The first time that Ohio State beat ‘Bama in that regard was the in the 2013 recruiting class. The Buckeyes who came to campus that year formed a group that was ranked No. 1 in the country, the first time that head coach Urban Meyer put together a class at Ohio State that topped Alabama.
“Yeah, we felt really, really good about that class,” Meyer said. “Now that you say those names, those are all program-changer guys. That's a heck of a class.”
That class includes unanimous All-American defensive end Joey Bosa and five freshmen All-Americans in linebackers Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan, record-setting quarterback J.T. Barrett, cornerback Eli Apple and lineman Billy Price. The team’s leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott, starting safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell and H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson were also members of that class.
“I think we have lived up to our expectations,” Elliott said. “Coach Meyer recruited us and told all of us that we were going to come in and play and a lot of us are making an early impact.”
Alabam and head coach Nick Saban competed with Ohio State and Meyer for a handful of kids in that recruiting class, notably Bell, and the Buckeyes won out on a lot of those players.
"We see Urban a lot in recruiting,” Saban said. “And I know last year there were two or three players that we wanted that they got. And there was a couple that they wanted that we got.”
Saban made a late push for Elliott, but the running back didn’t seriously consider the Tide, he said, because he was already firm in his decision to become a Buckeye.
So far it’s worked out for the tailback to the tune of 1,402 yards rushing this season. He’s far from the only impactful member of the class.
It’s been a well-documented youth movement. Barrett shattered records at quarterback and is the team’s second leading rusher. Marshall is the team’s third leading receiver and fifth in total offense. Bell is the team leader in interceptions and the second leading tackler while Lee was third in tackles and returned two fumbles for touchdowns. The list goes on.
“They're all talented players,” co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. “Once those guys really learned our system and what we were asking them to do, the game slowed down for them. They all started to show huge improvement. That'll continue.
“They're not where they need to be yet, but they've made drastic improvement throughout the course of the season and they'll continue to do so. The sky's the limit for those guys."
While there may still be room for improvement, the 2013 class is contributing in a major way now. That class was one that Meyer competed with Saban for. Now, they’ll see if they can help their coach better Saban on the field.