Football Recruiting: The More Things Change

By Jeremy Birmingham on January 11, 2014 at 12:00p
Thanks for the memories Mike Vrabel

Mike Vrabel's sudden decision to leave Ohio State for the NFL is going to have – at least temporarily – adverse side effects for Ohio State recruiting. Theres's little to no doubt about that.

His charisma, his passion and his love for all things Buckeye was unrivaled by anyone on the Buckeye staff and it helped make him the best recruiter not only in Columbus, but maybe in the country. Vrabel was Urban Meyer's ace-in-the-hole, and now Meyer has to find another, but rest assured: he will. 

The challenge for Meyer is not to find a good young coach with a firm grasp of defensive football. Those guys are everywhere, and Meyer is aware of it. The challenge is not to find a "player's coach" that identifies with the grind of the football team and can recruit great players, either. Those guys, too, are everywhere.

The loss of Vrabel is hardest to replace in terms of passion for and about Ohio State directly. Mike Vrabel loves Ohio State, it's a part of who he is, it resonates through every facet of his personality and it is that trait Meyer will find most difficult to replace.

The truth is this though, no matter how much Vrabel was liked by recruits and coaches alike, Urban Meyer is ultimately the draw at Ohio State. Recruits come to Columbus to play for Ohio State and to play for Urban Meyer. Ohio State's history and tradition, Urban Meyer's reputation and the promise of future winning, that is why kids come to Ohio State.

Best of luck, Mike, and thank you for three pretty darn good years. Maybe we'll see you again down the road.

With all of the we've had recently – in the middle of a dead period, no less – this afternoon's update will focus on a few random notes and players from the around country, but it may be a bit "lighter" than you've come to expect from my always rambling prose.

The James Franklin Effect

It's no secret that Ohio State's 2015 quarterback targets are well established. We've talked about them at length here and as the next year unfolds we'll talk about them more.

The one name that has been discussed the most is Brandon Wimbush from New Jersey, who initially wanted to make his college choice in December, but has decided to put it off for another month or two. That delay, coupled with Penn State (his mother's alma mater) hiring James Franklin, could dislodge the Buckeyes as the favorite for his services. Wimbush was considering Vanderbilt previously almost exclusively because of Franklin, and his ascension to Happy Valley could definitely impact the battle for the quarterback.

Would a Buckeye offer flip Taylor?A Buckeye offer might not be enough to flip Taylor if it comes.

Landing Wimbush doesn't necessarily guarantee that you land his five-star defensive back teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick, but losing Wimbush could absolutely hurt the chances of landing Fitzpatrick as well. Ohio State has felt very good about their odds with both of these players, but Penn State's impact in New Jersey combined with a coach of Franklin's prodigious charm is going to be a challenge even for Urban Meyer.

The New Jersey boys are not the only prospects potentially affected by Vanderbilt's loss. Van Jefferson, the talented wide receiver from Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn. is another four-star prospect that may quickly move the Nittany Lions up on his list of schools because of his relationship with Franklin at Vanderbilt.

In fact, Jefferson's father was pushing for Penn State to get a better look with O'Brien at the helm, but the wideout and his mother really liked Franklin and what he was building in Nashville. Ohio State was named the leader for Jefferson following his November visit, but this one is far from over.

The Offensive Line Situation

On Thursday, two of Florida State's top offensive lineman, Cameron Erving and Tre Johnson, announced they would be returning for their senior seasons in Tallahassee. Naturally for Buckeye fans this brings one name immediately to mind: Chad Mavety. Mavety committed to Florida State in early December and many believed that the JUCO star would see FSU's projected line openings as a way in to early playing time, but the decisions of Erving and Johnson have thrown a little wrench into that idea.

Does that mean Ohio State has any chance to re-open the New Yorker's eyes? I don't think so. 

That said, Mavety told me has not signed with Florida State yet, so anything could happen, but don't count on this one turning the Buckeyes' direction.

Ohio State's offensive line recruiting seems to be narrowing down at this point and Missouri's Rod Johnson and Ohio's Brady Taylor are the primary factors as I see it. The problem is that Johnson doesn't seem to be altogether too interested in taking another visit to Ohio State and Taylor is currently committed to Virginia Tech and without a Buckeye offer. Couple that with the reports that Taylor has told people a Buckeye offer wouldn't even change his mind if it came, and it appears that Ohio State could be sitting on four offensive lineman come February. Of course, this is recruiting and anything can change in the blink of an eye, but right now it's a little too quiet for my taste on the line front.

What do I think happens? I'm sticking with my guns, and I still think Brady Taylor gets an offer before February and I think he signs with Ohio State, but I do not think it will be an easy, slam dunk choice for him. He's been committed to the Hokies since July and Taylor is not the type of kid who takes his commitment lightly. He doesn't want to be "flaky" or "change his mind," but I believe that if the offer comes he'll make that choice because it's a lifelong dream for the Columbus native to don the scarlet and gray.


It's not too early to talk 2016 recruiting, is it? One of Florida's top wide receivers, Nate Craig from Dade County, has had a Buckeye offer for since April of 2013, before he suited up for his sophomore year at Pasco High School. Ohio State has stayed in regular contact with Craig as they are able (contact rules are pretty strict for underclassmen) and he told me last night that he's hoping to get up to visit Ohio State, as well as two other schools soon.

"I hope to take some visits during this upcoming summer," Craig said. "I want to visit Clemson, Tennessee and Ohio State."

With a handful of younger players from Florida already making commitments, Craig said he's not thinking about committing anytime soon, but he understands those who do.

"You just wanna take every visit to make sure your making the right choice," he added about his recruiting process. "But, if the shoe fits then you have to go with it."

Urban Meyer is hoping that Craig's shoes are scarlet and gray.



dubjayfootball90's picture


"But, if the shoe fits then you have to go with it."

What a great quote for a recruit to say, especially if he likes tOSU (reading too much into it, but it is still funny).

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Brutus' Left Nut's picture

Edit: replied to wrong comment

Hayze's picture

Craig (supposedly) has OSU at or near the top of his list. Would be an awesome get at a position of need (bigget WRs).
COuld be a good Florida class for us if we good snag this kid to go with (eventually) Bosa.

Buckeye1996's picture

Vrabel's leaving is a shot to the dangling nodes for sure, but I'm hopeful our coach can pull in another ringer.
Obrien's hiring of Vrabel seems to be tinted with a direct but yet subtle fark you to Urban.
Didn't O'Brien have some words with Urban after we thrashed PSU?...hmm...

Brutus' Left Nut's picture

I think it's more about the Patriot connection than about Urban.

Buckeye1996's picture

I hear you but that is why I said a direct but subtle shot at Urban. It makes perfect sense but you can't tell me that Obrien didn't quietly have a smirk on his face. After all, we thrashed them, and Obrien was visibly annoyed.
I think he threw a perfect sneaky punch. Just a thought.

Jordan Wagner's picture

O'Brien voted Ohio State over Florida State late in the process. If he had some vendetta, why not rank OSU 3rd at the time? 

Buckeye1996's picture

Maybe he thought we should be ranked above them?

xrox's picture

You don't hire an NFL coach just to settle a vendetta. If O'Brien would release Vrabel immediately after signing day, I'd buy your conspiracy theory. That's not gonna happen.

Buckeye1996's picture

No conspiracy theorist here. Vrabel's hiring makes perfect sense! Perfect fit! But, if I'm OBrien, I am still going to have a smirk on my face that it all worked out so well. Vrabel fits, is the right man for the job, PLUS I get to disrupt Urban's staff as a bonus. Yeah. I'm smirking a little bit if I'm Obrien.

Joe4's picture

Jeremy, I noticed you didn't mention the 2014 DL guys we've been in on (Thomas & McDowell). Do you think Vrabel's leaving is fatal to our chances with those guys, or could a good new hire keep us alive?

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I'm going to bet with the loss of Vrabel we don't land another DL in this class.  I actually think we don't land another DL or OL in this class which has been predicted before.  I think we land another DB and probably another WR/TE.
Any of the 11W staff have a hunch of how the Franklin hiring will affect Gesicki?

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I think Gesicki will stay with the Nittany Lions.

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Thanks Birm...  With the loss of Vrabel, do any of your final 2 pieces for the class of 2014 change?

Joe4's picture

SEC, I remember that last year you called Clark, Wilson, and Bell, so if you have any future predictions, I'm all ears!

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I don't really have any names in mind right now.  A lot will depend on who Urban hires to fill those assistant spots.  Those new incoming coaches will have connections and some names will pop up.  I saw on Twitter a few days back that someone floated John Chavis as a name to come in as DC.  If that were to come true, I could see us landing a big time defensive player through him that might be committed elsewhere right now.  

Joe4's picture

Thanks for the response. I'll keep an eye out for your future posts.
As for Chavis, has anyone explained why he would want to leave LSU?

M Man's picture

I am so sorry to see Mike Vrabel leaving Columbus.  I just can't put the feeling into words any better than the 11W staff can.  I would like it very much if we had a Vrabel of our own. 
A real Vrabel, not Tom Brady-Vrabel.

Although having the real Tom Not-Vrabel Brady is nice too.  We owe this great rivalry to all of the Mike Vrabels.  Best wishes, good luck and Godspeed.

Bamabucknut's picture

What concerns me....i interpret his leaving as a sign  that he was frustrated to a point he simply could not tolerate his current situation.Who....what few  know.I just cannot see him leaving unless the pressures of "whatever" became intolerable.Thats very concerning.

cdub4's picture

Has that been hinted at by anyone? Just asking? I assumed it was a pay raise, and a chance to coach at the highest level. Maybe he decided he likes the pro game more.

joel121270's picture

I think it is money and his ties to NE to be honest. Gonna miss him but I think one day he will be back.

jamesrbrown322's picture

Isn't it just more likely that he always wanted to coach in the NFL? Belichick said it years ago. Nothing OSU could have done to keep him once NFL came calling...excepting promoting him to HC.
Glad we had him for a time at least. I agree that his passion for OSU is what will be missed most. I like Fick, perhaps not as DC, but whatever, but he seems to be very professional...whereas Vrabel was very much the "Rah, Rah" type.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Wesleyburgess1's picture

Vrabel left to better himself. I wouldn't read to much into it. I would say he didn't like recruiting as much as we thought he did. Hell get paid more, have Nfl coaching experience, and wont have to travel all over the country every week begging teenagers to come play for him. I'd say that's why he left.

Bamabucknut's picture

I hope you are right and I'm wrong.

Buckifan4Life's picture

Can OSU offer Taylor already? What is the coaching staff waiting for?

Buckifan4Life's picture

Finally,... thank you, Coach!

RufusVonDufus's picture

The loss of Vrabel is hardest to replace in terms of passion for and about Ohio State directly. Mike Vrabel loves Ohio State, it's a part of who he is, it resonates through every facet of his personality.
If the above was true, as stated in the article, Vrabel would not be leaving!


Jeremy Birmingham's picture

That is inaccurate.

Vrabel is a new coach with major NFL credentials but more importantly he has a wife and small children and the life of a college coach isn't an easy one. There's no off-season, there's almost constant travel, etc. It's not an easy life, no matter how much you love it.

Condor's picture

I agree. I don't know exactly what being a pro coach entails, but I would think that being at a high pressure place like OSU would be more difficult (time consuming at least) than being a pro coach.

"Do not fear me gypsy, all I want is your tears."

 -- Borat Sagdiyev


RufusVonDufus's picture

I agree with all of you.   I am just trying to change his mind.   I wish him the best and hope he returns.


Seattle Linga's picture

Vrabs - you will be missed by all and remembered by everyone - thanks for your legacy and helping us build the program


That's why Meyer needs to make the right hire for the DL and safety positions. Who's to say the new coaches won't be amazing recruiters? Maybe they'll be just as good or better? Don't ever forget the Buckeyes still have their ace in the hole. One Urban Meyer.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

jamesrbrown322's picture

Any chance of a Taver Johnson or Jim Heacock sighting in Columbus...? Or does Meyer want to get away from "Tressel guys?"

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

buckskin's picture

After playing MSU in the title game and going against a HC and DC from the Tressel tree, I would hope he could recognize players being coached up.  Love the Tressel defenses throughout the years.  Disciplined and fundamentally sound.

Patriot4098's picture

Very much this ^^^!   It is why I want Heacock,  I can only imagine what we could do if all our defensive athleticism and talent played fundamentally sound football.  It was THE difference between us and FSU this year.  Not the only difference, but THE biggest difference. Either way, everything that has happened, has happened for a reason (coaching changes).  I trust our staff, and I know UFM will be fixing it.  He has too much pride in what he does and this university to stand idly by.

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

NapervilleBuck's picture

Wondering if Spielman would consider a recruiting role with the team.  Not many with as much passion for tOSU as him.
Best of luck to MV.

DenBuck's picture

I wish Vrabes the best and am thankful for what he gave us. Perhaps he's next man up after Urban. This does hurt in the short run. Perhaps our 2014 class is DONE and that's OK. We will be stronger in the long run after this hurdle is cleared and Urban gets replacements for Vrabes and Withers and realigns the staff. I hope the replacements will be here awhile instead of looking for NFL gigs. 

Buckeye For Life

UFest57's picture

He doesn't want to be "flaky" or "change his mind,"
Could only picture Matt Foley saying this with "air quotes"