Wednesday morning was a big day for Ohio State recruiting as the huge effort of June spilled over into July. But what the commitment of Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell did more than just give Urban Meyer, Luke Fickell, et al, more weapons for building future editions of the Silver Bullets, it also furthered some of the interesting narratives that have developed around the program over the years both before and since Meyer took over.
Hilliard, a four-star linebacker from Cincinnati St. Xavier, is the seventh recruit from Southwest Ohio in Meyer's three-plus classes as head coach of the Buckeyes and the third from Cincinnati, joining Adolphus Washington* (Taft) and Sam Hubbard (Moeller). That makes a pair of Greater Catholic League South pickups for Meyer in as many years with Hubbard having been the top-rated player in the state last year.
Hilliard is only the second St. X recruit for Ohio State since John Cooper was hired as head coach in 1988, joining quarterback Robby Schoenhoft, who signed in 2005 and later transferred after losing a QB battle to Todd Boeckman. (For what it's worth, Cooper inherited a future starting quarterback from St. X in Greg Frey, who signed while Earle Bruce was head coach.)
Meyer said he wanted to put a dent in the perception (fair or not) OSU struggles to recruit in Cincinnati, and so far he has had mixed results. The sample size is admittedly small for Meyer, but Jim Tressel averaged 0.64 Cincinnati players in his 11 recruiting classes while Cooper checked in at 0.85, leaving Meyer's .75 in the middle. Expand it to the metro area and the numbers grow to 1.2 for Tressel, 1.38 for Cooper and 1.0 for Meyer, though Meyer's figures still have time to grow before the 2015 cycle is wrapped up.
As we uncovered in a print feature in Buckeye Sports Bulletin a few summers ago, part of the reason for a dearth of Ohio State recruits from Cincinnati under Tressel was a lack of actual offers. Those were easier to define then as the term "committable offer" has muddied the waters now, so we haven't gone back to do a similar comparison with Meyer yet. The bottom line: Tressel signed nearly twice as many Cleveand-area players as he offered in the Cincinnati area, something that clearly had an effect on the outcome.
As for Cornell, the 6-3.5, 270-pound defensive end from St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall is in line to be the first player from Minnesota to sign with Ohio State since Willie Mobley in 2008 and only the third since 1988 (but probably much longer). When eventual All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis signed with Ohio State in 2005, he was believed to be the first scholarship Buckeye football player from the Land of 1,000 Lakes since the great Sid Gillman in the early 1930s.
But we're getting at a larger trend here.
Cornell's commitment gives Meyer a player from 21 different states in his two-plus years as Ohio State head coach (encompassing all or part of four recruiting classes). That already surpasses the 16 different states he mined for talent while at Florida from 2005-10 and the 20 different states that produced future Buckeyes under Jim Tressel from 2001-11. Meyer needs one more state to equal the total of Cooper, who is credited with truly expanding Ohio State recruiting nationwide for the first time when he got the job. Cooper brought in players from 22 different states from 1988-2000.
So far, the 2015 class (which, as Derek Young wrote yesterday, is going to grow but perhaps not by much) has 12 commitments, including seven from Ohio. The possibility of signing the smallest in-state class on record (and probably ever) still exists, but the likelihood seems to be shrinking after Meyer turned the tide on a few in-state prospects who were thought to be leaning elsewhere a few months ago.
Since Cooper was hired, the smallest number of in-state recruits for Ohio State has been eight, a figure Cooper hit in both 1991 and '93. Meyer signed nine Ohioans last season, matching Tressel's lowest (2008). The '93 class, like 2015 projects to be, was a small one as it topped out at 16 members while the '91 group number 19 overall.
While Tressel and Cooper both signed classes that consisted of about 60 percent Ohioans, Meyer currently stands at 44.3 (31 of 70) if we count only those who verballed or recommitted after he was hired in late November 2011 to now.
*Washington verbally committed days before Meyer was hired but told reporters that day he expected Meyer to become the Buckeyes' coach.
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