Carpetbag Recruiting Pays Off for Meyer
Urban Meyer Plans to Take on the SEC Using Their Own Players
By Brandon Castel
1. A Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War and became active in Republican politics especially so as to profiteer from the unsettled social and political conditions of the area during Reconstruction.
2. any opportunistic or exploitive outsider:
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It has been more than a decade since anyone in the Big Ten hoisted the crystal football. Longer since anyone outside of Ohio State even had a shot at it on the final day.
The South Eastern Conference has owned the pinnacle of college football for seven years running and the SEC has won eight of the last 10 BCS National Championships dating back to the 2002 season.
That was the last time a team from the Big Ten, one of college football’s longstanding power conferences, captured the crown. Jim Tressel was in his second season in Columbus back then, but it’s Urban Meyer who has the Buckeyes in position to unseat the reigning sultan of the sport.
Photo by Jim Davidson
After all, Meyer started the SEC’s run of dominance with a 41-14 thrashing of Tressel and the Buckeyes in the 2007 BCS title game. Now, he is building something in Columbus that could help the Big Ten regain the top spot in college football.
His 2013 team returns nearly its entire offense from a 2012 team that won every game with Meyer on the sideline, but the most obvious change during Meyer’s tenure in Columbus has been the shift in talent.
After scrambling to finish with one of the best recruiting classes in the country two years ago, Meyer went about building a class in 2013 that could rival anyone in the SEC. A number of those kids Meyer landed at the end will be joining him in Columbus this summer instead of flocking to schools around the southeastern United States.
“They want to do what most kids should want to do,” safeties coach Everett Withers said of Ohio State’s incoming group.
“They want to get a great education from a great institution and they want to try to go play for it all. When it was all said and done, that’s what it came down to.”
Running back Dontre Wilson was headed to Oregon to be the next speedster in Chip Kelly’s Quack Attack before the Ducks coach bolted for Philadelphia in the middle of the night. Wide receiver James Clark was probably headed for Florida, which he visited a number of times down the stretch before pulling a slight shocker at the end.
Everyone knows Vonn Bell was practically packed for Tuscaloosa before Meyer showed up at his state championship game down in Atlanta back in December. Trey Johnson was headed to Auburn before Gene Chizik was fired, and Ohio State had to hold off Florida and a number of other SEC suitors to keep him in the 2013 class.
Bell, in particular, was a kid the Buckeyes invested a lot of time, energy and emotion into landing. Even they were a little surprised when he picked Ohio State ahead of Alabama, Tennessee and all the other schools down south.
“We had a chest bump and a fist bump,” Withers said.
“When you dive into the recruiting process, it’s a war. You get some and you don’t get some, but when you get one who can possibly come in and help you win games it means a lot.”
Especially when he comes from an area that has produced so many of these top NFL draft picks over the last decade. He wasn’t the only one from that area who the Buckeyes battled hard for in this past recruiting class.
“Trey Johnson, that was nonstop,” Meyer said of the 4-star linebacker recruit out of the Georgia area.
“A couple of SEC schools that were just ruthless. I wouldn't say ruthless, just did a good job going after him as hard as they could. We hung in there, got it done.”
Mike Mitchell was another kid who was probably going to end up in the SEC before Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman made a late run to close the deal on the 5-star linebacker out of Plano, Tex.
Jalin Marshall, well, he was probably always going to be a Buckeye. The 4-star athlete out of Middletown, Ohio was one of the first players to commit to Ohio State for the 2013 class. He had been committed for a week by the time Meyer put the finishing touches on his 2012 class, but Meyer and his staff had a to stave off a hard push from Missouri to hang on to 4-star tailback Ezekiel Elliott in February.
Elliott was an Army All-American who had offers from all over the country. He could have played in just about any offense he wanted. Alabama wanted him. So did Georgia. Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA and Wisconsin all offered him.
In the end, Elliott wanted to be a Buckeye so badly, he spurned the hometown Tigers, where his dad and mom were both well-known athletes. Even his dad, Stacy, who played football at Missouri, admitted his son probably made a good choice picking the Buckeyes.
We won’t know for a while which of these guys will live up to the expectations and which won’t. History suggests not all of them can be successful at the next level, but at least Meyer is giving Ohio State a chance to be in the conversation.
In landing kids like Bell, Wilson, Johnson, Mitchell and Clark – all kids who most likely otherwise would have ended up in the SEC – the Buckeyes are changing the game. With Urban Meyer at the helm, Ohio State appears to be the one school in the Big Ten capable of challenging Oregon, Louisville and the SEC for a championship in 2013.
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