Like a sudden lightning strike during a summer southern storm, Ohio State under Urban Meyer has proven quite adept at creating recruiting shock in the southeast, particularly when it gets to decision time.
Last cycle, there were two major examples of the Buckeye's prowess.
Five-star defensive back Vonn Bell always had Ohio State strongly in the mix for his services, but down the stretch, it appeared that Tennessee and new head coach Butch Jones (who certainly have proven they can recruit) was in position to land the lifelong Vols fan out of Ridgeland High in Rossville, Ga. For clarity's sake, Rossville is a suburb of Chattanooga, Tenn., which is filled with fans of the Big Orange, so for all intents and purposes, Bell was an in-state prospect for Jones and company.
Leading up to his signing day decision, most national analysts and even Tennessee staff members felt that Bell would end up in Knoxville. Then, he had his announcement and committed to and signed with Ohio State.
Wide receiver James Clark was a late-rising speedster out of New Smyrna Beach, Fla. (located between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach off I-95) with an offer from the locally-favored Gators, who could have used his explosive playmaking ability. Because of that and the proximity to Gainesville, many felt that on signing day, he would sign with the Orange and Blue.
He committed to and signed with Ohio State.
The addition of Bell and Clark made a statement for sure and the Buckeyes ended up with the No. 2 class in the 2013 cycle.
Earlier this week, it was another prospect from the southeast who was thought to be staying local through much of the process spurning the home team for the Buckeyes.
Four-star receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer) was considered a Miami lean for most of the process until an in-home visit with Meyer on Dec. 10 turned it. Dixon, who will enroll in January, announced for the Buckeyes on Tuesday.
Like that lightning bolt I referenced, it happened suddenly and with great force and spectacle.
Ohio State is one of the best jobs in the country from a recruiting standpoint, primarily because of the deep talent pool in the state of Ohio and no other traditional power in-state for the Buckeyes to compete with (there's a reason why they call it THE Ohio State University) and the program is a rallying point for most of the states 11.5 million people who are football fans (most are).
What will ascend Ohio State (even though the Bucks are 24-1 in two seasons, so that ceiling is so close they can touch it) into a program that can string together national titles, though, is its ability to “strike” with high-level prospects and winning battles against the heavy local favorites. Look at Alabama's roster for a glimpse at how quickly your talent level can grow if you do that.
Going off of happenings in both the 2013 and 2014 cycles, it appears Meyer and company are on track to do that. Never count Ohio State out late in the game with anyone- in fact, it's become safe to say that they are a safe bet to win more than they lose on the recruiting trail.
The Buckeyes have the No. 2 recruiting class nationally to date in the 2014 cycle.