The Coaches' Recruiting Grade Cards

By Jordan Wagner on June 13, 2013 at 7:00p

Last June, Urban Meyer had his assistants grade themselves as coaches based on recruiting, coaching, public relations, and student athlete relationships. Meyer then sat down with each coach to offer his constructive criticism. One common theme throughout the performance reviews was the need to improve on recruiting. 

The CEOYour Ohio State Football Coach...and CEO?

Since the reviews took place, Ohio State finished with one of the top recruiting classes in the nation and are off to a solid start with the 2014 class. It is yet to be seen whether or not Urban Meyer will be satisfied with the coaches' improvement on the recruiting trail when he does the next round of performance reviews. 

Grading a coaches performance on the recruiting trail can be difficult. Coaches do not always recruit their positions (or only their position). For example, Mike Vrabel was the main recruiter for WR Lonnie Johnson and ATH Parris Campbell. Also, many times multiple assistant coaches (and Urban Meyer) are actively recruiting one player. It is hard to give just one coach credit for landing a recruit. 

After the jump, I offer my grades on each of the assistant coaches for their recruiting performance in the 2013 and 2014 classes. 

QB/OC Tom Herman

Many Ohio State fans consider Tom Herman to be the best recruiter, not named Urban Meyer, on the staff. Herman gave himself a four in the section of 'productivity in recruiting'. One thing that caught my eye was that he gave himself a three for 'turns in all paperwork on time and complete' under the recruiting section. Coach Meyer did not leave any comments on Herman's performance review. 

Herman's Texas ties have been very beneficial to Ohio State's recruiting efforts. He has spent time at Texas, Texas State, Rice, and Sam Houston State before heading to Iowa State and eventually Ohio State as offensive coordinator. Ohio State and Herman were able to land QB JT Barrett, WR Dontre Wilson, and LB Mike Mitchell from the State of Texas. The duo of Herman and Meyer were able to close on WR James Clark on an in-home visit. Herman also assisted with the recruitments of TE Marcus Baugh and WR Corey Smith. 

In 2014, Coach Herman's focus is to find a QB for this recruiting class. It is still early but it appears we have missed on DeShaun Watson and Kyle Allen. Brandon Harris, Rafe Peavey, and Zack Darlington are other targets. Herman would have earned an A+ if he landed or was in good shape for a QB in 2014. 

Grade: A

RB Coach Stan Drayton

Urban Meyer challenged Stan Drayton to get a big time recruit in his performance review. Drayton gave himself a five in the recruiting department and mentioned that he has been instrumental in helping other coaches recruit. 

Coombs and Drayton were able to land RB Ezekiel Elliott despite Missouri making a late push. He also was the main recruiter for two in-state defensive lineman in Tracey Sprinkle and Donovan Munger. Drayton also has been in charge of recruiting Glenville as he has landed Chris Worley and Marcelys Jones. Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith are two of his biggest targets left in this recruiting year. Stan was also a secondary recruiter for Parris Campbell Jr. We will give Stan Drayton a B+. He has done his job well and RB depth doesn't appear to be an issue, but he has not exceeded expectations on the recruiting trail. 

Grade: B+

Zach Smith needs improvementCoach Smith must step up his recruiting game

WR Coach Zach Smith

Zach Smith has had the least success when it comes to recruiting. Meyer noted that Smith's recruiting production needed improvement and that he needed to work on being thorough and intense in the recruiting process. Coach Smith was very hard on himself in his self-evaluation. He graded himself as a two in overall recruiting. He commented that he needed to be more aggressive with WRs and have conviction on area recruits. Ohio State has struggled in the Virginia area, which is the area that Zach Smith covers. Coach Smith is only 28 years old and still has plenty of time to improve on the recruiting trail. He is learning from some of the best in the business. 

In 2013, Zach Smith was only the primary recruiter on one signee, WR Corey Smith. He helped Tim Hinton land Jalin Marshall, but Marshall was considered a lock from the get go. He also was the secondary recruiter for WR James Clark. However, it is worth noting that Urban Meyer took OC Tom Herman to the crucial in-home visit instead of WR coach Zach Smith. 

He is young and will continue to get better. We've had a solid WR haul, but only one was recruited by Smith. We'll give him a C+ and needs improvement. 

Grade: C+ Improvement needed. 

TE/FB Coach Tim Hinton 

Tim Hinton is probably one of the most underrated recruiters on the staff. Tim Hinton has spent years at the HS level in Ohio, which has benefited in recruiting. Urban Meyer praised Hinton for HS relations and producing in recruiting. He did suggest being more thorough and intense in recruiting. Coach Hinton gave himself a five for overall recruiting and commented that he had four commits in the 2013 class. 

Tim Hinton landed TE Marcus Baugh, DB Cameron Burrows, WR Jalin Marshall, and OL Evan Lisle. That is a pretty impressive four man class for one assistant to pull in. Hinton has really been working the state of California hard, but thus far he has only been successful in pulling the number one TE out of California. Tim Hinton would have earned an 'A', but his lack of commitments in 2014 will push him down to an 'A-'. 

Grade: A-

OL/co-OC Ed Warriner

Ed Warriner is one of the top offensive line coaches in the country. That is why Ohio State hired him. He has somewhat struggled on the recruiting trail to date. Urban Meyer mentioned that he needs to work on building relationships in recruiting. Meyer also noted that he needs to close on OL recruits. Warriner rated himself as a four in recruiting, mostly because he helped recruit Taylor Decker, Kyle Dodson, and Joey O'Connor in 2012 after coming aboard with Urban Meyer.

In the 2013 class, Ohio State only signed two offensive lineman. Warriner was the secondary recruiter for both Timothy Gardner and Evan Lisle. He also helped land Eli Apple out of the New Jersey area, which he helps recruit. In 2014, Warriner has gotten an early verbal from Kyle Trout. Warriner has Ohio State in a good position to land RB Jonathan Hilliman, OG Demetrius Knox, OT Chad Mavety and OT Jamarco Jones. Since we are only grading the 2013 and 2014 class, Warriner grade might seem a little low. If he closes the deal on Hilliman, Knox, Mavety and Jones he will quickly move the 'B' to an 'A'. 

Grade: B with potential to be an A. 

LB/DC Luke Fickell

Luke Fickell has always had a reputation as a good recruiter. Fickell rated himself as a four in recruiting and said that he felt he sold the university well thru tough times. I think everyone would agree with that assessment. Urban Meyer noted that Fickell needs to be more intense in recruiting. Fickell has always seemed to have a more laid back personality, which could explain why Luke Fickell has been more of a secondary recruiter for Ohio State. It appears to me that Urban uses Tom Herman, Mike Vrabel, and Kerry Coombs in the lead role recruiting. Many prospects have raved about Luke Fickell, although he isn't the one that is their main contact. 

Luke Fickell was the main recruiter for Kyle Berger and Darron Lee. He helped in the recruitments of Chris Worley, Billy Price, JT Barrett, Joey Bosa, Mike Mitchell, Trey Johnson, Jayme Thompson, and Dylan Thompson. While he was considered a secondary recruiter for those guys, he had a big impact on Mitchell, Johnson, and Bosa signing with the Buckeyes. We give Luke Fickell an A-.

Grade: A-

DL Coach Mike Vrabel

No excusesNo excuses coming from Coach Vrabel 

Mike Vrabel is challenging Tom Herman for the title of best recruiter on the staff. Coach Meyer offered up a lot of constructive criticism for Mike Vrabel. Meyer noted that he wanted to see Vrabel land a top recruit (specifically mentioned Joey Bosa) and also see him take the same approach to recruiting as he does playing (no excuses, W/L). A positive that Urban noted was Vrabel's relationship with recruits. Mike Vrabel gave himself a four in recruiting. He stated "I can always be better in recruiting." You have to love that attitude. 

In the 2014 class, Vrabel is off to a fast start with commitments from Dante Booker, ATH Parris Campbell, WR Lonnie Johnson, and DL Dylan Thompson. He is credited for landing DT Billy Price, DE Joey Bosa, CB Gareon Conley, while assisting with DL Michael Hill, DL Donovan Munger, DL Tyquan Lewis, and DL Tracy Sprinkle. Mike Vrabel gets an 'A+' for the work he has done in both classes. 

Grade: A+ 

S/Co-DC Everett Withers

Withers might have the biggest get of the 2013 recruiting class when Ohio State landed Vonn Bell on Signing Day. One of Urban Meyer's things to work on for Coach Withers was to land a difference maker. I think everyone could agree that he did so with landing Vonn Bell. Everett Withers rated the productivity in recruiting as a three and commented 'must identify the top (3-4) recruiters'.

Coach Withers landed Vonn Bell, Trey Johnson, Tyquan Lewis, Michael Hill, and Jayme Thompson. He helped land Darron Lee and Cameron Burrows. It was impressive to see Withers land four out of state recruits for Ohio State. He used his ties to the Carolina-Georgia region to expand Ohio State's recruiting grounds. In the 2014 class, Withers has also helped Coach Coombs in landing Damon Webb. Pulling Webb from Michigan was a huge get for the Buckeyes. Withers has been huge in the recruitment of Raekwon McMillian and has been important in expanding Ohio State's in the south.  

Grade: A

Who wouldn't want to play for Coach Coombs?"I want YOU to be a Buckeye!"

CB/ST Kerry Coombs

Urban Meyer called for Kerry Coombs to close on a big time recruit and praised him for his HS relations. Kerry Coombs gave himself a three on recruiting productivity and wrote that 'it remains to be seen'. Coombs bring energy to the staff and seems to be a coach that players would like to play for. 

Coombs has done very well on the recruiting trail. He recently gained punter Cameron Johnston and kicker Sean Nuernberger. Two important gets for the Buckeyes. His Cincinnati ties came in handy to land OLB/DE/ATH Sam Hubbard. He also landed a huge member of the 2014 class in CB Damon Webb. In 2013, Coombs was the main recruiter for RB Ezekiel Elliott, CB Eli Apple, and OL Timothy Gardner. Derek Kief from Cincinnati is also being recruited by Coombs and Ohio State appears to be in a good position. Coombs gets an 'A' for his seven commitments with six coming for out-of-state (one coming from out of country). 

Grade: A


Comments Show All Comments

Jhesse17's picture

Are these grades on a 1-5 scale or a 1-10?

osubuck57's picture

1-5 scale I believe. Coach Smith clearly has some work ahead of him, but everyone else graded out pretty well.


Jordan Wagner's picture

They graded themselves on a 1-5 scale. 

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

It's a 1-5 scale. 
Overall some great recruiting goign on! 
Go Bucks!

skid21's picture

I don't like seeing Drayton rank himself a 5 (especially with Urban challenging him to get better). I just don't see how he can say this about himself. Confidence is one thing but he has some room to improve and needs to recognize it. "Helping" other people doesn't get you a 5.

Wilkins78's picture

Great article.  I love the staff's focus on this stuff.
*might of have  (sorry!)

kmp10's picture

IMO, Coach Smith was hired, in part, as a favor to Earle Bruce, Meyer's mentor. I'm sure he has more going for him than being Bruce's grandson... but I've not been impressed with his verbal skill, or his maturity from his public persona standpoint. He's made a few blunders on Twitter, and as the piece mentioned, he's been the primary recruiter on only one signee. Every school in the country has a "best recruiter" and a "worst recruiter" on its staff, but I wonder how Smith compares to TTUNs worst, or ND's worst? Strictly an opinion, nothing more. I've got nothing against the kid personally... but haven't been impressed with his presentation to this point.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Zach Smith is still very young. I think he will get better as he develops and gains more experience.  I think a thing that made him an attractive hire was that he would be loyal to Ohio State. I don't see him leaving anytime soon. In a few years I think he will be more of an OSU caliber coach. 

Smith is only making 155k next year. 131k less than Hinton and Vrabel. 

northcampus's picture

I understand the context of the salary range in question, but "only making 155k next year" still makes me chuckle.  I wish every reader (and 11W staffer) on this blog had the luxury of comparing 6 or 7 digit salaries with their professional peers.  Maybe we'll get there someday.

German Buckeye's picture

Agreed  - 155k is a whole lot more than I make as a 27 year career Army officer.  Matter of perspective we lose easily when looking at sports related salaries at this level. 

BenArazi4's picture

Wow A- for Fickell!  He's done ok in the past but either dropped the ball for 2013 or was not as good as we thought when Urban and these high intensity guys came in.  He needs almost as much improvement as Zach Smith does, some peoples obsession with Fickell is borderline delusional.
Top 5




Johnnycake's picture

These were filled out early on. I see you're as idiotic here as you are on the other site.



Brutus Forever's picture


"I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age.” – Urban F. Meyer

BuckeyeinSavannah's picture

That's an upvote for you.

Hovenaut's picture

Nice writeup Jordan, good follow up to the earlier Buckshot.

On the whole I think its safe to say the football program has a staff that is fully engaged.

741's picture

Um, Stan Drayton is not afraid to give himself a lot of 5's. Rock on brother.

NYBUCKEYE's picture

Stan "Dont hate the player hate the Game" Drayton

northcampus's picture

I love that Stan gave himself a 5 spot.  If you don't have bravado in today's recruiting game, you're not going to last long (especially coaching under UFM).  Stan will be just fine.  He'll land a big fish or three here soon and everyone on the site will be blowing him up.

otrain2416's picture

I thought a C+ was generous for Zach Smith IMO

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Smith easily could have been graded to a 'C' or 'C-'. He was really bailed out by other members of the staff. The reason that I graded him as a 'C' was because we still came away with a solid WR haul. He definitely needs improvement. I'm confident that he will improve as he gains more experience. He is still very young.

Johnnycake's picture

Are you under the impression that position coaches only recruit their position and not a region of the Country?



Jordan Wagner's picture

As I mentioned in my piece, Smith needs to recruit his area (specifically mentioned Virginia) better. I'm simply saying that he was bailed out by the other assistants. His misses and lack of recruiting success really hasn't had a negative impact, at least yet. Smith could have easily been graded as a 'C' or 'C-'.

FitzBuck's picture

Also recruiting Virginia is considerably more difficult for an assistant with limited relationships and experience vs an assistant recruiting Ohio.  Lets give him time to make inroads with HS coaching staffs, kids and their parents.  
If he doesn't break through with the class of 2015 then we should be concerned.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Johnnycake's picture

Is there a list from last February that attributes which coach got which player? Thanks in advance.



NYBUCKEYE's picture

People forget that Urban tried to get numerous other Wideout coaches before settling on Smith.... Including his former wide receiver coach at Florda, Gonzalas

Jordan Wagner's picture

I'm not sure this is true. Everyone knew Smith was getting the job. Urban Meyer and Billy Gonzales don't have a very good relationship after the way Billy left Florida. Zach Azzanni was never a serious candidate either. 

Smith was the guy. Familiarity from Florida, favor to Earle, and came cheap (allowed us to spend money on other coaches)

MN Buckeye's picture

If Smith does not grow quickly in the job, he won't be here very long.

stacyelliott92's picture

Hey you guys forgot to mention Coach Coombs the Anointed One got Me, Eze's dad to sign too! Lol #juice


Ethos's picture

this right here is why this site is f'n awesome.  More chances to interact with not only the players, but their parents :)
I love this site

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

Brutus Forever's picture

that recruiting speech he gave in the locker room was one of the best speeches ive ever seen, period.

"I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age.” – Urban F. Meyer

DannyBeane's picture

The fact that I can reply to a recruit/recruit's parent on here is simultaneously awkward and awesome. Mrs. Elliott, your son is going to be a star and have fun being a Buckeye. Going to OSU was one of the best moments of my life.

SilverBulletNYC's picture

Love it! You the man, Stacy! 

The South will NOT rise again!

HighBallAce's picture

Hey Mr. Elliot! I just wanted to let you know that I'm really excited to see your son play for the Buckeyes this season. He is by far my favorite freshman and I hope he tears it up! I hope all of the B1G and all the other conferences we play memorize EZE's number from the backside cause that's all their gonna see of the young man!

d1145fresh's picture

I like the way OSU sets up their recruiting. As the article states, it seems there are three or four coaches (Herman/Vrabel/Coombs/Maybe Smith) are the initial contact people then you bring in the second level (Withers/Fickell/Hinton/Warrner) to give a change of pace and make another connection and then you bring in the closer (Urban) to seal the deal if needed. 

9Route's picture

Danny - just an fyi - Stacy is Eze's father, and his mother is Dawn...(didn't reply directly to your comment, so you can edit if you want)

I'm just happy to be here

DannyBeane's picture

/facepalm I read his comment as "me, Eze's Dad"  as me and Eze's Dad instead of him referring to himself. I'm going to need a surgeon to help me remove my foot from my mouth.

pjtobin's picture

I didn't know that UFM asked his assistant coaches to do this. To be honest with your own self, to grade yourself, is not always a easy thing to do. I know a few ppl who cannot see any of their faults. They are truly blind, when the self reflect. I'm thankful our coaches have the ability to see areas to improve. Thanks for another great write up. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

@Jordan... I hate to change the subject from coaches to recruits but I feel it all falls under "recruiting"... How do you feel about Derek Kief after his visit to Bama? I'd like to see him as a part of this class and I feel OSU needs to improve at the outside WR position. I've said on this site before that I feel we could be very successful with 5: 6' WR's who run 4.4's but I still feel we need a big guy. What's your opinion after his visit? 

Jordan Wagner's picture

I like our chances with Derek Kief. Everyone talks about Alabama, but I was told he was close to committing to Kentucky before he 'blew up'. I think Kief is important because he'd give us a big target. I'm just really starting to wonder how all these OSU targets are going to fit into this class. We are in good shape for a lot of guys but we are quickly running out of spots. 

sb97's picture

I found the part about Fickell fascinating.  I have always read that Fickell gets on well with recruits but I never see him listed as a primary recruiter.  I have to wonder though.  How much of Fickell's ability to connect with recruits is due to his laid back style.  If he picks up the intensity will he still be as likeable to recruits?

stacyelliott92's picture

Thanks guys for all the love! Coach Urban Meyer in many cases is The Closer! However in our case Coach started recruiting Ezekiel immediately which really shocked me! By him, Coach Meyer doing this he made any other coach who came after him really have a difficulty time! When Coach Meyer sent my 6 yr old daughter a letter I said to myself " Woow this guy isn't playing"! Urban Meyer really raised our standard on all levels! Coach Drayton is just a beautiful man who loves his players. Now Coach Comb, I can write books and chapters about him. he embodies what Ohio State football program is all about!


JYBUCKEYE's picture

Coach Meyer sent your 6 year old daughter a letter?  Wow that's attention to detail!!  
Stacy,  I'm glad you enjoyed your experience with OSU regarding the recruiting process.  Heres to enjoying the next 4 years with the Buckeye family.  Once a Buckeye always a Buckeye!!!

zjhousley's picture

I think him sending your daughter a letter is awesome and let's you know how serious he is about recruiting. I also believe it shows how close this program is to being a family. You can tell these coaches are just as interested in making great men as they are in making great football players.

stacyelliott92's picture

I really believe that speech to Coach Coombs delivered is going to go viral the closer we get to the football season!


Brownsfan0623's picture

Great read!! I think tOSU has one of the best all around recruiting coaches in the country. Go Bucks!!!

MN Buckeye's picture

Great article, Jordan!  Every coach will have a different recruiting style based on their personality.  As every recruit is unique, I wonder if the staff (Pantoni?) directs top-level recruits to certain coaches on the basis of who might be most effective at their recruitment?