Thinking Out Loud: Five Things From National Signing Day
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wednesday turned out to be what has to be one of the more eventful National Signing Day’s in recent Ohio State history. The Buckeyes landed just about everyone they could have hoped for and then a few extras.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs compared it to Christmas morning, with OSU getting every present it asked for and a few bonus presents it couldn’t possibly have anticipated. The end result was a No. 1-ranked class, at least according to Scout.com, for 2013.
We got a chance to hear from Urban Meyer and a number of his assistants in the afternoon, which got me Thinking Out Loud about this class and this Ohio State class.
1. All eyes on Dontre Wilson. First of all, it was obvious to me that Meyer and his assistants think Wilson is going to be a special player. They got a lot of offensive skill guys in this class, and they had great things to say about James Clark and Jalin Marshall, but I got the sense they were especially excited about what Wilson could bring to that hybrid flex role.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton talked about Meyer being the one who would personally coach Wilson in the same way he coach Percy Harvin at Florida. I got the sense they believe he can develop into that type of player for this offense.
The big difference with Wilson is the fact he has world-class speed but he was primarily a running back in high school. He’s used to running between the tackles and used to having the ball in his hands 20+ times a game. Drayton and Tom Herman both talked about that guy needing to have more than just sub-10.5 speed in the 100 meter. He has to have some toughness and then the ability to make guys miss in the open field.
2. Billy Price is a sleeper to watch. There are a lot of different candidates for this honor, but I got the sense Wednesday that Price just might be the biggest sleeper in this 2013 recruiting class. How many times have we talked about Price since he made his under-the-radar commitment to OSU last February? Not many.
He often gets lumped with the other incoming guys on the defensive line as a guy who could provide some depth down the road, but Meyer and Luke Fickell both raved about Price on Wednesday. They seem to think he and Joey Bosa are the two guys on the defensive line who are the most ready to come in and play right away. They love Price’s toughness and they made sure he felt how important they thought he was to this recruiting class right from the start.
3. Don’t sleep on Trey Johnson. I’m just going to say it now. Fans are quick to fall in love with Mike Mitchell because of the size and speed – not to mention those five stars – but Fickell made it sound like Johnson is much closer to being ready from a mental standpoint.
If we’ve learned anything over the past two years it’s that playing linebacker at Ohio State is just as much mental as it is physical. Curtis Grant has every physical tool in the book. So does Jamal Marcus. The same could be said for Joshua Perry and David Perkins, and yet none of them found a way to really crack into a weak linebacker rotation last season.
That doesn’t mean none of those guys are going to be any good. What it does mean is that a lack of understanding can paralyze speed and athletic ability. Ryan Shazier is a rare breed who can just let loose and fly from Point A to Point B with reckless abandon. Even he had to learn to settle down and play the position the right way.
4. Ezekiel Elliott was always going to be a Buckeye. I know he had people worried there for a little while, but I’m not really sure it was worth all the anxiety. Urban Meyer certainly didn’t seem to lose a minute of sleep over where Elliott was going to end up, and I’m pretty sure that meeting with Drayton cleared up any concerns Elliott had with Dontre Wilson joining the class. They simply aren’t going to play the same position.
So why the dog and pony show? Good question. I’m still not 100 percent sure why Elliott dragged things out with his 4 p.m. CT announcement on National Signing Day, but then why does any kid do anything he does when it comes to recruiting? My guess is Elliott knew Ohio State was the place for him. He fell in love with it early on and made a close relationship with the other kids in the class. He liked Urban Meyer and loved the idea of playing in this new OSU offense, but he was feeling bad about the fact he didn’t give Missouri more love throughout the process.
Both of his parents went to Mizzou and I imagine this young man was feeling a sense of nostalgia when he visited Columbia last weekend. They were chanting his name and tugging at his heartstrings as the local hero and legacy recruit at a school where he would have been worshiped. In the end, cooler heads prevailed and Elliott ended up where he had always planned to be.
5. Offensive line needs some love, too. I’m not the only one who realized offensive line was the one area where Meyer and his staff really come up short in this recruiting class. That is especially true now that we know they weren’t initially sold on Evan Lisle. Meyer called him the most improved player in the class, but he was also quick to say that offensive line is the No. 1 priority for 2014.
With this class, it was simply more important to get that one extra playmaker – which turned out to be James Clark – than to go all in on an offensive lineman they weren’t enamored with this late in the game.
From the way Meyer was talking Wednesday, it sounds like Billy Price is going to stay on the defensive side of the ball, at least for now. Same with Donovan Munger, who quietly signed with the Buckeyes after all the hoopla of his unscheduled visit to Florida State. That leaves Lisle and 3-star Timothy Gardner as the only two offensive linemen in the class.
As Meyer said, the Buckeyes will have four starters on the line “walk out that door” after next season. They are nowhere near ready for that at the moment. Addressing that concern will be priority 1, 1a, 1b and 1c for Meyer as he looks to jumpstart the 2014 class.
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