Don't Fret Ohio State's Slow Start to the 2015 Recruiting Class

By Vico on April 25, 2014 at 1:00p
Cropped from a recruiting mailer made by Sammy Silverman (@SammySilv)

By April 25 of 2012, eleven members of the eventual recruiting class of 2013 had pledged their commitment to Ohio State. Of these eleven, guys like Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa had an immediate effect in their true freshman season. Other players like Eli Apple, Cameron Burrows, Evan Lisle, and Billy Price are either in prime position to start at their respective positions in 2014 or will appear in the two-deep.

By this same date last year, seven of the eventual 23 members of Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class had pledged to Ohio State. Guys like Marcelys Jones and Kyle Trout even enrolled early.

Today, as of writing, Ohio State has just two verbal commitments for its 2015 recruiting class. It just lost a verbal commitment to Auburn. One of the two remaining commitments is in the news for the wrong reasons. The other recruit, God love him, is taking to Twitter to provide reassurances of his commitment to Ohio State.

I doubt the timing of Jamel Dean's tweets were coincidental. There is a palpable angst about why Ohio State's recruiting class is sagging relative to what it was at this point in the last two years. Beyond relative statements, two is a low number for a recruiting class by this point.

Is angst warranted? Yes and no. Ohio State fans can understandably be displeased with the haul to this point but any alarm would be unwarranted.

Rather than bemoan the low numbers, the real dissatisfaction should be the missed opportunity. By having guys like Kyle Berger, Sam Hubbard, Kyle Trout, and Damon Webb pledged so early, Urban Meyer had cheerleaders and unpaid recruiters at his disposal to promote Ohio State while appearing in various combines like Nike's The Opening. In fact, it was Damon Webb and his parents that coined Dream 2014 and used that as a rallying cry for what became a consensus top-5 recruiting class nationally.

With only two guys currently committed, Ohio State will not have that for the time being. Eric Glover-Williams has other things on his mind. No one could fault Jamel Dean if the most he could do is take to Twitter to reaffirm his pledge and go about his private affairs while Ohio State's coaching staff works overtime to give him company.

Concern would be warranted if the only systematic difference among recruits were their ordinal "star" rankings. Recruits systematically vary more than that. Those who commit to Ohio State by this time fit one of a few molds. They are lifelong Ohio State fans who got the only offer they wanted and ended their recruitment shortly thereafter. They are diamonds in the rough who flew under the radar but were fortunately discovered by a marquee program like Ohio State early and committed to one of the best programs in the country by the spring of their junior year. Or, they are recruits who commit early after an unofficial visit (including the spring game) but could be exit risks shortly thereafter.

The first mold of recruit would be a Cameron Burrows or Kyle Trout. The second mold would be an Ezekiel Elliott or Sam Hubbard. The final type of recruit is one whose commitment is malleable as we saw in the case of Lawrence Marshall (Michigan) or Ben Edwards (Auburn) more recently.

Do notice the distinction. These recruits differ systematically from recruits who commit later in the process. Those who commit early tend to be local. They can make repeated visits to Ohio State and other local programs to make a more informed decision sooner than someone who Ohio State is targeting from Florida, Georgia, or Virginia. Those who do not make ex post informed decisions are ones who decommit in favor of something else. Those yet to commit are those who would not commit to anyone without going through the official visit process. Ohio State fans should not bemoan those who have not committed by now because they were never going to be done by April. There is something of a selection effect here and one that arguably works to Ohio State's benefit as one of the country's most prominent programs.

Put another way, I would be alarmed if we were Illinois. Illinois, coincidentally, is also sitting at just two verbal commitments as we approach May. The difference between Illinois and Ohio State is that Ohio State becomes more attractive to a high four-star or five-star prospect who was always going to parlay his status toward a televised announcement at a high school exhibition game or National Signing Day. These are the recruits Urban Meyer covets and does well recruiting.

Illinois, as charitably the fourth most important college football program in its own state, does not have this luxury. Ohio State's star appeal becomes more appealing to an Under Armour All-American in January if the numbers in its recruiting class are still somewhat low. Meanwhile, a JUCO prospect becomes more appealing to Illinois (and not necessarily the other way around) in the same position in January.

As an Ohio State fan, I'm a bit more invested thinking about all the future Buckeyes we'll be getting in the fall and early winter than I am invested in lamenting just having two players right now for 2015.

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