There was a time in 2011 when the immediate future didn’t look so hot for Ohio State football. The program needed a long-term solution at the head coaching position, and fans waited on Luke Fickell’s fate. The incoming recruits, while solid, didn’t provide the star power that the Buckeyes were searching for. Or needed.
Fast forward a few months and everything has changed. Urban Meyer’s hiring shook up the recruiting landscape as some of the nation’s best high school players turned their eyes back toward Columbus. OSU began to draw plenty of blue-chip interest, swiped a couple of would-be Penn State commits in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, and before we knew it, Meyer had put together a stellar class of 2012.
This past weekend that class grew to 23 with the addition of linebacker Camren Williams. A four-star recruit from West Roxbury, MA, the 6’2″, 215-pounder joins fellow four-star Joshua Perry and David Perkins to form what could become a truly fearsome linebacking corps. Luke Roberts, a three-star commit, rounds out the position, which should be a strength of the team moving forward.
Meyer’s best work, however, is on the defensive line. Thanks to an outstanding performance at the Army All-American game, defensive end Adolphus Washington was elevated to five-star status by several rankings services including Scout.com. His rise up the board means that Ohio State now has the top two weakside defensive ends in the nation; the nation’s #1 DE, Noah Spence, committed back in December.
The Buckeyes are the only program to have the top two players at any one position.
Washington and Spence are joined by four-star end Se’Von Pittman and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, who switched from the Nittany Lions at the end of last year. Schutt is ranked as a five-star recruit by Scout and received four stars fin the other major rankings.
With three five-star linemen, the Buckeyes should be able to continue the level of play that they’ve enjoyed in the trenches these past few seasons. Thaddeus Gibson, Cam Heyward, and John Simon have set the bar high.
If the class of 2012 is weak on the defensive side of the ball, it’s in the backfield. Thus far the team has three DB commits; four-star players Devin Bogard and Najee Murray and three-star Tyvis Powell are all Ohio natives. Ohio State has offers out to four more defensive backs, who now have only a few days remaining before National Signing Day.
The hope is that at least one more strong DB recruit will sign on. Two of the offers are to Camren Williams’ Catholic Memorial High School temmate Armani Reeves and Jeannette (PA) High’s Demetrious Cox. The Buckeyes are clearly interested in maintaining their presence at Jeannette, which produced Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Hall.
Jumping to the offense, the Buckeyes added four-star tackle Taylor Decker and four-star guard Joey O’Connor earlier this month, augmenting a line that included three-star commits Patrick Elflein and Jacoby Boren. If Boren’s name sounds familiar, and it should, it’s because his brothers Justin and Zach have already been through Columbus. That familial pressure to succeed should help Jacoby make his own mark.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes have lost out on the Jordan Diamond sweepstakes. Diamond, a five-star tackle from Chicago, has reportedly crossed Ohio State off of his list and will make his decision on February third. It’s a tough miss for Meyer, who wanted a high-profile tackle to anchor future lines. Worse, Diamond is fairly likely to choose Michigan.
However, the 6’6″, 310-pound Kyle Dodson is still in play, and he would be a major acquisition. the four-star Dodson appears to be choosing from among Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
The addition of Decker bolstered the line considerably, but given how much the Buckeyes lose with the departure of Mike Adams, J.B Shugarts, and Michael Brewster, Meyer’s work isn’t done yet.
The Buckeyes have commitments from four wideouts, led by four-star Mike Thomas out of Los Angeles. Three-star Florida native Ricquan Southward has significant upside and is joined by three-star Ohioan Frank Epitropoulos. Roger Lewis is also a three-star, but due to academic issues may need another year before arriving on campus.
Blake Thomas hails from Cleveland and will try to continue OSU’s tradition of good pass-catching tight ends.
The wide receiver spot also has the greatest remaining opportunities for improvement. Devonte Neal (Arizona) and Stefon Diggs (Maryland) are highly-touted recruits who have yet to make a decision. Despite the distance, Neal made a visit to campus, which has to be encoruaging. And Diggs, who is being chased by the SEC as well, seems to be giving OSU strong consideration.
Landing either of these guys would be a major coup for Meyer’s spread attack.
Tailback Bri’onte Dunn is perhaps the best skill position acquisition; at 6’1″, 225 pounds, Dunn is ranked as a five-star by Scout. Assuming he conitnues to fill out and get stronger, Dunn could be 230+ by the time he earns significant playing time, and is already drawing comparisons to Beanie Wells. Let’s hope that doesn’t include nagging injuries.
Warren Ball is a four-star back from Columbus, and at 6’1″, 200 pounds, could be the complementary back to Dunn’s power running.
Quarterback Cardale Jones is a 6’5″, 215-pound back from Cleveland. Coming out of the Fork Union Military Academy (VA), Jones should push current starter Braxton Miller, but Miller should flourish in Meyer’s system. Jones may have to wait for his shot.
Ohio State needs to land one or two more defensive backs; if Cox or Reeves end up signing, it would do wonders for the defense. The team also needs to work hard to land either Neal or Diggs at wide receiver; the word is that Neal could ultimately become a DB himself (think Chris Gamble) but his versatility and athleticism should be an asset regardless of where he lines up.
The most important target left might be Dodson. Protecting the quarterback is the most critical task that the offense will have, even given Meyer’s spread offense coming into play. Ohio State lost a lot of talent this past year, and replenishing the line has to be mission number one.
Meyer’s presence has had a profound impact on 2012, and 2013 is already shaping up to be another Top 10 recruiting class. While the Buckeyes will miss a bowl game next year, that fact doesn’t seem to be deterring the top-tier talent.