Urban Meyer Wants the Bulk of His Latest Recruiting Class to Play in 2016

By Eric Seger on February 3, 2016 at 5:45 pm
Urban Meyer said he hopes 18 true freshmen play in 2016.

Urban Meyer isn't one to waste time, especially when it comes to his football program.

That's why Ohio State's football coach is adamant more true freshmen are going to play than ever this fall in Columbus in his tenure. Frankly, he doesn't have a choice.

"I hope 18 of them play," Meyer said Wednesday, hours after closing the book on yet another top-5 recruiting class. "I kind of went through that, special teams and I'm going to force to that issue with our position coaches."

Ohio State signed 18 players Wednesday to go with the seven players who enrolled in January.

Meyer and his staff constantly discuss their anxiety toward redshirting players, holding the caveat that they don't expect upper-tier talent they bring to Ohio State to stay around longer than three seasons. The game has changed where the best bolt to the NFL quicker than ever.

The Buckeyes said goodbye to nine players who had eligibility remaining, but instead elected to head to turn pro. A stout senior class is gone too, which didn't leave much opportunity for the 2015 recruiting class to get on the field immediately. Only Jerome Baker, Isaiah Prince, Eric Glover-Williams and Denzel Ward did.

“Sometimes position coaches, they protect themselves by saying 'the kid doesn't know what he's doing so I'm not going to give him those reps. I'm not going to allow that this year.”– Urban Meyer

That leaves a stunning 45 players on roster with freshmen eligibility, whether it be their first year on campus or second after a redshirt.

"Wow," Meyer said after Ryan Ginn from Buckeye Sports Bulletin brought that number to his attention. "I call it the year of development here. Our staff has been pounded on that and that's in every phase of their lives because there's such a—I wish more of the kids would have played this year, hindsight. But we we're a pretty good team (last year).

"I don't know if that's ideal."

Ohio State finished the 2015 season 12-1 after a 44-28 victory in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. The Buckeyes were expected to win the College Football Playoff National Championship for the second time in as many years. It didn't happen, even with such a loaded roster.

The bulk of it is gone, and Meyer knows the onus is on him and his staff to get the young talent ready for Saturdays in the fall. Quickly.

"You could go back to Shawn Springs, guy who redshirted and leaves with another year of eligibility. Anthony Gonzalez was the same," defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Wednesday. "There's so many of those type of athletes you know what you have to do you have to discipline yourself to go ahead and put them out there."

True freshmen haven't made it to the field much in Meyer's tenure. The biggest names—aside from the four last year—were Curtis Samuel, Raekwon McMillan, Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa. Meyer said don't expect that to happen again this season.

"Sometimes position coaches, they protect themselves by saying 'the kid doesn't know what he's doing so I'm not going to give him those reps,'" Meyer said. "I'm not going to allow that this year."

Meyer knew what he had in his 2015 roster, because he saw the vast majority of it win a national championship a year prior. He knows the talent pool is anything but dry in Columbus heading into 2016. It just needs to have its hand forced.

"Last year was so hard because we were very loaded, or older team," Meyer said.

The Buckeyes will again finish with a top-5 recruiting class for the fourth time in Meyer's five recruiting cycles, according to 247sports. It is time for the talent to stand out.

"We expect them to be grown men, act like grown men, play like grown men," Fickell said. "For us, we've got to discipline ourselves to be able to put them out there and give them an opportunity to prove it."

Added Meyer: "This year we're pushing them out there. I'm going to make sure we're pushing our guys out there, let them go play."

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