Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer: A Scholarship Study

By Jordan Wagner on July 18, 2013 at 7:00p
Jalyn Smith received an offer. And then a lot of love.

Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer actually have a lot in common. Like most coaches that win at high rate, they share an attention to detail and expect excellence for their subordinates and players. Both have national titles in their second seasons at FBS stadiums and both were born in the great state of Ohio.

You don't have to compare press conference audio to know that they're also very different. Another difference shows up in the recruiting strategies employed by each of the coaches.

Under Tressel, many Ohio State fans laughed whenever they heard the phrase "non-commitable offer," but it's become a part of our vernacular since the arrival of Meyer. Due to the volume of prospects offered by Ohio State under Meyer, the staff will many times make an offer contingent on further evaluation. It's a way of saying, "We really like you, and you have an offer from Ohio State if you can show us more." It's not just Ohio State, either. Offers at many major powers now come in both the commitable and non-commitable type.

Meyer casts a large net, offering many of the top prospects in the nation in addition to top Buckeye State kids. Tressel, on the other hand, was stingier with his offers, usually focusing on the top in-state talent, while chasing a few select prospects outside of Ohio. Tressel's offers were almost always committable and an offer usually signified interest on the recruit's part. Both strategies resulted in highly-rated recruiting classes and wins by the dozens, but which approach is better?

Some have argued that the meaning of an Ohio State offer is diminished when it's handed out so freely. Ultimately, the value of an Ohio State offer hinges on winning along with other fixed factors such as the quality of education. Both approaches have worked for Ohio State, with the Buckeyes finishing in the top five in recruiting rankings under Tressel and Meyer.

So, let's get to the data. But, first a note: This data is compiled from a variety of sources and is a best-guess. A good, but still just an estimate. Determining the true number of scholarships offered by each coach is largely impossible.

Urban Meyer is offering nearly three times as many prospects as Jim Tressel did.

As the data clearly shows, Urban Meyer is offering nearly three times as many prospects as Jim Tressel did at Ohio State. In Tressel's last three recruiting classes at Ohio State, he offered a total of 193 prospects. That's just slightly ahead of Meyer's pace for 2014, and we're still seven months away from National Signing Day.

In fact, Meyer has offered as many prospects in the 2015 class – prospects that won't sign with a school for nearly two years – as Jim Tressel would offer in a single year.

Meyer offers many of the nationally elite prospects, some of which have little to no interest in Ohio State.  An offer from Urban Meyer basically means that the staff views the prospect as someone with Ohio State talent, like another 150-200 kids scattered around the country.

School 2014 Offers
Tennessee 263
Ohio State 182
Alabama 173
Florida 156
Oklahoma 151
Notre Dame 140
USC 113
Michigan 108
Texas 74
Source: 247Sports

The data appears to support the widely held belief of Urban Meyer offering prospects at a much faster rate and at an earlier rate than Jim Tressel. New offers are reported almost daily, leaving some fans wondering if Mark Pantoni and Co. ever sleeps. It takes a great staff to scout, contact, offer, and actively recruit the amount of prospects this staff has been after. Pantoni's database of a brain doesn't hurt, either.

But, how does Urban Meyer stack up with peers?

Ohio State's 182 offers to members of the 2014 class rank near the top of all schools, placing the Buckeyes behind only Tennessee and Butch Jones' 263 offers this cycle. Jones is trying to kick-start a program, but we're going to make "Honk if you have a Tennessee offer" bumper stickers, anyway.

Nick Saban and Alabama currently have 173 offers out to prospects in the 2014 class, which comes as no surprise, as Alabama is another program with a full staff and plenty of resources dedicated to recruiting.

February is still a long way away, so expect these numbers to continue to grow. And we'll be here to bring you the news on them as it happens.  


Comments Show All Comments

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Interesting article Jordan.  I didn't realize how many more offers were going out the past few years.  I think it is paying off in helping to bring in some of the better talent nationally.  We all know Tressel did a good job of keeping Ohio talent in Ohio.  Hopefully in the years to come we keep the top Ohio talent and supplement it with great national talent.  I think we're well on the way!
Go Bucks!!

biggy84's picture

Tressel recruited Florida and Georgia pretty well. 

gwalther's picture

And Pennsylvania.

Class of 2008

route4buckeye's picture

Great piece Jordan. Been waiting since I saw you announce it on Twitter.

unholy bucknut's picture

Looks like Urbans way is better with the out of state approach. I feel like Tress did a little better job of protecting our borders. The results though you can't argue either way.

harleymanjax's picture

Meyer is like a cocky ladies man hitting on every chick in the bar, while Tress is like a guy with low self esteem that's only gonna hit on a "sure thing"
Both techniques will still get you laid but if you don't take a shot on the hot chick you will surely end up going home with alot of 6's and 7's instead of that perfect 10!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

idontsmellgood's picture

Holy Buckeye do i disagree with this.  Was Tress cold and calculating?  Absolutely.  Did he pick his battles carefully?  Surely.  Comparing him to someone with low self-esteem is a stretch to say the least.  Low self-esteem guy doesn't say this:


"This kid scares me a little bit because I've seen him on film drop back and ...boom, boom, boom." Tuberville moved his head, mimicking Barrett checking through his progressions. "That scares me right now. Has all week."-Tuberville on JT Barrett

trigg03's picture

actually your statement about Tressell being the guy with low self esteem would be more accurate if you said he is the guy who is too picky in who he goes after 

Catch 5's picture

Very interesting article.
Do you notice any correlation between number of offers and scholarships available or number eventually signed? You would expect that class size would have an effect on number of offers given, but that may not be the case.

Make their asses quit! - Nick Saban

Jordan Wagner's picture
Meyer: Offer vs. Class Size
Class Offers Signees %
2013 151 25 16.6%
2014 182 23* 12.6%

2014 is obviously using not set in stone. I'm projecting 23 signees while not increasing our offer total. The opposite of what you would expect has held true for Meyer. 

Tressel: Offer vs. Class Size
Class Offers Signees %
2009 66 25 37.9%
2010 68 19 27.9%
2011 59 24 40.7%

There is no obvious correlation between offers and signees, as you can. It's interesting. 

CC's picture

Seems like a bigger correlation to winning and % committed.  2009, 2010 we're still coming off 2 NCG losses and the Texas loss, kids probably still wondering if we can win even after a Rose Bowl 2011 we're coming off a Rose bowl win and a Sugar Bowl win and expected to be ranked in the top 3 to start 2011...

Hovenaut's picture

Not knocking Tress, as he took maintaining the fence around Ohio seriously, but I'm glad to see the efforts on a national scale Urban and staff are putting into recruiting.

It's clear that social media has a big impact, but I think major college programs (those with the resources, facilities, tradition, etc) have to go beyond their pipelines/states/regions (within reason) in order to compete or stay competitive with the upper echelon.

The energy going into just coordinating and managing the sheer number of targets must be staggering enough....but I have no doubt this program is going to be seeing a serious uptick in talent across the board, as we've already seen in just two short years. Reload, not rebuild...

ODEEZ330's picture

Great article. But I will say I started following 11w n recruiting daily when we hired me.yer bec of his reputation as a tenacious recruiter so that shows my preference I guess.

stark county football

Gametime's picture

Texas outta be ashamed of themselves - there's no reason for a state with that much talent to have their flagship program only have 74 offers in comparison to everyone else... =/

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

acBuckeye's picture

I'm not at all defending them, but Texas in recent years has gotten a ton of verbal commitments very early in the process. Mack Brown rarely has guys decommit, so if you're locking up your top targets early in the game, then there's not much reason to start offering a ton of guys who are considered backup plans.

BierStube's picture

Jordan, just curious of the 182 offers do we know how many are committable offers?  Also how many non-committable offers did Tress use on average?

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

Jordan Wagner's picture

This is a tough one and I can't really answer this and I'm not sure whether or not anyone besides the football staff could answer this. The reason being is that Urban Meyer doesn't just tell the prospects that we aren't willing to accept your commitment, usually until they try to commit. For example, up until a few days ago many people were expecting Roberts to commit and than all of a sudden it comes out that OSU wasn't going to let him commit. 

It would be pure speculation to say whether or not these recruits have committable offers. Many of the guys are elite prospects that never really considered OSU. 

Austin Roberts, Thad Snodgrass, and perhaps Jonathan Hilliman are names that come to mind while discussing non-commitable offers from OSU. 

They probably existed under Tressel (to a much lesser extent), but I can't even think of any off the top of my head. 

BierStube's picture

Thanks, It appears to me that Tress hunted with a rifle and UFM hunts with a shot gun.  Both have certainly been very successful.  It would be interesting to see the actual numbers of committable versus non-committable offers.  I also suspect that both Tress and UFM have similar numbers when looking at committable offers, UFM may just have a few more back-up plans in place.

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Funny - under Tressel, didn't follow recruiting at all until signing day and all the numbers were tallied and rated.  Now, I believe Urban has turned us all into recruiting addicts!!!  Let's how the records and titles line up after 10 years!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

pjtobin's picture

This is another great informative post. Thank you very much. I'm curious to see how other big ten teams compare. Thanks again. 

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

geoffrsc's picture

Did Tressel have a Director of Player Personnel? I don't remember one, certainly not one as high profile as the current guy. Makes sense to have someone in that position if your going to be recruiting on a national scale year-round.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Greg Gillum held a similar position under Tressel. Gillum was retained by Meyer as the Director of HS relations. 

CC's picture

It was intersting listening to Nueheisal (sp?) on XM 91 talk about the "Director of Player Personel" at Ohio State.  It was in the context of the Florida "bump" issue.  He said basically it's just a Meyer assistant and we pretty derogatory about it.

cinserious's picture

I feel tressell had alot more high quality Ohio guys but Meyer will forgoe some of them for higher rated national guys. The downside is our main rivals get these quality guys. Its to early to tell if Meyer's way of recruiting is better yet. Tressel absolutely got the job done and i have full confidence Meyer will too. The methods might be vastly different but the results will both be highly successful. Tress was a master at finding diamonds in the rough. Meyer will amass the nations most precious gems and coach them up into the top team in the country. Comparing recruiting philosophies between them is like apples to oranges but the more important success factor might be in the staff members. Look, we all saw how successful tressel was on a regional scale, now Meyer's job is to continue that on a more national scale and the wide recruiting net reflects that.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

sarasotabcg's picture

Tressel's recruiting philosophy matched his coaching philosophy. Execute successfully on a small number of things that provide you with the highest potential ROR.  
Tressel was clearly risk averse in his approach. Meyer is a high risk, high reward guy. Meyer is not afraid to take chances, like going after DWatson and missing out on other quality QB prospects in the process. Tressel would've taken Barker early and moved on.

CC's picture

Which may correlate to their wins/losses.  When Meyer retired they had almost the exact same winning percentage.  Meyer had lots of 13-1 type seasons with an 8-5 sprinkled in.  Tress had almost all 10-3 to 11-2 type seasons.  Splitting hairs I know, but I'll take both!

buckskin's picture

CC, I noticed this risk/reward trend when he was hired, but let's hope with the new balance he has found, his down years won't be as bad.  

BoFuquel's picture

As President Lincoln always wanted to know, "How many men from Ohio are in this battle". It always makes a difference.GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

buckskin's picture

Loved the article, it's always interesting when comparing 2 coaches who are very successful with 2 completely different styles, especially at OSU.  I can appreciate both styles;  for instance Tress would lay off a guy once he was committed, Meyer is relentless and would continue to recruit the same committed guy right until signing day.  Both of these coaches will go down in history as OSU greats.
Tress did a stand up job, but he had some classes that weren't so highly rated.  We won't see that with Meyer, he will be top 3-5 every year.  The excitement level with Meyer is at a fever pitch because so many guys have us near the top.  I envision Meyer having talent laden teams such as Cooper had in the 90's, but instead of Michigan heartache and near misses, Meyer will get it done.

4thandinches's picture

This is all well and great but the thing that really matters is developing those recruits. You can get as many four and five star recruits as you want, but a peacock sitting on its tail is just another turkey. 

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

Michibuck's picture

Love the peacock reference, 4AI.

whobdis's picture

Good stuff. I remember reading something a few years back about how few visits OSU had from recruits in comparison to previous years (of course JT was still coaching). I think even JT changed his recruiting from previous years...though not sure why. A few thought we were offereing way to few offensive lineman and it's hard to disagree. We were thin.  You can also see(not suprisingly) we are bringing in slightly different defensive players. JT would recruit LB's that were close to DE size. And some of DE's were close to DT size.  I think Hoke is bringing in the type of LB JT would recruit. It will be interesting to see the matchups.

BME_Buckeye's picture

Its amazing to see the success we've had during the Tressel era while landing recruits with fewer offers. Seems like Tressel either had a good eye for talent, Ohio provided great recruits or something else. I do wonder if Meyer not locking down the boarders will be good or bad going into the future since Meyer has recruited nationally.  

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


acBuckeye's picture

With the exception of the O-line at times, Tressel and his staff were very good at developing guys once they had them. I think he was very good, also, at deciding which kids coming out of HS had a high ceiling.
Meyer is more of the approach of wanting guys who are good right now.
Obviously, both ways work. But I share your same sentiment in regards to Meyer protecting Ohio's borders. That should be priority #1.

Michibuck's picture

Great article, Jordan.

AJW_16's picture


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