No. 1 class can be blessing or curse

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Last updated: 02/07/2013 2:53 PM

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Football Recruiting
Meyer Knows No. 1 Class Could Be Blessing or Curse
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has done it again. For the third time in the last seven seasons, the kid from Ashtabula who cut his teeth under Earle Bruce and Lou Holtz has won college football’s recruiting title. at least according to Scout.com.

Both Rivals.com and 247 Sports had Ohio State at No. 2 in the final team rankings, behind only Alabama. Meyer took home his third No. 1 overall class on Scout, topping archrival Michigan for the top spot in 2013 class.

It was a flurry of late commitments from 5-star defensive back Vonn Bell and 4-star playmakers Dontre Wilson and James Clark that pushed Ohio State over the top. It was also pretty important for them to keep 4-star running back Ezekiel Elliott in the mix.

Ohio State is still waiting on a final decision from 3-star punter Johnny Townsend, but Meyer was already celebrating a job well done by his coaching staff on Wednesday.

“Very impressed with our coaching staff. I'm going to name a couple of them. Not to devalue some of the other efforts, but I've seen some really good efforts,” Meyer said during his press conference on National Signing Day.

“Everett Withers from start to finish, his effort on Vonn Bell, as good as I've ever seen. …Tom Herman did an excellent job down in Texas, an area that traditionally has not been strong for Ohio State.

“And then the effort of Tim Hinton in state. I think Jalin Marshall is a young man that if he was a guy that wanted to play the game and wait till signing day to put the eight hats out there, he could have whatever many amounts of hats he wanted.”

Meyer is working with almost an entirely new coaching staff from his days at Florida. Only Stan Drayton was around when Ohio State’s current head coach hoisted his first crystal football back in 2007 at the expense of the same school he now calls home.

He also won his first recruiting title that February, taking home the No. 1 overall class at Florida in 2007; something he would do again in 2010. Meyer’s ’07 class included names like Cam Newton, Carlos Dunlap, Joe Haden, Aaron Hernandez, Chris Rainey, Major Wright and the Pouncey brothers.

It was an epic class full of immense talent, even though Newton wouldn’t become a household name in college football until after he had transferred to Auburn. He would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, but Meyer also had a quarterback in that class by the name of John Brantley.

Brantley was the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school, but he never quite lived up to that hype when he got to Florida. Neither did Meyer’s 2008 class, which was rated as high as No. 3 overall by Rivals.com.

“The only thing I know, back in 2008, I think Florida had the No. 1 class, and two years later, that No. 1 class drove Urban Meyer to retirement,” former Florida coach Steve Spurrier said during his signing day press conference on Wednesday.

“Of course, he came back a year later and he's an excellent coach, but I know later there were comments that that No. 1 class just didn't pan out. Of course, it usually pans out at Alabama every year. But, again, recruiting is extremely important, but after they get there is really what's most important.”

According to Rivals, that 2008 Florida class had four players rated as 5-star prospects and 11 guys who were rated as 4-star players. The Gators went 13-1 and won another BCS National Championship that fall. They were 13-1 again the next year, but things started to deteriorate when those 2006 and 2007 classes filtered out of Gainesville in 2009.

“We recruited a class one time at Florida that went on to win more games than any other team in the history of the SEC,” Meyer said Wednesday.

“That’s a pretty good recruiting class. We’ve had others not as good.”

Meyer’s 2009 class was not particularly highly-rated although that was primarily because he only signed 16 kids that year. Among them were linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, along with tailback Mike Gillislee, but it wasn’t an Urban Meyer-caliber class.

A number of those guys helped the Gators return to national prominence this last season, along with guys form Meyer’s last class at Florida in 2010. That group included names like Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell.

It was rated as the No. 1 class in the country by Scout.com and No. 2 by Rivals.com, making it a very similar class to the one Meyer signed at Ohio State on Wednesday. The Buckeyes finished first in the Scout rankings and second on Rivals, but Meyer knows none of that really matters unless he and his staff develop this talent at an elite level.

“I’ve done this long enough to know that now it’s in the developmental phase, once you get the letter of intent back,” Meyer added.

“We’re going to develop as hard as we ever have because you can’t look into the crystal ball and see the evaluation down the road.”

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