Don't Push the Panic Button

By Jeremy Birmingham on May 5, 2013 at 7:00p
25 Comments

It's been my experience that there are few fan bases that have fans as committed and as thoroughly excellent as Ohio State fans. They are a dedicated bunch indeed, supportive of the program through the ups and downs and always willing to show up and cheer on their eleven warriors, brave and bold.

Buckeye fans have a tendency to play Chicken Little.Relax Buckeye fans.

It is that commitment to the Buckeyes that no doubt drives their refusal to settle for any hint of mediocrity within the school's large – and often in charge – athletic department. Coaches with historical winning percentages, responsible for rebuilding and maintaining the nation's elite sports programs, are often discarded and replaced by the "next" great coach, and so on and so forth. 

For Buckeye fans, it's been a fairly pleasant ride the last 15 years or so. The football program has remained in the national spotlight – albeit with a few bumps in the road – and the lure of playing football at Ohio State has not worn off for most of Ohio's best and a good number of the country's finest athletes who recognize a chance to play at Ohio State as rare and special.

CAN YOU WIN WITH MEDIOCRE RECRUITING?

From 2002–11, Ohio State – despite a historic 10-year stretch that saw a 105-25 record – struggled (for the most part) to land nationally lauded recruiting classes.

In fact, during that 10-year run, only three times did Jim Tressel put together a Rivals.com Top 10 recruiting class at Ohio State. His average finish? Just 14.4, and only three classes (2002, 2008, and 2009) finished in the top 10 of Rivals rankings.

One area that saw the Buckeyes struggle mightily in recruiting was the offensive line, an area that Tressel seemed to allow his offensive line coach, Jim Bollman, to recruit as he saw fit. The normally hands-on and micromanaging Tressel must've turned a blind eye to Bollman's recruiting, because there's no other explanation for how it could have produced such lackluster results.

Ohio State's 2006–11 recruiting classes (six classes' worth) were especially frustrating for Buckeyes fans. During that span, Bollman and Tressel accepted commitments from 15 offensive linemen, 2.5 per year. While players like Mike Brewster, Mike Adams, JB Shugarts and Bryant Browning played a lot of games for the Buckeyes, many players like Connor Smith, Evan Blankenship, Tommy Brown, Chris Carter (since moved to defense) and Antonio Underwood (now redshirting with a torn ACL) never made – or have yet to make – an impact on the program. 

When Jim Tressel was ignominiously dismissed following a scandal-laden 2011 winter, it was with great trepidation that Buckeye fans from across the globe waited for the announcement of their new leader. That announcement came in November of 2011 and with the name "Urban Meyer" came expectations even higher than the lofty standards that became synonymous with Buckeye football under his predecessor. 

Meyer quickly got to work on the recruiting trail – with a focus on the pressing need along the offensive line – and he and his staff were able to sway Ohio's two top offensive linemen, Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson, from commitments they'd made to Notre Dame and Wisconsin, respectively. They also lured Joey O'Connor, a Penn State commitment, to Columbus.

Something funny happened along the way though: Michigan and Notre Dame, the biggest regional rivals Ohio State is forced to contend with, didn't bow down and kiss the (two) ring(s) upon the hands on the newly anointed king of Midwest recruiting. Rather, they amped up their assault and went to work harder than ever before, fighting the Buckeyes tooth and nail for a number of big-time talents over the last two recruiting cycles, and up to now it's been a good fight.

Brady Hoke and Brian Kelly have re-energized their schools with a return to the basics, promoting family atmospheres and quality educations at schools steeped in tradition and historical success. That seems to have played well to the players they've approached, some of which might find the in-your-face, almost maniacal pace at which the Buckeyes operate on a daily basis – combined with the big-city atmosphere of Columbus – to be too much. Offensive linemen are big, cerebral and protective by nature; many of them come from the smaller towns around the country and from Catholic school powerhouses, so it's not hard to see where "what they are selling" at Notre Dame and Michigan plays well.

Notre Dame went toe-to-toe with Urban and his staff for Hunter Bivin, Colin McGovern and John Montelus in the 2013 class and bested the Buckeyes on each count, and started off the 2014 class with Ohio native Jimmy Byrne, who picked the Irish over Ohio State and Michigan. This past week saw New Jersey's Quenton Nelson, a primary target for Kyle Trout and the other Buckeye commits, choose the Irish as well. Is it their top-flight business school, small-town atmosphere and religious backdrop that have given the Irish the edge despite inconsistencies on the field? After a trip to the national title game a year ago, it stands to reason that it will be even more difficult to beat Notre Dame for this type of player, as the on-the-field success can now stack up comparably to the school's reputation.

Michigan's "big guy" recruiting suffered "big time" under Rich Rodriguez as he attempted to overhaul a roster full of maulers and road graders with undersized prospects that could run his style of offense. That didn't work and Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges jumped the shark trying to right the ship. In their 2013 recruiting class, Michigan signed seven offensive linemen (Ohio State's 2006, 2007 and 2008 class totaled six), which had many people wondering if Hoke was aware that other positions existed. While Buckeyes were quick to point out the Wolverines' need for this many OL considering the defensive line talent Urban Meyer was bringing in, there was no denying the fact that Michigan kicked Ohio State's butt head-to-head. David Dawson, Chris Fox, and Logan Tulley-Tillman all spurned the Buckeyes for the Sun and Blue. Mason Cole, a top 2014 lineman from Tarpon Springs (Fla.), also chose Michigan over the Buckeyes early in this recruiting cycle. 

URBAN MEYER'S HISTORY

If you look at Urban Meyer's history, there's no doubt that he values offensive linemen. 

Jamarco Jones is a key part of Urban Meyer's 2014 planJamarco Jones is a key recruit for 2014

From 2006–10, the recruiting classes that finished with Meyer at the helm for Florida, he signed 17 of them, six more than the Buckeyes did in that same span. He signed them from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. In two months he added three four-star offensive linemen to his first class at Ohio State and two a year ago, despite the beatdown he took from Notre Dame and Michigan, in Centerville's Evan Lisle and Timothy Gardner from Indianapolis.

This year, with Kyle Trout and Marcelys Jones – who was just named the OL MVP at Rivals.com camp series in Pittsburgh – have gotten the Buckeyes off to a good start along the line, and Meyer and OL coach Ed Warinner are all over the map trying to land potentially three more. As a rule, this is not a staff that reaches for a player to hit a number, so Buckeye fans should rest assured that the players recruited will be players that can play at Ohio State, or they won't be recruited, period.

Whether it's Jamarco Jones, Braden Smith, Damian Prince, Alex Bookser, Nick Richardson, Alex Dalton, Frank Ragnow or some unknown commodity from the high school level who blows the coaches away, or Jermaine Eluemunor or Chad Mavety from the JUCO ranks, Urban Meyer and his staff are going to find five offensive linemen who they believe in and who can play at Ohio State.

So, relax. It's all going to be ok.

25 Comments

Comments

Chief B1G Dump's picture

You can win the B1G with mediocrity right now...but we're looking for NCs.
Also, it's not just stock piling talent (ie Fla St, UGA) it's part chemistry, coaching and many other variables. Talent helps, certainly...but I like what our staff does to promote chemistry and competition...see 2012.
However, it's not like we don't have talent and won't contiinue to get it. Name the last time OSU hasn't had a better roster then all but 1 or 2 teams we face. We have the benefit of being in a talent rich state...as well as a national brand, top facilities, top coaching and a great school to go with it.
We have built it...they will come.

tdible2132's picture

+1 just for your username.  Chief B1G Dump... Classic

zbd's picture

OL recruits are critical for wins. Just look at Alabama and other schools who had several drafted by the NFL in the first rounds of the draft. OSU fans know how bad Bollman was at recruiting and coaching. Now the best will come to OSU.

tdible2132's picture

Demetrius Knox is another possibility for an OL recruit as well.  There are too many options to remember them all at this point.  Still a long way to go.

MN Buckeye's picture

Marcelys Jones and Kyle Trout were among the first commitments to this class.  Urban has stated that O-line is a high priority.  I am confident we will get the right 3-4 more to make this a great class.

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

There's no reason to panic over what that school up north does. Ohio State will always be one step ahead of them. When Notre Dame joins the Big Ten, then I will be concerned.

headina's picture

Seriously?? Notre dame can't compete. 

GO BUCKS

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

When Notre Dame joins the Big Ten, then I will be concerned.

Thanks for the laugh.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Crimson's picture

But we only have two OL recruits.  ND stole two from us.  National signing day is just a few short weeks away.  We haven't much time.  I know UFM did it last year, but this is this year!  The sky IS falling!!!Please don't tell me I needed to write sarcasm font too.

biggy84's picture

There are only five guys on the offensive line who usually get playing time. I have not seen a successful program that rotates their o-line throughout a game. Tsun can recruit 50 offensive lineman for all i care, but it won't change the fact that only 5 will actually play. I am quite happy with having 12 guys that are on a rotation go against 5 that play the entire game. 
 

4thandinches's picture

I think with TTUN getting so many offensive lineman is that it takes away lineman that could play for us forcing us to 'settle' for lesser recruits. 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

hail2victors9's picture

Like you pointed out, it's not a matter of rotation, but it is a matter of depth.  RichRod dug a huge hole for Brady and company by not properly recruiting 4 or so Olinemen each year.  With injuries, transfers, and other attrition, Hoke had no choice.  But, it's not like the rest of the guys they're getting are just scrubs.  Pipkins was a 5*, Derrick Green, Morris (love him or hate him, still a 4* top 5 QB in his class), very good LB classes and very good DB classes.  WR is the one area where Michigan hasn't landed the big name players (before Harris this year).

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

TheBadOwl's picture

Jamarco Jones, Chad Mavety, Kyle Trout, Marcelys Jones, and at least one (maybe two) of Prince, Knox, Bookser, Eluemunor, or someone else we haven't heard of, and we will easily have one of the best OL classes in the nation. Also, if the interest from David Sharpe is legit, and we can somehow land him, watch out.

Even if we have to "settle" for some three-stars who currently do not have offers, I have a ton of trust in Warriner's ability to coach them up, especially after last year.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

Citrus's picture

I really like Eluemunor. If the prospects named above sign with the Buckeyes that will be a hell of a line.

As for Tres and Bollman, plenty of good O Linemen during their tenure - but no freakin' depth!

okiebuck's picture

If I'm not mistaken Urban & Company have been doing very well with the Catholic HS powers around the country. Pretty sure we have a kid from Moeller and one from St. Ed's so far in this year's class; and we hot on the trail of that stud out of Akron St. V St. Mary's; not too mention Joey Bosa from THE perennial Catholic power house in Florida; St. Thomas Aquinas. ND is probably more concerned to see TOSU cherry picking their turf then we should be worried about them.   

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

okiebuck's picture

St. Iggie not St. Ed; my bad.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

4thandinches's picture

Let's not forget that what is more important than getting all these recruits is developing these players. 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

MN Buckeye's picture

Which is why I give the advantage to us over UM

buck4's picture

Not sure I'd give the edge to OSU in development. This is the main area that UM will focus. Our advantage will be more in the play making department.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Am I a little disappointed? Yes. Panicking? Not so much.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Buckabroad's picture

Yes, our main rivals have been handing us our backsides on a platter in OL recruiting (it possibly will get worse before it gets better when Braden Smith goes to ND). Still, the fight in 2014 is far from over. We presently are in good shape with Mavety, Knox and Jones all trending to the good guys and we at least have a legitimate shot at Prince, Eluemunor & Bookser. Even if only one of these three select OSU, that would be huge. Considering we have Kyle and Marcelys on board already, maybe we should wait and see how the remaining dice fall before getting too disappointed.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

hail2victors9's picture

Recruiting, like all things football, is cyclical in many ways.  You guys will get Jamarco Jones, one or both of the JUCOs you're looking at, and maybe others.  UofM's focus on Olinemen the last two classes was a product of necessity, due to major depth concerns and conversion to the pro style offense.  Now Michigan is looking at getting more skill position players, this year.  OSU has killed it with the skill position players the last two years and now is looking to get more Olinemen.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

chubler's picture

Honestly, I'd argue that Olinemen are basically Olinemen. Even if you get just 3-star players, but your staff likes them, and you develop well, you're fine. How many 1st and 2nd round O-linemen have come out of Wisconsin recently? pretty much every single starter. And they're 75% 3-star players- lets not pretend Wisconsin's going toe-to-toe recruiting with, well, anyone. Iowa's not far behind, and they've been awful in an awful big ten recently. It's all about development.