Ohio State 2014 Signing Day Superlatives
By Brandon Castel
Urban Meyer’s third class at Ohio State is loaded with talent across the board and ranked among the top three in the country. Meyer was disappointed it wasn’t the top-rated class, which once again went to Alabama.
I take a closer look at the Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class and hand out some class superlatives for this year’s group of OSU signees.
Most Important Get: OL Jamarco Jones (Chicago, Ill.)
Most people would probably say Raekwon McMillan, simply because he was the highest-rated kid in the class and the Buckeyes desperately need help at linebacker. If they hadn’t also landed Dante Booker, Kyle Berger and Sam Hubbard, that’s probably the direction I would have gone as well. McMillan was the High School Butkus Award winner and the highest-rated prospect in the state of Georgia by many recruiting services. He has a ready-made body and Meyer said he looks the part of an upperclassman since he got to Ohio State.
That being said, I’m sticking with Jamarco Jones as the most important get for the Buckeyes in this class, and he almost got away. Urban Meyer said he would have been faking his smile on Wednesday if Jones had opted to sign with Michigan State instead of Ohio State. He took a last minute visit to East Lansing “just to be sure” he was making the right decision, but phoned Meyer and his staff late Tuesday night to let them know he was sticking with them. The 4-star lineman out of Chicago was especially important for the Buckeyes in this class because they need big, tall, long offensive linemen to play tackle out on the edge. Jones is 6-5, 295 with long arms and good athleticism. He was ranked the No. 7 offensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com, and while they brought in a lot of other guys who can play inside or out, Jones is one the only true elite tackle prospects in this class, along with Kyle Trout. The Buckeyes only signed one last year as well in Evan Lisle, so offensive tackle was an absolute need for OSU in the 2014 class.
Toughest Battle: LB Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga.)
Jamarco Jones came down to the last day before National Signing Day, but he was already committed to Ohio State. He wanted to make sure it was the right place, so he took a last-minute trip to East Lansing, but never really waivered in his commitment to Ohio State. The toughest recruiting battle, in my mind, had to be Raekwon McMillan. If he had waited until Signing Day to announce, everyone would be raving about the fact Meyer went into Georgia and stole the top player in the state for the second year in a row.
McMillan committed to OSU back in December, and he’s been on campus now for around a month, but Meyer had to battle Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Mark Richt and Gus Malzahn for the 5-star middle linebacker. Much like he did with Vonn Bell a year ago, Meyer came out victorious in one of the most highly-contested recruitments of the year.
Toughest Miss: QB Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga.)
Most people would have probably gone a different direction here because the Buckeyes were never really in on the nation’s top-rated quarterback. Watson has been committed to Clemson since last February, but he did openly admit interest in Urban Meyer and Ohio State. In fact, Watson was one of the first calls Meyer made when he got the job in Columbus, letting the Georgia signal-caller know he was targeting him as the quarterback they wanted in the 2014 class.
Ultimately Ohio State ended up with fellow Georgian Stephen Collier, but Meyer even acknowledged Wednesday that Collier is a guy who has to grow into the position. Watson looks more like a ready-made prospect who can take over for Tajh Boyd or, had it been Ohio State, Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes pretty much got everything else they needed in the class, but missing out on a quarterback who can step in and be ready to take over for Miller next year is one thing Meyer had originally targeted in this recruiting class.
Biggest Steal: CB Damon Webb (Detroit, Mich.)
The Buckeyes snatched defensive end Darius Slade away from Michigan State, who snatched him away from Nebraska, but the biggest steal of this recruiting class is Damon Webb. The 4-star cornerback not only gives Ohio State a potentially elite cover guy on the outside, but Meyer and his staff went into Brady Hoke’s backyard and took, by most accounts, one of the top two or three players in the state of Michigan. What makes this the ultimate steal is that Webb is Cass Tech kid. That would be like Brady Hoke going into Glenville and stealing Erick Smith or whoever the top player was in Ohio. The Wolverines will be just fine with the signing of 5-star corner Jabrill Peppers, but there have to be some uneasy folks in Ann Arbor about Meyer taking one of their top players right out from under them.
Worst Loss: OT Chad Mavety (Nassau Community College)
This could have been Michael Ferns, a highly-rated linebacker out of Saint Clairsville, Ohio who signed with archrival Michigan on Wednesday. Ferns was considered a top 10 player in the state of Ohio, and one of the few kids to spurn an OSU offer for that team up north. However, the Buckeyes didn’t’ put up much of a fight for Ferns, and they did just fine at linebacker in the 2014 class. The one real head-to-head loss that hurt the overall strength of this recruiting class was JUCO transfer Chad Mavety, who selected Florida State over Ohio State back in December. The 4-star offensive tackle out of New York took a visit to Columbus in November, but he also made a trip to Tallahassee for the FSU-Miami game. In the end, the 6-6 tackle signed with the national champs, leaving the Buckeyes one short of their goal for offensive line in the class. Meyer went out and offered Virginia Tech commit Brady Taylor, and the Columbus native decided to live out his dream of playing for the Buckeyes. Mavety has three years to play two, so maybe it will work out well for OSU, but they could have used another elite tackle who could compete for a starting spot this fall.
Instant Impact Offense: WR/RB Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
There are a few other options here, but the way Meyer gushed about Samuel on Signing Day makes me think they’re already imagining ways to get him involved. Now whether that means more action than what Dontre Wilson saw last year, we probably won’t know at least until the spring. Meyer talked about wanting to have more speed on the field, and both he and running backs coach Stan Drayton referred to Samuel as electric. Samuel is a consensus 4-star prospect, rated as highly as the No. 4 athlete in the country by 247 Sports.
According to our scouting report, Samuel has elite speed, but also possesses incredible quickness and agility to make defenders miss. He gets to his top speed quickly. He reportedly ran a 4.36 in the 40 and was the New York state runner up in the 55-meter dash last spring. He could be on the field alongside Wilson this season, but that may depend on what happens with Jalin Marshall in year two at Ohio State.
Instant Impact Defense: DB Eric Smith (Cleveland Glenville)
Everything I’ve heard about Erick Smith is that he is ready to step in and play right away at the next level. I thought about both Raekwon McMillan and Damon Webb here. The Buckeyes need another starting corner and a middle linebacker, but it’s not easy to step in and splay as a true freshman at either of those spots. Jalyn Holmes is another choice, since defensive linemen tend to get on the field earlier, but the Buckeyes are loaded at end right now. It depends on what they decide to do with Cam Burrows – Chris Ash said Wednesday they are moving him to safety/nickel – but Smith should be able to jump in and compete for playing time, at least in the nickel or dime type defense. Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell are probably the front-runners to start at safety, but if Smith really is the second-coming of Donte Whitner, as a few have suggested, then I have to imagine he will be able to work his way onto the field at some point.
Most Underrated: LB Sam Hubbard (Cincinnati)
It hardly seems fair to call a kid underrated when one of the recruiting services (Scout.com) has him as a 5-star prospect, but all of the other services rate Sam Hubbard as a 3-star player. In spite of the high rating from Scout, it doesn’t feel like more people are looking at Hubbard the same way they are at the other three linebackers in this class. Part of that is the fact he was primarily a safety at Cincinnati Moeller, but Urban Meyer raved about Hubbard during his call-in show on Wednesday. He said the early-enrollee is up to 230 pounds and Meyer talked about him like he’s a guy who could be in the mix at linebacker this year, not just special teams. Having a 6-6, 240-pound linebacker who used to play safety could really help the flexibility of the defense, whenever it is Hubbard gets on the field.
Most Overrated: Hubbard
Even with everything mentioned above, I’m still not sure Hubbard was quite good enough as a prospect to be ranked the top player in Ohio State’s entire 2014 class. That’s where Scout.com has him, and I’m just not sure a kid everyone else saw as a 3-star, and one who is switching positions, should be ranked ahead of guys like McMillan and Erick Smith. Maybe the folks at Scout were on to something, but only time will tell.