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Urban Meyer: ‘The closer’

Urban Meyer talks to the media on National Signing Day Feb. 5 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Urban Meyer talks to the media on National Signing Day Feb. 5 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Urban Meyer has done it again.

Ohio State’s football coach reeled in yet another top 10 recruiting class this winter, culminating Wednesday with 23 National Letters of Intent from some of the best high school players in the country arriving in Columbus on National Signing Day.

The class — ranked No. 3 by Yahoo! Sports Rivals.com  — includes nine players from the state of Ohio, but Meyer also went across the nation to bring in what he calls “a great class,” picking players from Georgia, New Jersey and Texas among others. Meyer said it’s a class that could end up being the best he has landed since he arrived in Columbus.

“I think we won today,” Meyer said Wednesday. “I made it clear to our guys, (I’m) very pleased with their efforts today. That was a good class, a great class.”

It’s the third year in a row Meyer’s recruiting class is ranked in the top 5 in the country, but this year’s group could be a little different — with the losses of key players like All-Americans junior linebacker Ryan Shazier and redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby to the NFL Draft, some of the young guys could be counted on early.

Among those Meyer mentioned as potential candidates for that role were the four linebackers in the class — Raekwon McMillan, Kyle Berger, Dante Booker and Sam Hubbard — who play a position the coach said was an “emphasis” on the recruiting trail.

“Just so everybody knows, there’s no redshirt plans for those players at all. We thought about that during the recruiting process,” Meyer said.

McMillan is the nation’s top-ranked player at the position, coming to Ohio all the way from Hinesville, Ga. With the player being from a warmer climate than Columbus, some have wondered how Meyer was able to convince McMillan to come to OSU.

“(Meyer) is really a great recruiter. He crosses all the Ts,” newly hired assistant head coach and defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “My first in-home (visit) with him was awesome, really awesome. You watch a guy go to work (and) he’s got it all going on … he covers all his bases, know the family, know the kids and that’s pretty awesome what he does. He gets that involved. You call it aggressive, but I think that’s his style.”

Meyer did it while he was at Florida, too — signing six classes, four of which ranked in the top three, according to Rivals.com (the other two being No. 15 and No. 11).

Getting the upper echelon of players is how a program thrives consistently, Meyer said, but getting them to buy into what the school is selling comes with assistant coaches successfully selling what he calls the “Ohio State brand.”

“The brand is so strong,” Meyer said, referencing a time this offseason when wide receivers coach Zach Smith had developed such a relationship with recruit Jalyn Holmes that Holmes felt comfortable calling Smith’s son via FaceTime. “I usually walk in because I’m kind of the closer. There they set the groundwork, (and) I know where we’re headed when I walk in that home. And the number one thing without question is relationships being built.”

Meyer puts such an emphasis on recruiting that he mentioned it being one of the first things he thought of when OSU arrived in South Florida for its Discover Orange Bowl matchup against Clemson.

“Recruiting is what I first saw when I saw the Orange Bowl,” Meyer said Dec. 19. “The respect I have for the entire state of Florida is great … We’re hitting it real hard down there as we speak.”

Maybe that’s what makes Meyer effective at what he does — he’s always recruiting, always forming relationships and always thinking ahead. It trickles down to his assistants, too.

“Coach Meyer does a phenomenal job of making sure that we stay on the edge,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said Wednesday, referencing how Meyer wants his peers to take note of the recruiting styles of other teams and coaches.

“If those particular teams are doing a great job of going out, getting the top talent in the country, no matter how they went about doing it, OK, then he wants to know if it’s a fit for us to continue to do what we’re doing, or is it a fit for us to go out there and explore other ways to go about doing our business,” Drayton said. “He has this competitive spirit that we all have under him and if there’s a guy or there’s a coach or a recruiter or a team that’s out there doing something really well and having tremendous success from it, then we’re going to find out what it is and try to better it or embrace it ourselves. No doubt about it.”

Meyer’s competitive streak appears to be a part of every single thing he does, from recruiting, to coaching, to keeping score. So much so that he said he was “disappointed” OSU didn’t finish with the top recruiting class in the nation (that belonged to Alabama for the fourth year in a row).

“I hear people say it’s not important. I disagree,” Meyer said. “As long as you’re keeping score, we’re going to try to win. I’m disappointed we weren’t the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Our staff knows we’re disappointed about that.

“Is that the final end-all? No … And there is a correlation between how teams do where your team is ranked, recruiting class is ranked. But certainly that’s not the final product because you’ve got to coach and develop them and get them here.”

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