Urban Meyer Reaches Into New Jersey for Latest 2013 Commitment
By Tony Gerdeman
Eli Woodard, a four-star cornerback out of Voorhees, New Jersey, announced via Twitter on Thursday that he has verbally committed to play football at The Ohio State University. He becomes the Buckeyes' fourth verbal commitment of the 2013 recruiting class.
"Thanks to God for this opportunity," he tweeted. "Thanks to all the schools that offered me, all the great coaches I met during the recruiting process.
"Thanks to my coaches & teammates. Thanks to my parents for supporting me thru this process. Just ready to go from recruiting to preparation.
"After much prayer and consideration, I'm proud to commit as a student-athlete to The Ohio State University!"
And with that, Urban Meyer had locked up perhaps the best cornerback group in the 2013 recruiting class—with more than eleven months to go until Signing Day.
Combined with five-star prospect Cameron Burrows from Trotwood-Madison, the Buckeyes appear to be set at cornerback for the foreseeable future, but don't expect them to stop looking for talent.
Rivals ranks Woodard (6-1 185) as the 28th-best player overall in the nation and the fourth-best cornerback. He is 247Sports' fifth-ranked cornerback. Scout has Woodard as one of their top seven cornerbacks, though they have not yet put them in any order other than alphabetical.
Woodard, who will play in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American game with future secondary mate Cameron Burrows, chose Ohio State over offers from Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame, Miami (FL), Clemson, Nebraska and his home state Rutgers.
It was a long road to Columbus for Woodard, but one that became quite familiar after a while. He was born in Philadelphia, then moved to Ghana for a couple of years as a young child, then to Brooklyn and then back to Philadelphia.
His family finally settled in Voorhees when he was in the fourth grade, and his days of moving around (his mother worked in television news) were finally over.
Three years after landing in Vorhees, he showed up in Columbus to attend an Ohio State summer football camp, and he's been coming back ever since.
This past June he was again attending the Ohio State summer camp (where he ran a 4.48 forty) when he finally got the offer that he had been coveting for years.
While Luke Fickell's staff was familiar enough with Woodard to offer, he wasn't familiar enough with them to accept.
"I have known and been around Coach (Jim) Tressel and Coach (Darrell) Hazell since the summer of my seventh grade year, and it's just been a natural progression over the years," Woodard told Rivals.com's Mike Farrell back in December.
"I went the summer after my freshman year and tore it up, but then this year with Coach Tressel and Coach Hazell not there anymore, I felt like I had to do it all over again. I tore it up again and I know I can play at that level no problem."
That desire to prove himself again and again to the Ohio State coaches is reminiscent of another former New Jersey cornerback—Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins famously cut in lines to take multiple reps in order to impress the Buckeye coaches and earn his Ohio State scholarship. It was certainly an early indicator of things to come from him, and might be with Woodard as well.
It should probably come as no surprise then that Jenkins was one of Woodard's well wishers on Thursday, tweeting simply "Welcome young man... Welcome."
Despite Woodard's connection to Jim Tressel, his stronger connection was to that of The Ohio State University, and when Urban Meyer was hired, that connection certainly didn't wane.
"It makes me feel more comfortable because I know they have a great coach now," he told Farrell. "There was a lot of uncertainty before he was hired, but it doesn't change what Ohio State is."
Woodard, who has volunteered at the Voorhees Pediatric Center every weekend throughout his high school career, has perhaps become the most sought after athlete in Eastern Regional High School's history, and for good reason.
"It's getting crazy," Eastern coach Dan Spittal told The Philadelphia Inquirer in early February. "I just got off the phone with Michigan and Southern Cal. Every day, it's another school like that. He could end up being our biggest recruit ever."
Eastern also produced former Penn State cornerback Adam Taliaferro, as well as offensive lineman Phil Trautwein, who just happened to win two national championships under Urban Meyer at Florida.
"He really has no negatives," Spittal said of his star cornerback. "He's so fast, he can hit, and he's great in press coverage."
He also played both ways in high school, where his love of hitting also aided in his run blocking. He is simply a very physical player who also excels in run support.
Urban Meyer loves competitors, and it would seem that he has found one in Woodard.
"I know that there were a lot of people looking at me and that in some cases I am sure I came up in the motivational talks during another team's practice during the week," he told Farrell. "Guys want to make plays and especially against me, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. That's the game, that's football. They quickly find out that I worked for my offers.
"I went against some of the best in the offseason. I went against at least 80 D-I wide receivers in 7-on-7s or camps. The wide receivers at the Ohio State camp alone were off the charts. From 5-foot-8 guys to 6-foot-6 guys from New Jersey to California, I have guarded them all. So anything a wide receiver is going to try on me, I'm ready."
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