The Flipped: Tracking the Players Urban Meyer Swiped from Other Programs

By Michael Citro on February 9, 2014 at 8:15a
Wilson is one of Urban Meyer's prized flippers.

In just three recruiting seasons, Urban Meyer has earned a reputation for reaching into other schools’ recruiting classes and plucking a few choice gems out for his own team.

This “thievery” has been fascinating to watch and has helped the Buckeyes round out their classes the last couple of seasons. And it has created some sweet schadenfreude among the fans of other schools, as well as a real fear among them that any recruit could become an Ohio State flip.

In the wake of National Signing Day, there’s no better time to look back at some of the recruits who were once committed elsewhere, only to be lured by Meyer’s Jedi-like powers of persuasion.

In three years, nine players have directly switched their commitments from some other school to Ohio State. In addition, Demetrius Knox was once committed to Texas, but the 2014 blue chip offensive lineman’s de-commitment from that school did not result in an immediate flip. The Buckeyes earned Knox’s services a few months after he rescinded his verbal to the Longhorns.

Let’s take a look at the recruits who Meyer flipped, and whether or not they have measurably helped Ohio State.

Starting with this most recent class, Urban and his staff were able to pry offensive lineman Brady Taylor away from 2014 opponent Virginia Tech, and also swiped New Jersey defensive end Darius Slade from Michigan State on National Signing Day.

Both players have tremendous upside, especially the sack-happy Slade, who was originally committed to Nebraska before giving Mark Dantonio his pledge. Neither is on campus yet, so it’s far too early to tell what, if any, impact they will have on the program.

In 2013, Meyer managed to steal Gareon Conley from Brady Hoke’s Michigan Wolverines, and Dontre Wilson left Oregon behind to join the Buckeyes.

Conley de-committed from Michigan in November of 2012 to visit Ohio State and gave a verbal commitment shortly thereafter to Meyer, on Dec. 7.

Wilson gave his pledge very early to Oregon, but Chip Kelly’s departure to the NFL opened the door for Meyer to pounce. In the end, Meyer beat Mack Brown and Texas for Wilson’s services on National Signing Day 2013.

According to Ohio State’s statistics, Conley appeared in the Florida A&M game, but did not register any statistics. I’m assuming he’ll end up listed as a redshirt freshman in 2014.

Decker was a big flip from Notre Dame, locking down the right tackle spot in 2013.
Decker is big. His role is about to get bigger.

His lack of impact as a true freshman shouldn’t be that surprising. But his athletic ability is undeniable. Conley was the No. 1 ranked player in Ohio in his class in the ESPN 150. He was also the No. 14 cornerback nationally as ranked by 247Sports. Still, he has yet to measurably add to the Buckeyes’ fortunes.

Wilson, on the other hand, made an immediate impact. His buzz started early in camp and he played a vital role in Tom Herman’s offense in 2013. He appeared in all 14 games, rushing 31 times for 250 yards and a touchdown, and catching 22 passes for 210 yards and two scores.

Dontre was also the team’s leading kickoff returner, with 21 for 523 yards (24.9 avg.). He was electrifying on returns. He never broke one for a score, but seemed a threat every time. His longest was 51 yards.

Apart from his statistical benefits, just having the threat of Wilson's speed on the field opened up room in both the running and passing game. Opponents always had to be very aware of Wilson's movements.

Meyer’s first class at Ohio State, in 2012, was chock full of flips — and that’s not even counting Noah Spence, who was never officially committed to Penn State, but was considered a major PSU lean.

Kyle Dodson (Wisconsin), Taylor Decker (Notre Dame), Se’Von Pittman (Michigan State), Tommy Schutt (Penn State) and Joey O’Connor (Penn State) all switched allegiances to play for Meyer in the 2012 class. Decker and Schutt have so far been the most successful flips from that group for the Buckeyes.

Decker earned a starting job at right tackle as a sophomore. He had a bumpy start in the opener against the NFL-caliber talent of Khalil Mack, but quickly grew into a dependable offensive lineman. He learned from one of the best linemen in the country in Jack Mewhort, and one of the top offensive line coaches in the nation in Ed Warinner.

As part of a line that paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in 2013 and the most prolific scoring offense in school history, Decker will soon move to the left side to replace Mewhort.

Schutt played as a true freshman, seeing time in 10 games, but totaling only four tackles (three solo). He was on his way to becoming a starter in 2013, when he was sidelined by injury. Schutt returned from injury in time to appear in six games, registering three tackles, half a sack and a quarterback hurry.

Barring another setback, Schutt will be in position to regain his starting spot in 2014.

The other three 2012 flippers haven’t fared as well, especially Pittman and O’Connor. Pittman transferred to Akron last summer, while O’Connor joined the Colorado State Rams to be closer to home. You may recall that Pittman’s flip to Ohio State caused Sparty to freak out a little.

Ultimately, Pittman spurning Michigan State to become a Buckeye did little other than creating a little bad blood between Columbus and East Lansing. Meanwhile, O’Connor’s flip also paid no dividends for the Buckeyes.

Bret Bert Bielema didn’t like Dodson’s flip from Wisconsin to Ohio State much either. But, so far, Dodson hasn’t been able to make an impact. He did make the two-deep behind Decker (as an “or” with Tommy Brown). And he saw the field against Iowa, Penn State and Indiana in limited action in 2013 as a redshirt freshman. But, Dodson will need to step up his game if he’s going to challenge for a starting spot in 2014.

So far, the flips Meyer and his staff created have not generated a lot of positive play on the field for Ohio State, aside from Decker and Wilson (and Schutt, if we’re being generous). None of the others have yet been a factor in winning football games. Two aren’t even around anymore.

Of the seven flippers in the 2012 and 2013 classes — those who have had a chance to earn playing time for the Buckeyes — only three have seized it. Two have transferred and two are still waiting to leave their mark on the tapestry of Ohio State football. The two 2014 flips are still waiting in the wings.

So Meyer’s flipping prowess hasn’t reaped the full and expected benefits, but there is still plenty of time for the talented Conley and Dodson to make good — and, of course, Slade and Taylor haven’t even gotten here yet.

As long as Meyer’s getting the guys he wants, his flips will likely pan out more often than not, with the added bonus that they won’t be helping other schools win football games against Ohio State.


Comments Show All Comments

armybucknut's picture

Interesting article, I had forgotten the drama around Dodson....... great job!

"Illegitimi non carborundum"

BuckeyeChris's picture

"Dontre was also the team’s leading kickoff returner, with 21 for 523 yards (24.9 avg.). He was electrifying on returns. He never broke one for a score, but seemed a threat every time."

This. Yes.  

As the game "slows down" (I know... over-used/cliche´) for Dontre, I see him taking several to the house next year. 

+3 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

Sometimes I wonder if Pittman and O'Connor hold any grudge for being flipped. Would they have transferred from their original school the same way?

TMac's picture

FWIW, O'Connor is likely done with football due to continuing knee issues. which forced him to redshirt his only year here. For him, I think the injury was a huge part of being homesick and transferring back to Colorado. 

ONE Not Done!

+7 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

Choosing a school can be a tortuous process for some high school kids, plus they have so many different voices in their ear promising them the world. Also, every kid is at a different maturity level and still growing, so what may have been the right choice 6 months ago may now not quite feel like the right choice. While hopefully kids flip for the right reasons, the new school will not always be the answer while for others it is coming home. I think where we would be right now without Taylor Decker, for example, and I really feel for Malik McDowell.

BoFuquel's picture

Just like anything else in the recruiting game. About a 40% chance of a washout, that's life; accept it and move on. Next. GO BUCKS!

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

bukyze's picture

So what you're saying is that 60% of the time it works every time?

+12 HS
Chise47's picture

"90% of the game is 1/2 mental." -Madden


saltybuck61's picture

I hate to be that guy but I believe that quote belongs to former Yankee's catcher and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.

+2 HS
pabdublin78's picture

I think the other Big Ten coaches have come to realize that flipping recruits is a practice that is going to exist going forward.  Look at how many of our conferences coaches flipped recruits this recruiting season.  You don't hear much complaining now from anyone, and Tubby Hoke has even relaxed his hard core policy of no visits by his commits.  It's a reality that all coaches need to understand and raise their recruiting efforts or in the end they will face issues like Rutgers did this year....

+3 HS
Ericgobucks's picture

Yeah it is surprising how quickly it went from "unacceptable" and "gentlemen's agreement" to not a word. Even as incredibly miffed as Dantonio was, he seems to realize that it's the business and he better get with the program. One could argue that his trying to flip JJ was payback, but that argument is flimsy and weak. Either flipping is a affront to collegial respect and values or it's acceptable. I guess Dantonio has showed us it's part of the game. Doing it and saying its wrong, but "he did it first" is hollow. 

+1 HS
Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Anything that delivers butt hurt to Burt makes me laugh!!!  Thanks for the morning chuckle!!!

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

+1 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

Butt Hurt Bert sounds like a new meme/genre to me!

+1 HS
Arizona_Buckeye's picture

We need a Butt Hurt Burt Shirt!

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

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed Zona like a ""Deal With It"" for Bo Ryan.

PittBuckeye's picture

Still can't wait to see an entire defense behind Dontre trying to catch him for 50 yards. It'll come.

+1 HS
Crimson's picture

I thought Decker might have redshirted, but I have been corrected (Roster and Scholarship grid agree), so "Decker earned a starting job at right tackle as a redshirt freshman true sophomore."

Nutinpa's picture

Thanks for the footnote about Noah Spence.  Although Spence was not a firm commit to Penn St, he might as well have been, so I think it is fair to include him in this discussion.

Looked as though he would be the most significant "flip" in the entire group and he may still prove to be.  Larry Johnson's addition to the coaching staff may turn out to be a huge blessing for he, IMHO, was quietly transitioning to be a one-trick-pony as a (potentially elite) pass rusher and a very weak run stopper. His absence from the Orange Bowl was clearly muted by Jamal Marcus' better than expected performance.  LJ recruited Spence in Pennsylvania, so he will work hard to develop him to become a potentially better, maybe much better DE than what appeared to be Noah's future on Vrabel's line.


Arizona_Buckeye's picture

FYI to the 11W staff - I tried to check the Buckeye Helmet Sticker Leadboard link and it went nowhere... you may have a broken URL reference there...

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

MilitaryBuckeye's picture

Was Decker really a RS freshman last year or a true Sophomore? The 11W Football Roster lists him as a current Junior. Either way, looking forward to having that left tackle spot secured for two-three years!

+1 HS
Michael Citro's picture

Yeah, you guys are right, Decker was a sophomore in 2013. It has been corrected. I didn't recall him playing at all last year and took that for granted. [looks at shirtless Bert photo as penance.]

216ToThe614's picture

I feel like a huge generator behind the first two year 'flip avalanche' was Meyer's new tenure. A lot of recruits that flipped did so because OSU was in turmoil before Urban was announced, all he did was extend an offer. The real success of his flipping ability was limited to Conley, Dodson (although this almost falls into the territory of 'new coach at OSU'), Dontre Wilson and Demetrius Knox, although Demetrius and Dontre both de-committed and did not immediately join OSU and their recruitment being described as a flip is a stretch. More like he decided on going somewhere, reconsidered and had two-three new finalists (us and UCLA and Texas Oregon and us in Dontre) and picked from them. Its hard for me to call those two 'flips'. Just my opinion.

It will be interesting to see how frequent true flips occur moving forward. Names like Shaun Crawford come to mind in this regard.

Pick up your feet, turn your corners square! And DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE!!!

SweetBabyJames's picture

Cam Williams and Armani Reeves were committed to Penn State and Urban flipped em both...


i think yall missed them in the story

David Perkins once committed to Notre Dame...but dont remember if it was a direct flip...

Also Hubbard was a ND commit...sort of..

+1 HS
BukFan's picture

Can we get a refund on Reeves?

Rapping Bum's picture

O'Connor transfered to Colorado State.

Help is on the way.

buckeye4life050233's picture
+2 HS
kholmes's picture

Did Conley actually play in the Florida A&M game? The article seems skeptical of it and I cant recall hearing that before. Sometimes the participation chart can have mistakes in blowouts as it gets confusing with so many backups getting alot of playing time especially when there are often two players with the same number.

sharks's picture

Any word on what really happened with Pittman?  We all heard of the dormroom rumor...

A man got to have a code...

+1 HS
OSU1995's picture

Is that picture of Dontre from that one game he played in Paris, France?

“You have to make decisions, ... I've never pretended that every decision I've made was right. And I've been reminded of that.” 

     - James Patrick Tressel

+1 HS
rock flag and eagle's picture

Andy Staples (Sports Illustrated) did a study a little while back about elite recruits that flip.  (By elite, I mean he only studied the kids that were ranked in the Rivals Top 100.)  Basically, recruits who flip have a higher washout rate than those who stay loyal to one school.

The decommitment numbers do tell a story, though. Of the players who decommitted, 34.2 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed...Of the players who made one commitment and stuck to it, only 18.7 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed.

Staples does not speculate why recruits who commit to more than one school tend to washout at higher rates. 


BuckeyeinToledo's picture

Flip Flip Flippadelphia!!


"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

-Woody Hayes

+4 HS
bucknut94's picture

Pittman transferred to Akron.

bucknut94's picture

Pittman transferred to Akron.

bucknut94's picture

Pittman transferred to Akron.