The Ohio State football coaching staff was not allowed to go to work on June 1 – at least, not at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The outdoor practice fields were overtaken by hundreds of high school prospects hoping to be noticed at the Nike Football Training Camp. The best ones came looking for an invitation to The Opening, Nike's prestigious football camp held in Beaverton, Ore., from July 7-10.
For the Buckeyes' staff, it may have felt like cruel irony – with just three commits to show for the class of 2015, Ohio State's coaches couldn't be present while some of the best prospects in the country practiced on their field. That meant the coaches also weren't around to hear words that would have been music to their ears, as several prospects, including the best in Ohio, believe that OSU head coach Urban Meyer is in position to land one of the top classes in the country next year.
"They're Ohio State, so they can pick and choose guys who they really want," Cincinnati St. Xavier four-star linebacker Justin Hilliard said. "They take a long process through evaluations, which I wouldn't say can hurt them, but they know they can get the best players, and I guess we'll wait out and see."
The Buckeyes currently sit at No. 43 in the Scout team recruiting rankings for the class of 2015. Recruiting analysts have repeatedly expressed their belief that Ohio State will have plenty to celebrate in February, and the players that Meyer is recruiting made it very clear that their perception of OSU hasn't faltered.
"I know that with Ohio State, they like to make sure they choose the right kids," Olney (Md.) Good Gounsel three-star defensive end Darius Fullwood told BuckeyeSports.com. "They don't want everybody to come in and commit even though they have that type of ability to get kids to commit. They want to make sure they get the right-fitting kids for the program, and that's something that I like. They're not just over-recruiting and letting people commit whenever. I think that's a good thing, and I'm sure that by the time February comes around those spots will be filled. I know the people that will be in that group will all be good kids and good players. I think it's pretty good."
Even with players that they might not be expected to land, Ohio State's staff has demonstrated a relentless approach when it comes to recruiting. After landing cornerback Damon Webb in the class of 2014, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs (OSU's primary recruiter in Michigan) has gone back to noted Michigan pipeline Detroit Cass Tech in pursuit of 2015 running back Mike Weber.
Weber's high-profile recruitment has led to many suitors, but he said at the Columbus NFTC that perhaps no school right now is pushing as hard as Ohio State.
"Ohio State is really on it right now," said Weber, who sported an Ohio State wristband at the event. "They make sure to contact me every day… they're showing the most interest to me right now."
But don't get that push confused for desperation. While constantly showing up on top-5 and top-10 lists for prospects who won't decide until much later in the recruiting calendar, Ohio State has shown that it's ok with waiting as long as they need to land top players instead of settling for lesser ones ready to commit now.
"I wouldn't say a sense of urgency, I just feel like they're really interested in me as a player and trying to get me to be a Buckeye," Berea (Ky.) Madison Southern four-star Damien Harris, the No. 1 running back in the country, told BuckeyeSports.com. "It's more of that than a sense of urgency as in they have to hurry to get me before somebody else does. They understand where I'm at and understand I'm an open prospect right now."