's been committed for a long time. He's got a great family. He's our tailback of the future. There's never been an issue.”
Now that the Buckeyes have loaded up for 2013, the staff will get to work on putting together an equally impressive class in 2014.
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