Buckeyes Continue Strong Recruiting Haul, but Intrigue Remains Until Signing Day

By Kyle Rowland on February 3, 2014 at 9:15a

In less than a month’s time, Michigan State became the “it” school in the Big Ten and a player on the national landscape. Wins over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl will do that. The Spartans finished 13-1 and ranked No. 3.

But one glance at recruiting rankings reveals a different picture. Not only is Michigan State nowhere near the top of the Big Ten standings, it’s also far down in the national rankings. Then again, if your colors aren’t scarlet and gray and Urban Meyer isn’t your head coach, the Big Ten’s recruiting ground has become a tough neighborhood.

“From a talent standpoint, yes [Ohio State is widening the gap],” J.C. Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports, told Eleven Warriors. “This isn’t just a new thing. Over time, they’ve consistently recruited at a higher level than the rest of the Big Ten.”

Based on the Rivals.com rankings, the Buckeyes have eight of the top 100 recruits and the No. 2 class nationally. Penn State has the second-best class in the conference, but it’s ranked a distant 20th. Nebraska is 25th, followed by Michigan (29), Wisconsin (30) and finally Michigan State (31). Indiana, ranked 39th, is the only other Big Ten foe in the top 40.

The Wolverines’ group of prospects is small but high in quality. Of their 16 commitments, almost half are four or five stars. And the Spartans are still in on several notable players, which could result in a top-15 class. 

“Michigan State, quite frankly, has more momentum than any other school in the Big Ten across the board,” Shurburtt said. “They made a smart move hiring Curtis Blackwell as their director of player operations. He’s a guy with deep ties to the state of Michigan. Then when you factor in the season they had and they’re going to put a lot of guys in the NFL, that’s given them a selling point.”

However, Ohio State is still King of the Midwest. While recruiting can be an inexact science, signing as many highly rated players as possible is the surest way to build a winner. Meyer’s track proves that.

At Florida, there was a revolving door of top-five classes. With those came national championships. So far in Columbus, Meyer’s secured the pledge of numerous coveted recruits. There isn’t a new crystal football, but his record of 24-2 proves it’s in the offing.

“What Urban Meyer is doing is not so much signing the No. 2 class two years in a row. It’s signing a top-five class four or five years in a row and stringing it together,” Shurburtt said. “That’s what Alabama’s done. They don’t really rebuild, they reload.”

That’s not to say there isn’t final week intrigue. The decisions of Jamarco Jones and Malik McDowell are shrouded in mystery. The Buckeyes are also anxiously awaiting word on defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi.

Jones, a four-star offensive tackle, has been committed to Ohio State since June. But Mark Dantonio and the Spartans are making a late push. If he stays firm, Jones would be the crown jewel of the Buckeyes’ five-man offensive line class.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound tackle from Chicago visited East Lansing over the weekend, which usually isn’t a good indicator. Final visits carry significant sway, especially if a kid’s been committed to another school for over six months. Jones’ uneasiness comes from the departure of Mike Vrabel, who was the lead recruiter during the courting process.

“This year we have seen the return of having the advantage for the last official visit,” Shurburtt said. “In previous cycles, most guys have made up their mind. With the dead period extending and only having three official visit weekends, this was bound to happen.”

It’s just the latest recruiting battle between two coaches – Meyer and Dantonio – that certainly don’t exchange Christmas cards.

In the first two months on the job, Meyer was able to pry away Se’von Pittman from Michigan State. That put in motion the Big Ten’s newest rivalry. Tape-gate followed, then the Spartans win in December. Make no mistake, Dantonio would like nothing more than to steal a big-time recruit away from Meyer and Ohio State.

Another head-to-head showdown sure to garner headlines centers on McDowell. The defensive lineman from Detroit, thought to be deciding between Michigan State and Michigan, made his final official visit over the weekend, and it occurred at Ohio State.

At 6-foot-6, 292 pounds, McDowell already has the body of a college defender and is said to be a major fan of new defensive line coach Larry Johnson. The same goes for Nnadi, a Virginia Beach native, which is territory considered to be in Johnson’s wheelhouse.

“[McDowell’s decision] has now become the most unpredictable storyline of a five-star prospect in the entire class.” Shurburtt said. “It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens there.”

A school that’s made recent gains on the recruiting trail is Penn State. Since hiring former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lions have added seven commitments, including five pledges from what was arguably the Commodores’ best class in school history.

Franklin’s staff is filled with assistants who have Keystone State experience, but he lost Penn State’s most valuable assistant – Johnson.

“He’s one of the best recruiters in the country,” Shurburtt said of Johnson. “Now [Ohio State] has a guy who can help solidify the Eastern Seaboard. That’s huge, especially for a program that’s located within a top-five talent-producing state and is always going to get the lion’s share of the top talent in that state.”

The rich get richer, a canyon forms and Ohio State is left alone at the top.


Comments Show All Comments

MN Buckeye's picture

What used to be the big two is now the big one. Even though MSU has momentum, they are still Sparty, and MI has all the resources but is not developing players as they have in the past.

mb5599's picture

Just remember, that despite all of our top talent players, Sparty just beat us with mainly 3 star talent.  Doesnt matter what the "experts" think.  We have to develop the talent and utilize their strengths come game day.  Otherwise, the only victory we will have is in the recruiting rankings.

Big B

tennbuckeye19's picture

This is true.
The bottom line is that OSU was a super talented team that under-performed on defense and despite going undefeated 2 years in a row in the regular season, it came back to bite them in the B1G championship and the bowl game. 

Doc's picture

Jones, McDowell and Nnadi would all be very welcome come Wednesday.  Go get'em Urbs!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

HotSauceCommittee's picture

I firmly believe we aren't giving MSU enough credit. While OSU maybe King of the BIG 10, Sparty has a decent grasp on our crown right now. The deserve credit until we take it from them this Fall.

TresselourgodUrbanoursavior's picture

BAH, I hate it when you make good points!

buckeyeguy0615's picture

Hate to crash the party but just because we're winning on the recruiting trail doesn't mean we're the king of the B1G.. Sparty is right now

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Sure, Sparty is king right now, but 2013 is over. The only thing that kingly status will give Sparty in 2014 is a big target on its back. #OneSeasonWonder.

Furious George 27's picture

MSU had a great season, but you need to win at recruiting to stay on top of the mountain.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

fear_the_nut70's picture

And if I am not mistaken, weren't they a five loss team a year ago?  Granted there were a bunch of close games that seemingly could have gone either way, but still, season like that are what can be expected fairly regularly when you are relying on building 2 and 3 star recruits into good to great football players.  There will be down years as they develop, where as I would think the drop-off is far less when you are playing with 4 and 5 star guys.

OSU2002Grad's picture

Should be interesting... Urban Meyer usually has a strong Signing Day... so I guess that's what keeps me somewhat optimistic with Jones and McDowell when everything else points to them going Green.

Buckifan4Life's picture

It is interesting how WE are on the other side of Tresselball now...

buckskin's picture

Yeah, Meyer destroyed Tresselball while he was at Florida; too bad he couldn't do it again this year at Indy.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Of course, the story could've been a little different if Meyer had a dominating defense going against Tresselball in Indy. 

kb1's picture

If we get McDowell we will have the best DL in the country for years to come....

If we dont get McDowell.......

We will have the best DL in the country for years to come ..

But i hope we do.

Mortc15's picture

That last line of the article sounds so good. Now they need to make it real. The article also outlines the key points in why OSU is going to be the best team in the conference. OSU again put a fence around the state and secured basically every top prospect. Then to go into TSUN and hopefully steal what looks like they're top 2 players. UFM sets his sights on guys, then goes and gets them. Not many coaches have that 'IT' factor and the ability to do that.
With all that said, on field results are now the only thing left to go after, and it needs to start this coming year.


RedStorm45's picture

My issue with going after these last couple guys is that last year we supposedly turned down Townsend the week of NSD because we were "at capacity."  In fact, one former staff member was adamant that Urban asked Townsend to sign as a preferred walk-on despite what Townsend and his family said to the media when he flipped to UF.
If you look at it now, we are at 82 (or maybe even 83).  Accepting even more recruits to this class would technically be "oversigning" until a player or two transfers, loses scholarship, etc.  At least that's how it was presented last year as to why Townsend did not sign with the Buckeyes.

gm3jones's picture

I think we are at 82 if all current commit stay put. So yeah, I think we have room for one more. Someone please correct me if they do have 83. But I would also imagine that we will have at least one transfer, right? Hopefully two so we can get MM

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

RedStorm45's picture

Link (h/t BME)
We're at 82 now, if everyone who is committed ends up signing.
My point is we were in the same situation last year.  We allegedly told Townsend to wait, or to sign as a preferred walk-on.  The staff knew there would be attrition (transfers, some career-threatening injuries, etc.), but as of NSD, we were at 82 without Townsend.  If they're going to be consistent, then they can't take anyone else right now without attrition before Wednesday.  Unless you don't believe the reports last year that Urban didn't want to appear to be oversigned on NSD.

gm3jones's picture

I gotcha now, my apologies. I didn't read the last paragraph of your post.

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

Ericgobucks's picture

Do we have room for Nnandi and McDowell?

Crimson's picture

From what I've gathered, I don't think so, unless we lose someone else.

MikeEagleBuckeye's picture

Not currently, but you can always expect room to open up via transfers, personal reasons, etc.

Barnsey69's picture

Just real excited about NSD, especially since the last football associated with the 2013 season was a spectacular dud.

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!

Evansvillebuckeye's picture

As I said to the Sparty fans taunting me in Indy after the December game - enjoy your one year of relevance...

gm3jones's picture

IDK... If they keep Dantonio and cycle good coaches, they should be able to be a competitive team for a while. We need them to be good

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Sparty has won 11 or more games the last three out of four years. I'm not sure we can discard them as irrelevant. Moreover, their upswing on the recruiting trails, even without Jones or McDowell, is something to respect.

pabdublin78's picture

It's good for the conference to have several conference schools battling for 4* and 5* talented recruits instead of just the Buckeyes battling the SEC / FSU / USC for them...
I could be wrong, but I think MSU is about to become a serious challenger to us each year.  They coach up their players, especially on defense, and all you need to do is look back at last night's Super Bowl to see what happens when a dominating defense takes on a high powered offense. 
In the end, I think it makes us a better team, a more focused team and most importantly, a seasoned team ready for playoff opportunities against great opponents. 

2002osubuck's picture

MSU had a great team this year and we still shouldve won but they had more experience at keys positions. Our DBs and LBs weren't good, as Meyer stated, and that'll change this year with the talent we got from the last few classes. Not to mention, MSU lost their top players on the D in Bullough and Denard so they'll be presses to replace them. 2014 will be the start of Meyer's recruiting efforts paying off with a lot of talent all over the field.

jamesrbrown322's picture

If the Buckeyes were to whiff on McDowell and Jones, any names to keep an eye on as last minute offers that the staff may try and grab at the last minute? Any chance that they go hardcore after Njoku despite cancelling his visit? Just curious. Are they more likely to just bank the open schollies for next year?

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

PittBuckeye's picture

Keeping Jones is such a big thing, really hope we can keep the big fella.

BuckeyeGuy1973's picture

I'm very curious about the recruiting pitch being given to Jones right now ... versus at the time right before he committed.  I can't imagine it's any different ... With 4 starters graduating, he has an amazing chance to step right in and play NOW -- just like some wet-behind-the-ears kid from Sandusky in the 1990's.  
I also was reading about McDowell ... His recruitment has been incredibly quiet.  Anyone with any news about the on-campus visit? Any twitter nuggets from McDowell or his family?

teddyballgame's picture

Maybe I'm delusional, but I think we might be getting Nnadi.  Nnadi seems like a REALLY private and introverted kind of dude.  Probably the hardest to read. 
Something had to happen though for Urban to cancel Njoku's OV and offer.  Nnadi also joked on twitter around that time that "he had already made his decision" but then I think he deleted that tweet and apologized for teasing people etc.  He just might be a silent commit.  You know Urban loves to have a NSD surprise, right?  Plus if Jamarco flips or we miss on McDowell he'd like to atleast have SOMETHING positive in his back pocket for that day.
This is what happens during the last few days I guess...your mind runs wild with different possible scenarios.

jamesh111's picture

What happens next year when we get all of our scholarships back? do we sign a BIG class

Needless to say I have some unusual habits, yet all these socially acceptable people can't wait to pick up hammers and smash their food to bits. Normal people are so hostile.

RedStorm45's picture

As of this moment, we will have 68 guys with eligibility in 2015-2016, plus EGW (if he sticks) and Dean make 70.  85 spots - 70 already taken = 15 more spots, which would mean a class of 17 next year.  This is not taking into account any attrition (transfers, injuries, etc.) or early departures for the NFL (Spence? Decker? who knows).  If you factor in the usual attrition of 2-3/year, then the next class will not be that much bigger than normal - 20 to 24 or so.

d5k's picture

It appears to be worse than that since Corey Smith is a redshirt junior this coming season and he is listed as a senior in your linked google doc.  But this just means the team is young.  And the 2010 class had some attrition and wasn't that big to begin with.

Crimson's picture

Corey Smith redshirted, so he'll have 2014-2016.
Edit: nevermind, that's what you were saying.

Seattle Linga's picture

Wednesday can't get here soon enough. If Jones stays with the good guys - it'll be explosive and beyond. Thanks for the write up Kyle

Buck Commander's picture

 Malik McDowell will announce his decision at 9:30am on Signing Day

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

TomD's picture

Successful recruiting is a critical, early stage in a winning football program.  It is a key element, but it is not sufficient.
Once the talent is here, it needs to be developed and coached.  Something is missing if Ohio State repeatedly has among the best recruiting classes in the country, and the best recruiting class in the B1G, but is not consistently winning the big games.
I firmly believe that Urban Meyer is the right man for the job and is on the right track, but there has been something missing in the development of talent and the coaching, both pre-game preparation and during-the-game adjustments, on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.  The problem, especially if it is coaching, and whether it is personnel or approach, needs to be determined and corrected.
Although losing Mike Vrabel was a blow, the hiring of coaches Johnson and Ash are steps in the right direction.  Now the question becomes what more needs to be done to ensure that Ohio State is an elite football team . . . most importantly, consistently winning conference championships and bowl games.  The last two years of recruiting at Ohio State under Coach Meyer have been excellent, now we need to see the results on the field.
And Michigan State is clearly doing something right.  Perhaps we can learn from their success.

"I love football.  I think it is the most wonderful game in the world and I despise to lose."  WOODY HAYES