Happy signing day, Buckeye Nation! Today, Urban Meyer and his staff officially landed what may very well be the best recruiting class in Ohio State history. Considering OSU has had some pretty solid recruiting classes, that’s a big deal. Considering they have to compete with lax over-signing policies of certain other conferences and institutions, it’s an even bigger deal. The class is ranked 3rd by Rivals.com, 5th by Scout.com, 3rd by 24/7.com and 7th by ESPN (because, of course). The ratings are nice, but what’s better is that this class fills every need that needed to be filled and did so in impressive fashion.
All 22 who were committed as of 2/4 have signed their letters of intent and faxed them in. It took some a bit longer to get them in than others as it probably took a while to find someone who still actually owned a fax machine. There was also a surprise 11th hour flip.
We’d like to welcome the new guys and introduce everyone to the next batch of Buckeyes.
The early enrollees who are already on campus and will participate in Spring drills:
• QB Stephen Collier, Leesburg (GA) Lee County – The negative Nellies will point out that Collier is “only” a three star recruit. Those that have actually watched him, however, will point out that he very well may be the heir to the Braxton Miller throne. When Miller’s future was in doubt, plenty believed he could compete with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. He probably wouldn’t have won that battle, mind you, but it speaks to his potential. He has plenty of upside and will spend at least one year in Columbus under a guy who knows a bit about QB development. His decision to enroll early was the best one he could make, career-wise.
• LB Raekwon McMillan, Hinesville (GA) Liberty County – McMillan very well may be #1 on the depth chart next fall thanks to his decision to enroll early. He was the top-rated inside LB in the country per Rivals.com. Now, most Freshmen don’t make an instant impact, but he may prove to be the exception. He has the tools to be the difference maker that OSU loves to get on the field. Spring ball will be very telling.
• OG Marcelys Jones, Cleveland (OH) Glenville – Jones was the first 2014 commitment on Christmas Day in 2012, and he ended up as one that seemed the most in doubt. OSU managed to hold off a late surge from Kentucky (which is weird to type regarding football) and fill a spot OSU needed to fill. OSU needs to replace 4 starters on the OL and have struggled with OL depth. The more OL, the better. Also, this locks down the Glenville pipeline for yet another year.
• OT Kyle Trout, Lancaster (OH) Lancaster – Trout earned his scholarship thanks to Ed Warinner attending one of his basketball games. So, he’s getting a chance because of freakish athleticism and not necessarily solely because of his on-field performance in football. Trout might be the one guy in this class that can be considered a true project. That could be good, that could be bad. The upside is there, he will just need some development in pass protection. He has the skills to work with, and again, the OL desperately needs bodies.
• WR Johnnie Dixon, West Palm Beach (FL) Dwyer – Hey, look, another in a long line of Florida receivers to end up at OSU! Dixon helped lead his school to a State championship in highly competitive Florida, and should give a boost to a young WR corp looking for someone to step it up and shine as a playmaker. Depending on how this Spring goes, he has a legitimate shot for some reps next season.
• K Sean Nuernberger, Buckner (KY) Oldham County – Drew Basil’s graduation hits OSU hard. Yes, I know he is a kicker, but how many NCAA games this year were lost due to an inability to kick FGs or XP? Enter Sean Nuernberger. Nuernberger is one of the best kickers in the country and performed well during camp, impressing Meyer. He is noted as a clutch performer who does well under pressure, and that’s a big boost to this team. Don’t be surprised if he is the starter in Columbus for the next four years.
• WR Curtis Samuel, Brooklyn (NY) Erasmus Hall – Samuel is this year’s Dontre Wilson. He’s a speedster that has been clocked at 4.36 in the 40. He is possibly the most exciting recruit in this class in terms of potential excitement. He racked up 1,461 yards and 13 TDs on 91 carries and tacked on 187 yards and 3 TDs on 12 receptions his Senior year. Oh, he also had 33 tackles and one interception. He might not make an instant impact, but he certainly has potential.
The guys who had committed and made it officially official today:
• LB Kyle Berger, Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius – As you may or may not have noticed, The Buckeyes had a bit of depth issue at LB last year. Those days may be long gone. There will be some competition in this class, and it’s a good problem to have. Berger missed his Sr year due to an ACL tear, and depending on his progress, might be a candidate for a redshirt. Or not. Positions on the dept chart at LB are certainly up for grabs, but even experience on special teams is beneficial.
• LB Dante Booker, Akron (OH) St. Vincent-St.Mary – Dante Booker comes to OSU as the reigning Ohio Mr. Football. He should be another piece towards solving the puzzle of the lack of LB depth. Booker is likely near the top of the list in terms of playing opportunities for the young guys next to classmate Raekwon McMillan and RS Frosh Mike Mitchell. I have a feeling Booker might end up being the gem in this class as he seems to be flying somewhat under the radar and has plenty of upside.
• WR Noah Brown, Sparta (NJ) Pope John XXIII – Brown represents an underrated win in the recruiting wars. He is the third ranked prospect in New Jersey and Urban plucked him out of there in spite of stiff competition from PSU and Rutgers. Brown is also the anti-Dontre Wilson/Curtis Samuel, and that’s a good thing. He’s 6’2″, 211, and is the physical receiver needed to compliment the speedsters. He converted to WR from RB as a Sophomore, so there is still some potential for development. Regardless, the upside is present and his size should create a few mismatches that haven’t been present for OSU WRs for a couple of years.
• ATH Parris Campbell, Akron (OH) St. Vincent-St.Mary – Campbell played RB and DB in HS, and is projected as an offensive player for OSU. That’s not set in stone, though. RB is deep and he may be looking at a RS year, but he could also fit into the so-called “Percy Harvin” position currently occupied by Dontre Wilson. Having a flexible player is a good problem to have. With the recent issues in the defensive backfield it’s not a stretch to see him get a shot on D. It’s not likely, but it’s certainly a possibility if he can stand out in practices.
• DE Jalyn Holmes, Norfolk (VA) Lake Taylor – D-line is deep, so Urban could be a little picker in choosing a player that fits what Urban loves on D. Holmes is freakishly athletic and would be used as a heavy pass rusher. As much as everyone hates to say it, he fits the mold of an SEC defensive lineman, and that’s what Meyer wants. Who can argue with that? While SEC speed is overstated at most positions, it is still evident in the trenches and was a big reason for the Buckeye meltdown against Urban’s Gators. Holmes certainly has some competition, and may very well redshirt, but he certainly is sign of the trend we will be seeing on the DL.
• DB Malik Hooker, New Castle (PA) New Castle – Speaking of players with upside, Hooker has only played football for two years. He is a standout basketball player and outstanding athlete. He performed well in pass coverage, but obviously still has quite a bit to learn to get to the level needed to compete at the necessary level in the FBS. His impressive offer list, including B1G foes Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska, shows that many were willing to take that chance. It seems as if conventional wisdom would dictate a redshirt year, but with the DB woes, who knows?
• LB Sam Hubbard, Cincinnati (OH) Moeller – Hubbard is an interesting case. Rivals rates him at 3 stars and places him at 36th among OLB recruits. Scout rates him at 5 stars and tabs him as the second best OLB in the country. There are often discrepancies throughout the ratings systems, but not like this (if you’re curious; 24/7 has him at 4 stars, ESPN at 3). This might be attributed to the fact Hubbard had at one time committed to play lacrosse for Notre Dame and wasn’t even on the football recruiting radar. That all changed when Ohio State came calling. He dedicated himself fully to football and has developed into an outstanding prospect. He tallied 110 tackles and 5 interceptions his senior year. In Moeller’s State Championship win over Mentor, he racked up 10 tackles, 1 int, 1 fumble recovery, and blocked a PAT. So, it’s safe to say he has performed well against so top-notch competition. Hubbard is big (6’6″, 223 lbs), athletic, and another young LB with potential to compete for a spot on the two-deeps. If you can’t tell by the amount of time I’ve spent writing about him, he might be the pick-up that has me the most excited just due to sheer potential alone.
• OL Jamarco Jones, Chicago (IL) De La Salle – Jones gave Buckeye Nation a bit of a scare. He reaffirmed his commitment to OSU last night. This was made public knowledge first via a somewhat emphatic tweet from Mark Pantoni and later by a simple O-H tweet by Jones himself. Classmate Kyle Berger tweeted out his insight as to what almost went wrong in what might be one of the most amusing recruiting tweets, ever. There is a reason Pantoni was so excited and The Buckeye Twitterverse was on edge awaiting the news. OSU needs OL talent and Jones fills a big hole. Replacing him in this class would not likely have happened and it would be end Meyer’s outstanding streak at filling spots when another decommits. It’s pretty rare for a Freshman to start on the OL, but Jones is as close to having that potential as it comes. There is one spot up for grabs at OG, and Jones might have a shot at some playing time.
• OL Demetrius Knox, Ft. Worth (TX) All Saints – Knox had initially committed to Texas before a flip to OSU. Later, he flirted a bit with UCLA and had reportedly planned to take a visit. That planned trip prompted a visit from the Ohio State coaching staff. After they stopped by to chat, the trip didn’t happen. Knox is another huge step towards building depth on the OL. He is also the 6th ranked player out of Texas, so getting him out of the state is huge (he is originally from Springfield, OH). Much like Jones, he has potential to slide into the two deeps and get some playing time. The foundation being built at OL is of great importance, especially considering there will be a new QB in 2015 to break in.
• DB Marshon Lattimore, Cleveland (OH) Glenville – It’s weird to talk about Glenville guys almost not coming to OSU when offered, but that was Lattimore. Eventually, the Glenville Trio stuck with their plans to play college ball together and landed in Columbus. Lattimore played on both side of the ball in HS, but projects as a DB for OSU. The secondary was a weakness, but there is a lot of young talent to compete for a spot. Lattimore has potential to be OSU’s next Chris Gamble, possibly making appearances on both sides of the ball. The most likely scenario for his Freshman year is his potential to be the fan favorite on special teams on his eventual path to the defensive backfield. I mean, have you SEEN this picture of him blocking Solon’s potential game winning FG? How is that even possible?
• WR Terry McLaurin, Indianapolis (IN) Cathedral – McLaurin is another fast guy that was recruited by Meyer to fill the fast guy void he talked a lot about when he first took the job. Some may be underwhelmed by his offer list, but that’s only seeing part of the story. Meyer noticed visible development in McLaurin over a summer of camps and that was what caught his eye. He’s a pretty strong RS candidate, but another with the upside worthy of a full-ride.
• DB Erick Smith, Cleveland (OH) Glenville – Erick Smith is the number one prospect in Ohio. It feels good to get back to locking down the top in-state players after a brief stretch of losing a few. Smith is a hard-hitter who also provides outstanding pass coverage. He’s a good tackler, which was clearly an area of weakness in last year’s defense. Glenville has a knack for producing good tackling, hard hitting safeties for OSU, and that may very will be Smith’s fate. A safety that hits hard and is good in coverage? That’s pretty much a Buckeye fan’s dream. As Meyer likes young guys to prove themselves on special teams, this could be one of the more outstanding ST units in recent memory. Smith could very well progress up the ranks rather quickly if the anti-tackling bug infects the backfield again.
• OL Brady Taylor, Columbus (OH) Bishop Ready – Taylor had initially committed to VT and flipped to the Buckeyes last month. The draw of playing for the hometown team was simply too much to pass up. Taylor doesn’t have the ratings some of the other OL recruits had, but he has expressed a desire to prove himself. He is almost a sure bet to RS this year, but locks down the OL depth for quite some time. The coaches love his attitude and he looks like the kind of guy that will be a leader in the locker room. Meyer loves that, and having that leadership on the OL is huge.
• DE Dylan Thompson, Lombard (IL) Montini – Thompson was pretty tight with Mike Vrabel. He tweeted his dismay when he left for his coaching shot in the NFL. Shortly thereafter, Meyer took new DL coach Larry Johnson to visit him and all was well. Thompson is 6’4″, 271 and athletic. He has the physical tools to play at multiple spots across the line, which might translate into early playing time. He has a motor, and guys like that tend to do well at Ohio State. It is a deep group on the DL, though, and it won’t be easy. He has drawn some comparisons to John Simon, and the thought of a future with a line made up of a guy like that and Bosa is an exciting thought.
• DB Damon Webb, Detroit (MI) Cass Tech – Damon Webb is the #2 prospect out of Michigan. So, in spite of sitting in the back yard of OSU’s biggest rival and the team that beat OSU for the B1G Championship last year, Webb decided to take off for the greener pastures of Ohio. Cass also produced former Buckeye Vernon Gholston, so The Buckeyes have managed to pluck away two of their recent top prospects. Basically, I just want Buckeye fans to enjoy that point for a bit. Webb was known for making big plays, which is something that is needed in the Buckeye backfield. He’s likely headed to special teams as the proving ground like most of the freshmen, but one would have to imagine that the competition for those positions is going to be pretty wide open after last year’s disaster. Webb is another reason the DBs are a unit to watch during the Spring and Summer.
Oh, and then there’s this guy:
• DE Darius Slade, Montclair (NJ) Montclair – So, Slade. He had originally committed to Nebraska before flipping to MSU. The expectation was that he would be signing his LOI and faxing to Dantonio and crew today. After all, Slade hasn’t even taken an official visit to OSU. But, here he is, the 23rd member of the 2014 recruiting class. He’s 6’5″ and weighs in at 237, which is pretty small for a B1G DE. I’m honestly not sure what to say about Slade as this one took everyone very much by surprise. I will say this, though. The last time Meyer took a DE from Dantonio (Se’Von Pittman) it didn’t work out so well. Hopefully this time is a little better.
Congratulations to the entire class and welcome to The Buckeye Family!