Ohio State didn't win the mythical recruiting national championship Wednesday, but count the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer as one of the biggest winners on National Signing Day.
Ohio State, as usual, cleared up in Big Ten country, landing a bushel of local four- and five-star talent (LB Dante Booker, LB Kyle Berger, CB Marshon Lattimore, OT Kyle Trout, DB Erick Smith, WR Parris Campbell and athlete Sam Hubbard are all in-state studs ready to become Buckeyes, as is four-star CB Damon Webb from Detroit) but it's the blue-chippers from a few key hot spots around the country who Meyer reeled in that made a bigger statement.
"It's a credit to the brand of Ohio State," Meyer said. "That's not just it because our coaching staff is about relationships, but everyone knows Ohio State."
But, in truth, it's really about Meyer, the two-time national championship coach, who is 24-2 in two seasons in Columbus.
It wasn't just what the Buckeyes brought in, it was who they beat to get those kids -- and where they had to go to win those battles.
Meyer's biggest coup was going into Atlanta to snag the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker -- Raekwon McMillan -- away from the entire SEC. Meyer also went into his old stomping ground in the Sunshine State to land speedy wideout Johnny Dixon and went into Virginia to beat everyone in the ACC for top-five defensive end Jalyn Holmes. The Buckeyes, led by former Texas and Rice assistant Tom Herman, now OSU's offensive coordinator, also went into the Lone Star State to get top-five O-lineman Demetrius Knox, a former Texas commit. OSU actually beat Texas twice for Knox since the Buckeyes also held off new head coach Charlie Strong when he came after Knox late in the recruiting process. This was a strong follow-up for the Buckeyes after grabbing three blue-chippers out of Texas last season.
Meyer told us Wednesday that Knox, along with Jamarco Jones, were the two linemen who were the most ready to play. "They come from great high school programs and I am counting on them to be in the depth [chart] very early."
The Buckeyes are certainly hoping that Dixon and fellow early enrollee Curtis Samuel, a blur from New York City, can also make an early impact. The program really needs playmakers to take some heat off star QB Braxton Miller.
McMillan is also being counted on to fill a big need position for the Buckeyes. Meyer signed four linebackers Wednesday as they work to stock a sketchy position that also lost standout Ryan Shazier, a year early to the NFL. In OSU's final three games of the season, the Buckeyes surrendered 39 ppg.
"The linebackers have to become good players," Meyer said. "You never know until they develop. The linebacker position here at Ohio State is just hard to believe what's happened. It's just not what you would expect. We have some good players but not near the depth we need and it's been going on for the last four years here and that has to get fixed like now. The safety position is the next position of consequence right now. I think we're going to be in great shape, but you don't know until you get them here.
"If those two positions solidify, we have a chance to have a very special team."
One more guy to keep an eye on is 6-foot-6 Sam Hubbard, a former safety for two-time Ohio state champ Moeller High, whom Meyer was raving about Wednesday.
"I am so excited about him," the coach said. "I went down and he was a junior and was playing a dodgeball game. I was talking to his coach. For 20 minutes I am just watching him run around accelerating, playing a kids game. He was very much under the radar and was actually committed to Notre Dame for lacrosse. We just kept studying him. ... It became a no brainer to us. He was outstanding his senior year, another state championship. I was down there a couple of weeks ago and he was up to 230 pounds. There is no doubt he'll play for us next year unless something happens."