A year ago at this time, no players had signed letters of intent to play football for Ohio State. But this year, the first in which the Early Signing Period was introduced, the Buckeyes inked the signatures of 21 players in its 2018 recruiting class, which, despite recent key decommitments, is currently ranked No. 1 by 247Sports.
Wednesday morning, just a few hours after Ohio State received its first letter of intent — which came from four-star linebacker Teradja Mitchell — head coach Urban Meyer spoke to the media about the latest recruiting class. Here are four takeaways from the press conference.
Update on Micah Parsons
Five-star defensive end Micah Parsons signed a letter of intent with Penn State Monday morning after a tumultuous recruiting cycle that included a decommitment from the Nittany Lions. A couple months ago, Ohio State looked like a favorite to land his commitment, but the Buckeyes interest faded for an unknown reason as time passed.
On Tuesday, The Lantern reported Ohio State self-reported NCAA violations stemming from the Parsons family’s visit to the set of College GameDay. The university self-imposed punishments, which included an agreement to end the recruitment of Parsons, who the program deemed ineligible.
“Everybody in our program should know the rules, and that shouldn’t have happened,” Meyer said. “It’s presented to me, and I agree with it or disagree with it, and we move on.”
Even if a violation sounds minor, Meyer said he does not believe it to be minor.
“I get extremely upset when I see that there was something done that was done incorrectly, and we do everything we possibly can to make sure that does not happen again,” he said.
Meyer declined to comment on whether the violation was the reason Ohio State ended its recruitment of Parsons.
Ohio State found its quarterback. Eventually.
Since July 29, 2016, Ohio State held a commitment from Emory Jones, the fourth-ranked dual-threat quarterback, according to 247Sports composite rankings. But on Early Signing Day, he flipped to Florida and signed with the Gators.
The Buckeyes, though, were prepared for what seemed like the inevitable after Jones took visits to Florida, Florida State and Alabama as Wednesday’s signing day neared. On Dec. 7, Ohio State received a pledge from three-star quarterback Matthew Baldwin, a former Colorado State commit.
Baldwin, a first-year starter at Lake Travis High School in Texas, was brought to the attention of Meyer by quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day.
“We’re sitting there getting ready to play Penn State, and he’s coming up to me saying, ‘Hey, let’s watch this kid from Lake Travis,’” Meyer said. “And I’m ready to pass out, saying it’s 10:30 at night, I’ve got 3rd down and 6 in my mind and we’re trying to watch another quarterback.”
Meyer went to watch Baldwin practice and liked what he saw. The head coach said he evaluates five traits in quarterbacks: competitive spirit, toughness, leadership, intelligence and the ability to get out of a bad play.
“I think you see so many mistakes made at that position because people don’t categorize like that, and he checks the box off perfectly going right down the list,” Meyer said.
Jeremy Ruckert: best tight end prospect Meyer has seen?
Since Meyer arrived in Columbus in 2012, Ohio State has coached tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett, both future third-round picks in the NFL draft, and landed commitments from four-star tight ends such as Marcus Baugh, Jake Hausmann and Luke Farrell.
But he thinks four-star tight end Jeremy Ruckert is different.
“I think Jeremy Ruckert might be the best tight end prospect that I’ve ever seen and recruited,” Meyer said. “His skill set is ridiculous. Now it’s a question of getting him ready to play.”
Ruckert, the top-ranked player from his home state of New York, is the best tight end and the No. 29 overall player in the nation, according to the 247 composite rankings.
Given his athleticism, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound physical specimen could be viewed as more of a receiver at times. He will offer Ohio State a receiving threat from the tight end position to which the program has not been accustomed. Baugh, the Buckeyes’ starting tight end, ranks fourth on the team with 24 catches this year. Next season, Ruckert will compete with Hausmann, Farrell and redshirt sophomore Rashod Berry for the starting tight end position following Baugh’s departure.
Late addition of Alex Williams
As Ohio State’s recruiting strategy has a more national focus, the Buckeyes have moved away from in-state recruiting. But on Wednesday, Ohio State flipped Pickerington, Ohio, product Alex Williams from West Virginia to the Scarlet and Gray.
The three-star athlete who plays for Pickerington North is ranked the 589th-best player in the country and the No. 26 player in Ohio by the 247Sports composite rankings. He is listed as a defensive end by recruiting services, but Meyer said he intends to try him at both tight end and defensive end.
“Big athlete,” Meyer said. “I think he can do either. I know where — there’s needs at both spots, but I don’t know.”
Meyer said his decision to pursue Williams was partially due to his desire for more players from Ohio. He and the recruiting staff often look for in-state late bloomers because he does not feel like the team has enough Ohioans.
“I started watching him, and he’s a late developer player that I think he was hurt some of his junior year, and I like the fact he plays extremely hard and he’s a big athlete.”