So, are you a Tressel guy or a Meyer guy?
Either way, you're a national champion if you're a Buckeye today, but it is interesting to look at how Ohio State's 2014 starting lineup was nearly evenly divided into those two categories. The final tally went like this: 10 committed initially to Jim Tressel, eight pledged to Urban Meyer and four jumped on board in between.
One needs look no further than the defensive line to find an example of the mix between the two coaching eras. Tressel and Meyer might not share all of the same philosophies when it comes to building a roster or constructing an offense, but they do understand the importance of recruiting in state and out. Oh yeah, and dominating the line of scrimmage, whether that is with role players, in-state studs or out-of-state stars.
As such, this year's defensive front, was composed of the following: A senior, Michael Bennett, who came to Ohio State (under Tressel) with great talent but needed time to harness it before becoming a force on the field and in the huddle. A sophomore, Joey Bosa, everyone wanted to just oozes athletic ability and seems to want nothing but to enjoy football and life to the fullest as greater riches for playing the game await later on. Bosa is a Meyer guy.
Then there is Adolphus Washington, a junior who was also on everybody's recruiting hot list as the No. 1 prospect in Ohio. The five-star prospect flipped the script this year, essentially becoming a role player so the other two could thrive down the stretch. He made his choice official shortly before Meyer became head coach in late November 2011, and interim coach Luke Fickell was credited with keeping that relationship alive during the months since May when Tressel was forced out amid an NCAA investigation.
Finally there is Steve Miller, a senior starter who came to Ohio State with high expectations but had never shown he could be a difference-maker in his first three years in Columbus. All he did was play tough, hard-nosed, sound football all year while others got the accolades -- until he made one of the biggest plays of the season by simply carrying out his assignment, catching a ball that was thrown to him and running as fast as he could in the other direction,a game-changing pick-6 against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. A senior saving his best for last? That sounds like a Tressel guy if we've ever heard of such a thing.
The defensive line might not have been as insanely deep as expected, but the guys at the top of the depth chart played their best in the biggest games of the season. The makeup of this group -- like the 2002 national champions, part of the bedrock of the title game victory -- also very well represented the team as a whole.
Another veteran who had his best season as a senior, Grant's recruiting profile as a five-star prospect from out of state actually makes him sound more like a Meyer guy, but Perry fits the Tressel mold pretty well as an Ohio kid who committed early without much care for the pursuit of other programs then blossomed into a team leader on and off the field.
If Grant looks more like a Meyer guy on paper, the third guy, Lee, is a classic Tressel diamond in the rough. Perhaps then it should be no surprise the three-star prospect from New Albany's No. 1 ally in gaining a scholarship offer during the summer of 2013 was Fickell. Either way, Lee showed the competitiveness all three of those coaches covet, and their faith in his ability paid off in spades as he turned into one of the team's best playmakers early in his career. (A.J. Hawk, anyone?)
In the secondary the story is similar as one starting corner was a holdover from the Tressel era -- Doran Grant, a highly regarded guy from Buckeye country, and Eli Apple, a four-star Meyer lured from New Jersey. At safety there's Vonn Bell, the five-star phenom from the South, and Tyvis Powell, a Bedford, Ohio, native who committed to Ohio State when the program didn't even have a full-time head coach. Bell led the team in interceptions -- including a clutch one against Alabama, the team that more than any other was Meyer's target when compiling talents such as Bell himself -- but Powell was one of the team's emotional leaders. Powell also closed out the transformative Sugar Bowl win over the Crimson Tide by picking off a failed Hail Mary pass.
How about the other side of the ball? Braxton Miller is scheduled to be the last player at Ohio State to know what it's like to share a practice field with Jim Tressel as the head coach. He was one of 22 Ohioans Meyer offered a scholarship while he was head coach at Florida, but Miller was always considered a Buckeye lock as he grew up in southwest Ohio. J.T. Barrett was his hand-picked successor as a four-star prospect from Texas, and Cardale Jones could qualify as a player both coaches had their hand in recruiting. After Tressel convinced Jones to grayshirt to avoid entering college the same year as Miller, Meyer honored the agreement and signed Jones out of military school the following January.
The narrative does veer off the road at running back, where the top two players are both young guys who are Meyer prospects all the way, and tight end could be seen as the opposite situation with both players being signed by Tressel, but the wide receiver and offensive line groups are great hybrids of Tressel and Meyer guys.
The thunder and lightning duo of Evan Spencer and Devin Smith? Both Tressel guys, one an out-of-state prospect but also a legacy recruit while the other was the type of supremely talented Ohioan the program has thrived on since Chic Harley was thrilling the overflow crowds at Ohio Field. The same could be said of Jalin Marshall, though he was brought on board by Meyer, who also signed his Texas equivalent the same season in the form of Dontre Wilson.
Corey Smith has a story similar to that of Jones, finding his way back to Ohio State from junior college after playing his high school ball in Ohio while Tressel was coaching the Buckeyes.
Michael Thomas, like Powell and Washington, committed to Ohio State while Fickell was interim head coach, but he's probably turned out to be the No. 1 example of Meyer's player development methods.
And finally there is the offensive line, where even the former defensive linemen in the starting lineup can trace their origins back to separate coaches.
Fifth-year senior Darryl Baldwin was a three-star recruit way back in 2010 (he committed in 2009) and Billy Price joined Meyer's first full-year recruiting class as a four-star prospect in the class of 2013. Both of those guys entered 2014 with big shoes to fill and big question marks as far as their lack of game experience, but they had far more ups than downs as Ed Warinner turned in yet another fantastic performance as offensive line coach.
Center Jacoby Boren quickly became one of Meyer's favorite players on the team, but he was a Tressel recruit originally. Would the current head coach have brought in the three-star prospect from Pickerington Central? We'll never know, but Meyer admitted recently being concerned about the center's size when he met him the first time. That didn't stop him from installing Boren as the backup center as a true freshman, though, and almost exactly three years later, Boren was the apex of the offensive line that ground Oregon's defense into dust in Dallas.
Pat Elflein's story bears some resemblance to Boren's, even originating from the same city. As a three-star prospect at Pickerington North, Elflein was another who removed any doubt about his commitment to being a Buckeye by offering his verbal pledge during the tumultuous summer of 2011. The former high school wrestler's work ethic got him into the two-deep last year, and he bears a striking resemblance to the typical Tressel "diamond in the rough" recruit from the Buckeye State while thriving in the culture Meyer has created.
Then of course there is Taylor Decker. The 2014 offensive line's most experienced player was also its most highly recruited -- although Ohio State was not among his serious suitors until Meyer came on board and put the last-minute full-court press on the Vandalia (Ohio) Butler prospect shortly before signing day 2012. In that way, Decker is almost the antitheses of a "Tressel guy" even though he comes from Ohio, but he's also a reminder of what a unique blend of talents and personalities came together to form the best team in college football for 2014.
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