Since Urban Meyer has taken over Ohio State, the focus with recruiting has gone more national. Is that a good thing, or cause for concern?
The Urban Shift In Ohio State Recruiting?
Recruiting. It is the lifeblood of every college football program. You can have the most forward thinking schemes of anyone, but without the horses to run the race, it’s tough to keep pace..
And so too it remains for Ohio State. Though it’s not an exact science, the proud program’s success on the field has more than often had a direct correlation with the success on national signing day. And more often than not, it holds its Scarlet and Gray candle up to anyone.
The Great State Of Ohio
Under Urban Meyer though, the philosophy of recruiting has changed. In years past, simply putting the proverbial fence around the football talent-rich state of Ohio was enough. After all, Ohio State is THE program in a populous state with many urban areas.
Sure, there are other major college programs that toss the pigskin around a bit in the Buckeye state — but Ohio is still the Buckeye State. Most kids in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame grow up idolizing Buckeye players and yearn for the chance to run into the Horseshoe with those colors on, with Buckeye leaves filling up every inch of that silver helmet shimmering in the sun.
Let’s not lose this fact though. Urban Meyer is just as much “Ohio” as Jim Tressel, Earl Bruce and Woody Hayes. And he’s in the VIP club with Buckeye pedigree when compared to Michigan punching bag John Cooper (no offense, Coop).
That means Urban more than likely knows he’ll still go after his fair share of players from Ohio. He’d be a fool not to take advantage of such gifted athletes playing catch right in the backyard of the Horseshoe.
America The Beautiful
But Meyer loves to play outside the sandbox too. He’s got deep ties still to Florida, and has made the Buckeye brand a national one. He goes after speed and athleticism no matter where he can find it. He yearns for it. It defines his teams.
It’s not like his predecessors ran away from the type of athlete you can find in the four corners of the country. No, instead it was in the blueprint as well, but all things being equal, Jim Tressel or Woody Hayes would take an Ohio kid (sometimes so Michigan couldn’t get him) over one from a different part of the country.
And that’s the point.
If we just compare Tressel vs. Meyer recruiting classes, it’s easy to see this shift. The Senator snatched players from Ohio like they were running south for the winter. The sample we’ll use is 2008 through 2011. During that time, Tressel took 60 out of 103 players from Ohio, or 77.4%.
Meyer, through the last four years is quite different. From 2015 through this past 2018 class that was just signed, he has taken 33 out of 98 players from the Buckeye state, or just 33.7%.
Positive Shift, Or Hindrance?
So is this a good thing, or a dangerous pattern? It depends on how you look at it I suppose. One could argue that Meyer is pulling in more talent than what Tressel did by reaching wherever he needs to go. The sweater vest’s average class ranking through that same period of time was a not too shabby at 9.75.
Meyer though has been recruiting his tale off, and has an average class ranking of 3.33. So, yeah, it would appear that the talent level has risen.
But there is a down-side to this that isn’t being talked about much at all. The declining pipeline in Ohio could have some leaks that are beginning to spring. We are seeing more and more players from Ohio go to places like Michigan State and Kentucky.
Areas around Ohio are mining very good football talent out of the state because the state doesn’t seem to want them any longer.
You want to know why Michigan State has seen a resurgent program under Mark Dantonio? Or why Indiana has gotten better, and what has brought the level of play up for Kentucky? It’s not the complete answer, but Ohio kids are at least part of the reason why these teams have gotten better on the field.
And what about the relationships with the high school coaches in Ohio? Isn’t that in danger of eroding away? As an example, there was a pipeline of talent coming out of Cleveland Glenville, but that has dried up.
Ditto for Centerville High School, and a few others.
You see, there’s no longer the state pride factor exuding from this program. It’s almost like mercenaries out for hire. A J.T. Barrett may come from Texas an adopt Ohio as his temporary home, but Ohio State had always been a program that seemed to get more out of the non-four and five-star kids because they wanted to play for Ohio State, just for the badge of honor of doing so.
Chris Spielman, A.J. Hawk, Ted Ginn, Jr., Joey Galloway, and Terry Glenn (R.I.P.). I could name many more, but they are just some examples of kids that were better than a star rating. They came to Ohio State and worked hard because Ohio is a football state, and THE Ohio State University is THE college program, and only college program to go to.
But hey, Urban Meyer can brag about that 2014 national championship season, and several top five finishes, two Big Ten titles, and a slew of division championships.
Yep. But Tressel can counter with a 2002 national championship season, seven-straight Big Ten titles and a bushel of BCS bowl game appearances and wins. All with perceived less talent than Meyer is pulling in.
You see where I’m going?
Just Different, Or Trouble For The Future
Look, Meyer is to be commended for how tireless he is in going after the best of the best, and landing a good majority of the blue-chip talent from far and wide. But we’ve now hit rock bottom with Ohio kids haven’t we? For the first time that anyone can remember, the 2018 class doesn’t have more kids from Ohio than any other state.
No. Instead Florida and Ohio both have five kids each. Heck, there’s even a recruit from Idaho this year. How ’bout those potatoes?
The point here, is that Urban Meyer has to be careful with the discarding of Ohio kids. You can’t measure the heart, desire and pride of playing for your childhood team. I know OSU is a national follow now, but it’s not the same as a team driven by the culture and camaraderie that goes with planning your fall around the university you love.
And then signing a letter of intent with that same team.
Certainly, there’s more than one way to crack a nut. I just hope the future foundation of Ohio isn’t lost within the Buckeye program.
Just ask Michigan how that’s worked up in the mitten state for Captain Khakis.
Contact/Follow @BuckeyeWire for continuing coverage of Ohio State football and basketball.