Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes will battle the Michigan Wolverines on the field Saturday, but the never-ending recruiting war will be taking place on the sidelines and in the stands.
More than 40 of the nation’s top recruits from the 2013 and 2014 classes are expected to be in Ohio Stadium for The Game.
“In 10 years of doing this, this is one of the biggest recruiting weekends I’ve come across,” said Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com’s Midwest recruiting analyst. “It just seems this could be an epically big recruiting weekend.”
After his hire in late November 2011, OSU coach Urban Meyer might have demonstrated his recruiting prowess by concluding the 2012 class with five-star recruits Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, now freshmen defensive linemen for the Buckeyes.
Rivals.com ranked the class fourth in the nation, three spots ahead of coach Brady Hoke and the Wolverines.
This year, Meyer hopes for another strong finish. The Buckeyes’ 2013 class is currently ranked seventh by Rivals.
The reason? Helmholdt said it’s Meyer.
“He’s aggressive. He has a hardworking coaching staff behind him and he’s dynamic,” Helmholdt said. “Kids want to buy into something they believe in, and they believe in Urban Meyer.”
Cornerbacks Cam Burrows and Eli Woodard are two recruits that believed in Meyer enough to commit to the Buckeyes. Burrows and Woodard are the 27th– and 29th-ranked players in the nation, respectively, per Rivals. The four-star defensive backs will be on hand for the Michigan game. They will have the opportunity to pitch OSU to the plethora of young talent visiting this weekend.
The projected visitors for Saturday include one of Meyer’s primary 2013 targets, four-star wide receiver James Quick. Quick is the type of explosive athlete Meyer has seemed to attract over the course of his coaching career. Rivals estimates that Quick clocks a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash and a 10.7 in the 100-meter. The Louisville, Ky. native and Louisville Trinity star is being recruited to play slot receiver and could possibly be used in a Percy Harvin-type role for the Buckeyes. Harvin, who now plays wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, was arguably one of the nation’s best wide receivers during Meyer’s tenure at Florida and helped the former Gators coach win two national championships while there.
Quick’s recruitment is down to Louisville and Ohio State, according to Rivals.
Meyer’s recruiting philosophy might be one that leaves no stone unturned, even when it comes to players that have committed to other schools.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio seemed to learn that the hard way. Meyer successfully flipped freshman offensive lineman Kyle Dodson and defensive lineman Se’Von Pittman from those respective schools last year. This year’s approach might not be any different.
With senior linebackers Storm Klein, Etienne Sabino, and Zach Boren departing after the season, depth at the linebacker position could be a primary concern for OSU’s coaching staff.
Couple that with the fact there are no linebackers in the Buckeyes’ 2013 class, and it might explain why Meyer is going after committed talent.
Per multiple reports, Florida commit Daniel McMillian and Auburn commit Trey Johnson will be in attendance at Ohio Stadium as the Buckeyes take on the Wolverines.
McMillian is a four-star linebacker and 2013 U.S. Army All-American that has been a long-time Gators commit. Interest in OSU, however, has increased recently, due primarily to OSU’s coordinator of player development and former Florida linebacker, Ryan Stamper. Stamper was a graduate of First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., the same school McMillian plays for currently. It could be a tough flip for the Buckeyes, but McMillian might get quite the show this Saturday as OSU goes for its first undefeated season since 2002.
Johnson, an Under Armour All-American, is another four-star linebacker expressing interest in the Buckeyes.
The Auburn commit, according to multiple reports by recruiting websites, seems to be showing signs of re-opening his recruitment, but has yet to de-commit from the 2-8 (0-7) Tigers. Instead, per those same reports, he is taking visits to OSU, Florida, USC and Florida State.
“Ohio State is coming all-out after Trey,” Johnson’s coach Todd Wofford of Central Gwinnett told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month. “They’re undefeated, and they’re going to win every year and always be in the BCS picture. That’s really appealing to Trey.”
The projected visitors for the 2014 recruiting class include three of what could be the best underclassmen in the country. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, defensive tackle Andrew Brown and defensive end Da’Shawn Hand, according to multiple recruiting websites, will be in Columbus this weekend. All are five-star prospects according to Rivals.com.
McMillan has not been shy about showing his affection for the Buckeyes, either. He has named OSU his early leader, with his home state team Georgia a close second. Clemson is also in the mix. The 6’3″ 235-pounder has averaged 15.1 tackles per game this season according to Maxpreps.com.
Brown and Hand will eventually be ranked in the Rivals.com top 10, according to Helmholdt. The Virginia products have interest in the Buckeyes, but it is early in the recruitment process.
“Both have been talking Ohio State pretty much from the beginning,” Helmholdt said. “They will definitely have a lot of competition for those guys though.”
This weekend’s unofficial visit will give the defensive standouts their first in-person look at OSU football.
That look will likely have an effect on a direct correlation that seems to exist between recruiting and teams’ success on the field.
Alabama, who captured the 2010 and 2012 national championships, finished with the Rivals.com top-ranked recruiting classes in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Since 2008 through this season, the Crimson Tide’s overall record is 58-7.
Meyer’s 2006 recruiting class at Florida was ranked second in the nation, and the Gators won the national championship that year. Similarly, Meyer’s recruiting class finished first in 2007 and Florida went on to win another national title in 2008.
While OSU’s play Saturday against the Wolverines will determine if the Buckeyes finish a perfect 12-0, the recruiting battle surrounding the game could be
equally as important in securing OSU’s future success.