Hidden Gems: Urban Meyer's Top Under-The-Radar Recruits

By Kevin Harrish on January 31, 2017 at 10:10 am
Darron Lee is perhaps the hidden gem of the century for Ohio State.

Ohio State is about to bring in its most talented recruiting class ever, loaded with five-stars and the top talent from across the country. The Buckeyes have a commitment from at least one top-5 player at all nine position groups.

You can try to find a sleeper in this class, but there aren't many when the average player rating is a record .9462 and there are only three three-star commits.

Make no mistake, recruiting rankings do matter and this is good news for Buckeye fans – they should be excited about the bright future.

Still, there is something remarkably compelling about a kid that defies all the odds, proves the doubters wrong and shines in the Scarlet and Gray. And with the talent Meyer brings in regularly, those kids will be fewer and farther between.

So before the legendary 2017 class inks their National Letters of Intent, we pay homage to a dying breed of Ohio State hidden gems, ranking the top-five of Urban Meyer's tenure.

5. Robert Landers

Outside of Ohio State, three-star defensive tackle Robert Landers had only five division I scholarship offers – West Virginia, Bowling Green, Toledo, Ball State and Eastern Kentucky.

The main knock against Landers is his size. At barely six-feet tall and 285 pounds, he does not look like your typical defensive tackle, but that's the exact reason he's been so vital for the Buckeyes early in his career.

While he'll never be a space eater like Jonathan Hankins or a bull-rusher like Adolphus Washington, Landers certainly is a disruptor. His small stature, when combined with his quick twitch, actually gives him an advantage against larger offensive linemen. He's able to use leverage to get underneath blocks and kill any push the line tries to create. He's been especially vital in goal line situations.

Landers still has three years of eligibility remaining, but he's already exceeded expectations.

4. Tyvis Powell

The football program was in a state of turmoil it had never before experienced, but Tyvis Powell didn't care – he was going to be a Buckeye. He committed to Ohio State the day Jim Tressel announced his resignation and never turned back. In fact, Powell said even if he never earned a scholarship, he would have turned down other offers, paid his own way and walked onto the Buckeye football team.

A three-star athlete out of Bedford, Ohio, Powell worked tirelessly for that offer. Knowing he wasn't as physically gifted as other players, Powell woke up at 5 a.m. every morning to train with his high school coach before school all while maintaining a GPA to be proud of.

Tyvis Powell saves the day.

Eventually, Powell found himself at Ohio State, and after a discouraging redshirt season, he finally found the field and eventually into the starting lineup.

As a Buckeye, Powell made a few legendary plays to etch his name in history, became the team clown on and off the field and was the media darling in interview sessions. And he did it all while parenting his son, Cardale Jones.

If you've never heard Powell's full story from high school to Buckeye standout, you should give it a read. Ryan Ginn tells it beautifully.

3. Malik Hooker

Three-star athlete Malik Hooker arrived at Ohio State in the same class as Erick Smith – the nation's No. 6 safety, but it was Hooker who earned the starting spot and NFL money first.

Hooker sat for two years behind Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, but he earned the starting safety spot in 2016 and wasted no time turning heads. He picked off two passes during his first game as a starter and had a pick-six in his second.

That's impossible.

Hooker was the best ballhawk the team has seen in a long, long time. He tallied seven interceptions, including a school-record four three returned for touchdowns, and was named a consensus All-American.

After just one season as a starter, Hooker now heads to the NFL Draft where he is a projected first-round pick.

2. Pat Elflein

Pat Elflein was the lowest-rated player in Ohio State's 2012 class. The nation's No. 55 guard – not a flashy position to begin with – was certainly not the team's most hyped recruit in Urban Meyer's tenure, but he'll leave as one of the most accomplished.

Elflein never really saw the field until the end of the 2013 season when he was thrown into the fire against Michigan after starting guard Marcus Hall was ejected from the game and subsequently gave the Big House a double-bird salute.

Elflein shined in that game and became a regular starter the year after, when was part of the slobs unit that paved the way to the 2014 national championship.

Following the 2015 season, Elflein had established himself as one of the top interior linemen in the country and could have entered the NFL Draft with 12 of his teammates, but he chose to come back for his senior season.

As a senior, Elflein provided invaluable leadership to a young unit as well as consistent play in the trenches. At season's end, he was awarded the 2016 Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's top center.

Elflein will now enter the NFL Draft, where he'll likely be taken in the second or third rounds.

1. Darron Lee

If there's anyone who exemplifies a hidden gem, it's Darron Lee.

Lee came to Ohio State as a skinny, three-star dual-threat quarterback and left as one of the most feared linebackers in the country.

Lee bring the boom.

When Lee arrived on campus, All-American Ryan Shazier held down the weak-side linebacker spot while he redshirted and bulked up.

Ohio State strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti spent Lee's redshirt season giving the 195-pound quarterback the body of a division I linebacker. This meant an absurd amount of food – Lee often ate four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before bed – an a lot of work in the weight room.

A year later, Lee was 235 pounds and ready to take the college football world by storm. He earned the starting outside linebacker spot and was a integral part of Ohio State's 2014 national championship team.

Following the 2015 season, Lee deciding to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft where he was chosen in the first round by the New York Jets.

Honorable Mention: Michael Thomas

While not technically recruited by Urban Meyer and thereby ineligible for this list, Michael Thomas did play his entire Ohio State career under Meyer certainly deserves to be recognized.

Thomas, a three-star prospect out of Woodland Hills, California, was the 96th-ranked receiver in the 2011 class. He was asked to grayshirt and spent the 2011 season at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia where he roomed with Cardale Jones.

Three years later, after a redshirt season and an infamous Twitter rant, he was Ohio State's leading receiver during a national championship season. Two years after that, he was the top rookie receiver in the NFL and had the best rookie season since Randy Moss.

Can't Guard Mike
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