Urban Meyer doesn't like to be blindsided by things. Its part of what makes him such a dominant force in the college football coaching world — he and his staff prepare for everything they can think of to ensure the best chance at winning.
Shortly after Ohio State's 44-28 victory against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl New Year's Day, however, Meyer admittedly didn't expect he would have so many underclassmen leave early from his program.
"Nine is a lot," Meyer said Thursday. "Nine is a lot."
The Buckeyes were among the most talented teams in the country the 2015 season. As a result, a whole bunch of NFL Draft-eligible players will hear their names called in Chicago in late April by Commissioner Roger Goodell and beyond.
Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones, Eli Apple, Darron Lee, Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall all left with eligibility remaining, however, the most Meyer's had do so in his four years at Ohio State.
"One year at Florida, we had 12 players send in their paperwork, and my goodness," Meyer said. "I remember LSU had eight or nine one time. It's what we do. You recruit that way. I've been in scenarios where you don't have a lot of conversations about the NFL because you don't have those kind of caliber players."
Ohio State had a ton of those guys on its team this season, a result of so many younger contributors playing huge roles during the 2014 national championship run. But, at least three years removed from high school, guys like Marshall, Bell, Lee, Elliott, Apple and Bosa decided to make the jump.
Elliott, Bosa and even Jones — who returned to Ohio State for his redshirt junior season after leading the team to the title in 2014 — were all but no-brainers. Bell, Thomas, Marshall, Lee and Apple grew into solid choices to leave early. Powell surprised Meyer, though.
"But he is a four-year guy, this would have been his fifth year," Meyer said. "Fifth-years are so rare now, that's why you don't normally redshirt guys. His dream was to go, he was a pro the way he handled it. He's a captain, he's been a national champion, he's got his degree."
Can't fault Powell for that, but Meyer was still shocked nine guys left early.
"We were recruiting under the premise of six-ish, then the nine showed up," Meyer said. "That's going to be a little more jump into it. Which it has been the last three days."
Meyer lauded the players for blocking out the noise of NFL agents who consistently called even before the season began, saying he's seen places where such things caused "distraction and destruction." The NFL is a very welcoming and powerful entity for college-aged players, and Meyer said he and his staff are using the exodus in recruiting now. A program looks good if it can recruit talent, develop it and shell it to the pros.
"Of course we're using that," Meyer said. "If you guys want to print that and send it all over the country."
The nine early entrees isn't a record — LSU holds that record at 10 (or 11 if you count defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who had been kicked off the team prior to the end of the season) in 2013.
It doesn't matter, though — nine is a bunch of talent walking out of the door. That's something for which Meyer won't be caught by surprise.
"This was over the top," Meyer said. "This started Jan. 13."