Football Recruiting: Momentum is a Good Thing

By Jeremy Birmingham on December 17, 2013 at 7:30p
Is Lattimore the next domino to fall?

Welcome back to Tuesday night and your weekly Buckeye recruiting update. Last Tuesday we talked at length about where things are headed with respect to the final pieces of the 2014 class in Columbus, and the last two days have proven to be quite fruitful for the Scarlet and Gray. Ohio State added key commitments from its top remaining offensive and defensive targets only days after losing out on their key remaining offensive line prospect, Chad Mavety, who committed to Florida State last Monday.


Yesterday, it was the dramatic and tension-filled announcement of Raekwon McMillan, who became (perhaps) the single biggest recruiting win for Urban Meyer in his three years at the helm of the goodship Buckeye. Today, it was Dwyer High School (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) wide receiver Johnnie Dixon who made his pledge and decided to "roll with the Buckeyes."

While we never want to put too much stock into a player (or in this case, players) who've yet to play a game or even participate in a practice. However, it's difficult to not count these two recruitments as major wins for Ohio State and not just because of on-the-field potential, but because the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer went head-to-head with national perceptions about the Big Ten, about Ohio State about the SEC and southern football's supposed dominance and won. Twice. For the Buckeyes to win the battles on the field, the Buckeyes need to win the battles in the living rooms, and Urban Meyer is doing that. He's selling the nation's most talented prospects not on the idea that Ohio State is just a great place to go to school and play football, but that Ohio State is the place to do those things and unseat the southern reign of terror.

More important than what Meyer is selling? Players across the country are buying in. 

How did Ohio State win these key battles? Let's take a little closer look.

Recruiting, for all its complexities, all the nuances and strategic implementation that's taken hold of the process lately, is still — and always will be — about relationships first. Ohio State identified early the importance of McMillan and Dixon to their longterm success, and did not, at any point, allow that to wane. It's that commitment to a player which leads to a player's commitment to you.


For McMillan, it's been a much tougher choice than many recognized. He has long felt Ohio State was the "right" place for him, sharing with me over a year ago (August of 2012, in fact) that he was "pretty sure (he was) going to Ohio State," but that adoration didn't necessarily remove his need to fully consider other opportunities; to see what other schools could potentially do for him as a student, person and a football player. There was much made of a desire to "stay close to home," but that was simply not enough of a factor for McMillan to discount any school, let alone the one that he had fallen in love with from the start. 

What McMillan found at Ohio State was a consistent, open, honest and valuable relationship with Urban Meyer, an above-average academic institution and a football program that will continue to compete for championships as it has for the past 60 years. He chose the trust he had in Meyer's plan above the narrative, and we all know what that narrative is, but it wasn't easy for him. In fact, the nation's top linebacker didn't finalize his choice until 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, hours before announcing his decision to the world. He didn't let Meyer know until minutes before the broadcast shared it with the world.

Ohio State, despite the knowledge that they'd done everything and anything they could do to secure McMillan's commitment, was on pins and needles until the end. That's recruiting.


The Dixon saga has been remarkably different. McMillan, long thought to be "all Buckeye," was a public chase, a nationally-recognized player, tops at his position. Everyone knew where he stood with Ohio State and they him, but Johnnie Dixon's recruitment has been in stark contrast to that from the start. Until just recently, almost no one believed that Ohio State could actually land the wide receiver who has been at the top of Ohio State's list all year. Ohio State has silently cultivated an incredibly close relationship with Dixon for the past year, led by Zach Smith, and it was that relationship that carried the Buckeyes to the top despite all the crowing to the contrary. Dixon to Miami, Dixon to Alabama; Dixon to anywhere but Ohio State was the refrain. 

Dixon knew where he wanted to be.Johnnie Dixon representing Ohio State last week. 

Scheduled first to make an announcement on December 8th, Dixon decided to move back the date a few days. Most speculated it was as a result of his December 7th official visit to Miami, a visit that caused him to move the 'Canes back to the front. After an in-home visit with Urban Meyer and Smith, Dixon's biggest perceived roadblock to being a Buckeye, his mother's approval, was removed, and the Buckeyes felt even more secure knowing Dixon was their guy. Last Friday night, rumors again began to fly that Dixon was set to announce and when he appeared at the Florida state championship wearing a Buckeye hat, it seemed inevitable that Ohio State was set, once again, to land the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder who reminds some in Buckeye circles of Clemson's star wide receiver, Sammy Watkins. 

After an exciting state title victory, Dixon once again put off his commitment, this time according to his head coach. Again, rumors of the delays cause fell to the side of "Miami must be making a push, he must be changing his mind," but today that narrative fell flat once again when he finally made the decision public. Dixon's delays, numbered though they were, were necessary: he needed to make sure that all his proverbial ducks were in a row in order to facilitate a January 6th enrollment at Ohio State. When that was clear, so was his choice

What are the Buckeyes getting in Dixon? A source close to the recruitment pulled no punches.

"He's a legit track guy, (but that speed) carries it over to the field and plays fluid with great ball skills. Above all of that he is an A-1 kid who has extremely high intangible values. (He has) the "it" factor."

Almost all the kudos for Dixon's commitment belong to Zach Smith, who has turned himself into a tireless Buckeye advocate on the recruiting trail. 


It's not often that a high school freshman receives a scholarship offer from any coach not named Lane Kiffin, so when the Buckeyes pulled the trigger and offered Massillon freshman quarterback Danny Clark last Friday afternoon it was a bit of a surprise. It was not a surprise because of Clark's talent, which is immense, a talent that — as it continues to develop — could end up marking him as one of the best high school quarterbacks in Ohio history, but because of the timing, so soon after the end of his freshman year. 

Urban Meyer had seen enough of Clark's game, combined with projecting where he's headed, to make the offer and Clark accepted on the spot, perhaps the single least surprising commitment in Buckeye football history.

Clark hasn't wasted time attempting to lead his 2017 class, already reaching out to Liberty County (Hinesville, Ga.) freshman sensation Richard LeCounte. LeCounte is a high school teammate of Raekwon McMillan, and while he is very high on Ohio State early, don't look for any commitment soon.


As Jordan highlighted yesterday, we've now entered in a recruiting "dead period," which means no visits for coaches, which is a nice break for student-athletes and their families as they celebrate the holidays if you ask me. While the news may be a bit slower over the next few weeks, it'll ramp back up considerably, starting for the Buckeyes on Saturday, January 4th, with the probable commitments of Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith, the talented defensive back duo from Cleveland Glenville. Despite their protestations, it's likely both end up putting on Buckeye hats in San Antonio at the US Army All-American game.

The Buckeyes are in an interesting spot with two of the nation's premiere defensive ends as well. Solomon Thomas and Malik McDowell, two of the best uncommitted defensive linemen in the country, will each make their final official visits to Ohio State. Buckeyes defensive line coach Mike Vrabel has been at the front of each recruitment, and the Buckeyes are in a better than discussed position with both. Whether or not that leads to a commitment from one or both remains to be seen, but you can expect Ohio State to be in the equation for each when signing day arrives.

With 19 commitments in the fold out of an expected 23-24, there are sure to be unexpected players added to the mix soon, and we'll do our very best to keep you apprised of every possibility. 


Comments Show All Comments

osu07asu10's picture

Crazy that a future signal caller (and stud) got lost in the mix this week with the excitement of McMillan and Dixon. 6'4" 200 lbs as a freshman, first freshman to ever start at QB for Masillon, and a buckeye at heart.  2017 is a long way off, but it is great to have a face of that class already.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

popeurban's picture

Yeah, 6-4 freshman is huge.  I am a little worried that we will have a 6-7 qb in the future, but in Urban I trust.

osu07asu10's picture

As far as the NFL is concerned, the league isn't kind to QBs over 6'6"

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

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popeurban's picture

Interesting. who knows what type of genes the kid has?  Either way, glad to have him and 2017 is a long way away.  Go Urban go. 

Toilrt Paper's picture

All top football programs can always use an athletic 6-7 TE, if he "outgrows" the QB position. I know many athletes who didn't grown an inch after they were a Freshman.

13THandSummit's picture

This isn't Mr. Urban's first rodeo.

Will in Arizona's picture

I think it comes down to less and less people at 6'6" or taller.  It's also an arbitrary cutoff, because if you go at 6'5", you get guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, and Drew Bledsoe - all very successful NFL QBs.

Iwearmocs's picture

I don't worry about his size, I worry about his speed.  He claims he runs a 4.8, but he doesn't look that fast when he runs on film.  Hopefully he can continue to improve here.  The guy doesn't need to be Braxton, or even Tebow, but he's got to be able to keep the defense honest, a la Alex Smith.

osu07asu10's picture

4.8 is not fast at all and he is a "pro style" qb, not a dual threat qb. I wouldn't look for him to be a run first, or even a running qb, but athletic enough like you said to keep the defenses honest and move the chains when necessary.
Nobody would mistake Krenzel for Braxton and he was plenty shifty enough (Krenzel special).

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

Statutoryglory's picture

Bet he doesn't know how to run 40s yet.  Most freshmen have terrible form especially on their starts.  I wouldn't read anything into his time yet.

Brutus1972's picture

Krenzel was a 4.6 guy IIRC so let's not pretend a reported 4.8 is close to an actual 4.6 because we all know that 4.8 is more like a 4.95. It wont matter though, because by the time he is here we will have so many athletes he will have the ball out of his hands in under 3 secs 90% of the time. I wouldn't worry as long as he keeps polishing his mechanics and accuracy. I want a tall QB who can see the field from behind 6'5" O Linemen. If he can run for some yards on broken plays then great if not, I don't really care as long as he gets it into the playmakers hands.

wpitt41's picture

4.8 for a freshman is fast. The kid is 14, he will be at a 4.55 or 4.6 when he graduates HS. That is plenty fast enough to move the chains. I hope he has the shiftiness, as I have yet to watch his highlights.


DeepSouthBuckeye's picture

Andrew Luck ran a 4.6, and he is one of the more successful scramblers in the NFL. Its not necessarily about pure speed, but making the right reads.

Loving all things Buckeye from SEC country in Alabama.

"How firm thy friendship....O-HI-O"

BenArazi4's picture

4.8 is really quick man, especially for a kid in middle school.  He's probably one of the fastest on his team.  Jason Witten is considered a very quick tight end and runs a 4.6, 4.8 is probably average for a TE in the league maybe 4.7.  Just wait until he 1) learns how to run a 40 and 2) gets into a S&C program.  Height doesn't matter, he will be the QB.




Brutus1972's picture

I don't want him practicing to run a 40, I want him practicing accuracy, reading defenses and speeding up his release.

osubuck57's picture

Urban and staff are absolutely killing it!! Can't wait to see what this team looks like in two years, with" his" players. Will be interesting to see just how his record and JT's compare, as far as wins-losses. Love what he is building at The Ohio State University!! Great write-up and insight into Raekwon and Johnnies' commitments, as always Birm!!


Woodshed's picture

Anyone besides me VERY curious where these last 5-6 spots are going to come from?

Seattle Linga's picture

I am curious as well - I know UFM has something he is not saying for very good reasons. 

RedStorm45's picture

He's actually not saying anything about specific recruits as it is an NCAA violation.

Nutbuck1959's picture

How much longer are we on scholarship reduction? If that is over, there are 3.

Woodshed's picture

The reductions are still in place for this class.

nfischer's picture

Pulling in Malik would be a huge statement that Urban is not only beating them on the field in Michigan, but that he's taking their players as well. That might just send the Wolverine fan base over the edge.  

osu07asu10's picture

I think it could be a serious, serious blow to Hoke's tenure up north. 1 player does not make a class, coach, or program but I think Hoke is skating on some thin ice (not a good place to be for a man his size) and the narrative is not in his favor. Losing the biggest in-state recruit (to go along with D. Webb!) to the buckeyes would further the negativity.
Winning would ultimately silence all talk but, he's never shown a penchant for that.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

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Toilrt Paper's picture

Let alone the top Michigan high school players being lost to MSU.

avail31678's picture

AND let alone Jabril Peppers still notbeing  a definite commitment.

TresselourgodUrbanoursavior's picture

Really want Jeff Greene to be put on scholarship, since taking a grey shirt shows some serious commitment.  Is this going to happen?

Crimson's picture

Greene had to sit out a transfer year.  I would assume he gets a scholarship when he is eligible, but I don't think we need to guarantee him one.  I don't know if there are any rules governing scholarships for transfer players.

BoFuquel's picture

It's a good week to be, or become a Buckeye. NEXT! GO BUCKS!

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

Seattle Linga's picture

Anyone know what happened to the Johnnie Dixon front page?
No worries it's back...

JLBNYC's picture

Urban can definitely close! Remember when, very early in recruiting season, TTUN was rated 1 or 2, Hand was a sure thing for them, and the Buckeyes were supposedly behind?  Too lazy to dig up some of those panic posts but never count Urban out!

Ericgobucks's picture

I haven't been following McDowell's recruitment closely, but it seems as though the experts don't give us much of a shot. Anyone got any good nuggets to give us some hope with him? I though Drake was a very likely candidate to become a Buckeye and right after his visit he commits to Hokey Pokey. 

laishley15's picture

I am really surprised by all of this recent talk about Malik McDowell.  I have just assumed that he was going to be a lock for scum.

Sauce Bauss's picture

Staff, do you think we take McDowell and Thomas if they both want in? I know scholarships are limited but we are talking about two fantastic D Linemen. 

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I think it's possible, but not likely. Maybe five spots left, they'd like two more DBs minimum, another OL and then maybe 2 DL? I think they'd prefer to add a third DB over a third DE.

Buckeyes don't think they have much of a shot at a guy like Tony Brown, but they'd save a spot and hope he'd take it I think. They are not giving up on that idea.

chromedomebuck's picture

I am holding out hope that Tony Brown ends up being one of those awesome NSD/late in the recruiting cycle surprises Urban has shown a knack for landing, especially during his UF tenure. I've seen you say numerous times that there's no chance for Brown to Ohio State but until he commits to LSU, I'm going to think that just maybe he commits to OSU in the end. That would be crazy!
Urban the past two days = UN-BELIEVE-ABLE!!! McMillan and Dixon on consecutive days against the likes of Alabama is just unreal. As far as head coaches go, there is nobody else I'd want recruiting for OSU other than Urban. I'm drinking the kool aid.
Also, thank you Birm for your continued updates and stories, tweets, etc. on all things OSU football recruiting - you've done an awesome job keeping the 11W community and all Buckeye fans as up to date as possible and you do it the right way!

Champions Bleed Scarlet & Gray

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Appreciate it, thank you.

FROMTHE18's picture

Does anyone on the staff here see Dixon challenging for significant playing time at WR or is he more of a guy that will be on special teams this year and compete for a starting job his 2nd year? If he is Sammy Watkins-esque, this dude needs to get the ball in his hands. 

cuttyrock's picture

What happened to Derrick Nnandi visiting? I would love to get him. A big dt would help us out alot since Billy Price is considered a o lineman.

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Scheduled to visit in mid-January and definitely an intriguing prospect. Demetrius Knox said he thinks Nnadi was the best DT he faced on the camp circuit this year. 

urban86's picture

who do you think gets the nod if Braxton leaves early...cardale or jt....

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I think the job will be a total toss-up, but in my opinion JT Barrett is the likely starter in the event Braxton leaves.

urban86's picture

Thx and the 11W staff are the best

36buck's picture

Birm, nice article.
Who do we have a realistic shot at on the OL? I think we need one more. Any shot at Prince?

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

With the Glenville duo hopefully on board, and the staff potentially looking for another DB, is there any chance we get JuJu Smith??  I saw that you don't believe it will be Tony Brown, and JuJu is the only other major target I can recall.  I know It looks like he is a lock for USC, but I was wondering what you think.

Jbucks's picture

first post-
Great Article Birm!! Ive been reading 11W constantly since the Curtis Samuel commitment, and u guys do great work! Raekwon & Dixon great gets by Urban & Co. & especially Zach Smith on Dixon but who actually plays from this 5 reciever haul? with Dontre, Jalin Marshal, Corey Smith, James Clark Michael Thomas (did he redshirt?) I cant see more than Samuel & Dixon being the guys that get PT anytime soon.

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Thanks for reading and welcome to the site. Hopefully we continue to live up to expectations.

I think I agree with you, Samuel and Dixon will contend for playing time next year, and Noah Brown is another who could as well. He's a big body, so he has a physical edge on the others from that standpoint.

Buck Commander's picture

Just seen where George Campbell 5 Star WR DeCommited from Michigan according to Bleacher Report! Well Birm do you think we have a shot at him,Ohio State was in his final list of schools????

Every time I set my DVR to record Biggest Loser......It always records Wolverine Football Games!

Balkestud's picture

A major point that is being overlooked here is that Dixon's commitment is huge due to his High School. As with Joey B last year Dixon plied his trade at another one of Florida's football powerhouses. Dwyer is always in the state finals and regularly produces D1 talent. FSU's Nick O'Leary being one recent graduate. Dwyer has been traditionaly a Gator pipeline but if we can squeeze in there even a little bit it would be great for us. In my opinion Dwyer is #3 in terms of top Florida football programs, behind only Aquinas and Lakeland. Clearly Urban still has some cache there from his time at Florida. If he keeps getting several kids every few years from Aquinas and Dwyer, our program will be challenging for titles every year...OH

It gets kind of rough in the back of my limousine,



cinserious's picture

If Urban Meyer were a rapper, a typical line would be " I got more weapons than the mutha****in' law allow."

Seriously, is it legal to posses this much offensive weaponry and ATH on one team? I mean: Dixon, Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown, Parris Campbell, Sam Hubbard, Terry McLaurin, Malik Hooker, (probably Lattimore and Smith). And thats just from the '14 class.
Then you go to the '13 class and the roll call looks like: Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, James Clark, Corey Smith, Jeff Green. Plus EGW is coming in the '15 class? Its gotten to the point where Urban is recruiting high-end athletes for the defensive side of the ball who would otherwise be the 'play maker extraordinaire' at virtually any other top school in the country.
I thought it would be quite some time to see a Buckeye recruiting class as good as 2013 was but I'm starting to believe the '14 class will have it beat.

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

BeijingBucks's picture

Birm just to give you props... you are killing it on the prognostication front.  a regular Birmostrodomus!
and as for your 'BOOM' GIF... I giggled my ass off the first time I saw that.  The way the name faded in right on cue.  all I could think of was 'It's gonna be fun ride!!!!'. straight up gangsta Hollywood.

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

fanfarris's picture

The thread was good with the  exception of saying OSU is "above-Average Academic institution".I beg to differ dear Sir.The OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY,is a good Academic Institution.I had my BA and Master degrees in the 80's from there and i will and can tell you that i worked with Ivey League people and Pac 10,and they can't claim that they had a better education than i had.


MN Buckeye's picture

Farris, it could be a matter of local dialect. For example, in Minnesota, 'above average' means very good.

HandsOfSweed's picture

As in "where the children are all above average?"

Ericgobucks's picture

I bet they spell Ivy correctly, though. 

HandsOfSweed's picture

I bet they use correct punctuation and grammatical conventions, as well.

DenBuck's picture

Thanks Birm. This site is amazing...

Buckeye For Life

Barnsey69's picture

"Ohio State is the place to do those things and unseat the southern reign of terror."
Love it!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

Buckeye80's picture

If we finish with 23-24 in this class, how many have to leave to early attrition to make the numbers work?  Is there a recent break down of this?

Whosisbrew's picture

That GIF will NEVER get old.