"If it's going to be a good phone call, make sure Coach Meyer gets it," the OSU safeties coach told Vonn Bell's high school coach. "If it's going to be a bad phone call, just call me."
So when Urban Meyer's phone buzzed at 9:58 a.m. this morning – two minutes before Bell was set to make his announcement on national television – as the coach ran on his treadmill, Withers had to know what was about to happen.
The Buckeyes were about to hit it out of the park.
A day that dawned with good prospects for the Ohio State football team turned great with that call that Bell – a five-star prospect and the top player left on the Buckeyes' recruiting board – would be joining a class that could finish the day rated as highly as No. 1 in the nation in Scout's rankings.
Bell joined New Smyrna Beach, Fla., wide receiver James Clark and DeSoto, Texas, running back Dontre Wilson as confirming they would be coming to Columbus, giving the Buckeye coaching staff a 3-for-3 finish on prospects they just weren't sure about when Wednesday dawned.
"We went to bed last night with three guys who were very on edge as far as where we were at," Meyer said. "I thought if we hit one out of three, we've done all right. Two out of three would be a good day. Three out of three would be knocking it out of the park."
Add in confirmations of earlier verbal commitments from St. Louis John Burroughs running back Ezekiel Elliott and Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett linebacker Trey Johnson and the Buckeye staff couldn't have felt much better.
"It was a great day," Meyer said. "I thought it was going to be a very good day, but I'd put it in the great category."
The only question remained whether punter Johnny Townsend of Orlando, Fla. – the No. 2 player at his position in the country – would sign a letter of intent. Reports indicated Wednesday afternoon he was deciding whether to stick with his June pledge with the Buckeyes or consider going to Alabama because of personal issues.
If Townsend confirms his pledge, the Buckeyes will end the day with the No. 1 class in the nation.
No matter how that saga ends, the Buckeyes will be pleased with the signing day haul. The addition of Bell gave them eight players in the top 100 in the nation, behind only third-place Alabama's 14. The Buckeyes also finished with four five-star players in Bell (25th overall); Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian linebacker Mike Mitchell (28th); Middletown, Ohio, wide receiver Jalin Marshall (32nd); and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas defensive end Joey Bosa (38th).
There are also 17 four-star players in the group. Of the haul, nine line up on offense and 15 on defense. In that realm, Meyer said the Buckeyes were happy with the skill position depth added on offense – while mentioning he was slightly disappointed in grabbing only two offensive linemen, making that spot a focal point of the 2014 effort – while adding depth at every position on the defense.
The day started well for Ohio State when Johnson's national letter of intent came in near 8:30 a.m. Johnson committed to OSU in January but the Buckeyes had to withstand SEC pressure.
"There were a couple of SEC schools that were just ruthless – well, I shouldn't say ruthless, but they did a good job, going after them as hard as they could," Meyer said. "We hung in there and got it done."
Clark followed shortly thereafter, picking OSU at a 9 a.m. press conference. Ohio State was able to get the four-star prospect over Florida and others.
Wilson, a four-star running back who committed Monday night, proved to be no worry at all when he sent his NLI in during the morning, leaving the stage for Bell.
As the pressure mounted near the 10 a.m. decision, Meyer said he couldn't stand the wait and retired to a treadmill on the second floor of the team's weight room. That's when the fateful phone call came in.
"Vonn Bell called me two minutes before he walked on to the stage or whatever he was going and said, ‘I'm in,'" Meyer said. "He said, ‘You know I'm in, right?' I said, ‘No, I didn't know you're in. Congratulations.' "
Thus ended a recruitment Meyer described as a "street fight" between his school, Tennessee and defending national champion Alabama for the five-star southern prospect.
At the 3 p.m. press conference, Meyer said he was confident in keeping Elliott, and the four-star back – the No. 9 RB in the nation – rewarded that faith at 5 p.m.
Stay tuned for more through the rest of the evening.