Meyer Looking for Strong Close

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Last updated: 01/16/2013 12:39 PM

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Football Recruiting
Meyer Looking for Another Strong Close
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer will have his champagne bottle ready. Whether or not he cracks it open will depend largely on how things play out over the next couple weeks.

Meyer and his coaching staff have already put together one of the most enviable recruiting classes in the country at Ohio State, but it’s not quite finished yet. There is still valuable time before National Signing Day on Feb. 6 and the Buckeyes are narrowing in on a few key prospects to finish the 2013 recruiting class before they officially move on to the juniors in the 2014 class.

“The next three weeks, there's obviously going to be a very strong emphasis on closing this class,” Meyer said late last week.

“At this time, we like our class. As with most classes, how you finish is what determines if you love the class.”

Meyer didn’t start last year’s class for Ohio State, but he certainly proved he could close, especially considering his current coaching staff was not really in place until just before Signing Day.

At first, Meyer wasn’t convinced he would keep Mike Vrabel on his coaching staff because he wasn’t sure if the freshly-retired linebacker was really ready to commit himself to the college coaching lifestyle.

Meyer did decide to keep former Jim Tressel assistant Taver Johnson on his staff as cornerbacks coach, but Johnson eventually bolted for a co-defensive coordinator position at Arkansas. Meyer then hired Bill Sheridan to replace him at the end of January, but the long-time NFL assistant didn’t last a month before he wound up in Tampa Bay as Greg Schiano’s new defensive coordinator.

Ohio State’s first-year coach eventually settled on Cincinnati assistant Kerry Coombs, who has turned out to be a God-send for the Buckeyes, both for his energy and his tireless recruiting ability.

A lot has changed in a year since Meyer first came to Columbus. A 12-0 season in year one can have that type of affect on a program, even one that spent the last year on NCAA probation that prohibited the Buckeyes from playing in a bowl game, or even the Big Ten title game.

“I call it 'flavor of the month,’ ” Meyer said.

“Ohio State really wasn't the flavor of the month a year ago. There's some really quality guys that came. Noah Spence is obviously the key name that jumped onboard last year.”

Spence was a 5-star defensive end and the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Pennsylvania last season as a senior at Bishop McDevitt High School. He was one of the most coveted defensive prospects in the country and one of the first people Meyer called after his introductory press conference in Columbus.

“Last year it was kind of give me the top 20 guys in positions and I was on the phone with them trying to get them,” Meyer recalled.

“Here we know, we've been in the schools, we know who they are, we know what we're getting. So just a much different approach and I do like where we're at.”

One positive Meyer had going for him when took the Ohio State job, other than his big name and pair of BCS championship rings, was the offer of early playing time. The Buckeyes were dangerously thin at certain positions – particularly linebacker and offensive line –  and he was able to use that in his recruitment of some high profile kids, including Taylor Decker, Jamal Marcus, David Perkins and Camren Williams.

It worked out nicely for Meyer, as he closed the 2012 class with a bang, but nothing can replace the relationship aspect of recruiting. That’s something Ohio State’s new head coach had to work at just to catch up for the 2013 class.

“I don't want to say we're selecting and not recruiting, because that's not correct either, but it's just a completely different approach,” Meyer added. “We know everybody we're recruiting.”

The Buckeyes passed on a few high profile in-state kids, a couple of whom ended up committing to that school up north, but they have put together a solid group of 22 commits that, apparently, could grow to as many as 24 or even 25.

Meyer and his staff have landed five key commitments in a little over a month since the 2012 season came to an end. That includes former Michigan commit Gareon Conley, who flipped over to the Buckeyes in early December. It also includes a pair of blue-chip linebackers in Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell.

Ohio State would still like to add another receiver to the class, and possibly a third offensive lineman, but they will hold a spot for 5-star safety Vonn Bell, who is set to visit Alabama and Tennessee before he makes his final announcement on Signing Day.

That’s the big one for Meyer, but he knows every kid in the class is important, and nobody is safe until they get that signature next month.

“There's a lot of chaos right now with new staffs, new coaches trying to take your players and all that kind of stuff,” said Meyer, who has recruited his fair share of players who were committed to other schools.  

“We've just got to keep recruiting our players and get going.”

The big one to keep an eye on his Trey Johnson, a 4-star linebacker out of Central Gwinnett High School down in Georgia. The former Auburn commit pledged to play for OSU during the Under Armour All-American game, but he’s still being recruited heavily by the Tigers.

He’s also being courted by new Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof. The former Penn State assistant holds a special connection with Johnson, who says he is still solidly committed to the Buckeyes, because he played at the same high school.  

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