Of course, that was nine months ago, but there was a time when the Buckeyes went through a three-month stretch without adding a 2015 commit. That left Ohio State rated near 50th in the country when the June camp circuit neared, and with the accelerated pace of the recruiting world these days, there was plenty of concern among recruitniks.
“For anyone to say that things are going tremendously right now, that would be wrong. That’s not the case,” Scout recruiting analyst Bill Greene said at the time. “But on the other hand, for someone to tell me that Ohio State is not going to have a good class this year, I’d take that bet. This still could be a really good class. You know the way they do their business that they’re going to end up with a good class.
Greene, of course, was right as the Buckeyes are set to put the finishing touches on a class rated among the best in the nation. But how did Ohio State get here?
There’s been twists and turns along the way, including a few more surely to come as the team wraps up the process. But here’s the timeline the Buckeyes followed as they put together this year’s class.
The First One
Remember that accelerated recruiting process I spoke of? For this class, it began nearly 18 months ago – Aug. 25, 2013, when Canton McKinley star Eric Glover-Williams gave his pledge to the Buckeyes.
Since then, it’s been a slightly rocky process for EGW, whose spot in the class seemed in jeopardy at one point as rumors of a fight at school seemed to follow him, but the four-star athlete will sign with Ohio State on Wednesday.
"First off, everything is good with Ohio State and I'm excited to be a part of the program," Glover-Williams stated in July. "I've learned a lot this past year, and I think I've grown up a lot. Ohio State has told me everything is fine and I need to keep on the right path."
OSU didn’t have to wait long to go out-of-state to get some prospects in the class of 2015. Cocoa, Fla., cornerback Jamel Dean gave his pledge on Dec. 1, 2013, while three-star safety Ben Edwards of Jacksonville gave his commitment in February to make it three.
While Dean has continued to stay attached to Ohio State and enrolled early in January, Edwards left the class in April to commit to Auburn before flipping again to Stanford.
The Big Thaw
After that, Ohio State didn’t pick up a pledge for a three-man span, leading to unrest, especially considering the way the season ended with two consecutive losses to Michigan State and Clemson.
“I would compare it to being down 7-0 in the first quarter,” Greene said. “Is it the start you wanted? No. But to act like it’s game over … you’d laugh at that. That’s what I’ve been saying – they’re down 7-0 in the first quarter. But it’s early, and a lot of these battles won’t be decided until much later.”
There was a sense of urgency, though, especially as Penn State racked up 15 commits including some who at one point had Ohio State interest. At its lowest point, the class was rated No. 47 in the nation, but Greene wasn’t worried.
“The real recruiting has started now,” he said. “I always feel it starting it the spring when spring practice comes around and kids start taking unofficial visits. If you don’t see a lot of traction in the next six or seven weeks, then you’re looking slightly worse.”
Burrow Makes It Happen
A wait of more than three months for a commitment ended May 27 when quarterback Joey Burrow of The Plains (Ohio) Athens gave his pledge.
“It was huge,” Burrow said. “It was a big was a big monkey off my back to finally commit, especially to a great school like Ohio State. The opportunity to win multiple national championships is great. My family and I have talked about that over the last couple of weeks and said if they do offer, that’s great, I will commit. And if they don’t, so be it. But it happened.”
The addition of Burrow, a four-star prospect who was breaking records and lighting up scoreboards in southeast Ohio, revved up OSU recruiting czar Mark Pantoni.
“A leader has stepped up,” Pantoni tweeted. “Let’s get it started!”
From there, it didn’t take long for the floodgates to open once the Buckeyes started summer camps. Three-star Maryland DB Tyler Green pledged after a camp June 8 and offensive lineman Grant Schmidt became the first South Dakotan ever to pledge to OSU on June 9, while long snapper Liam McCullough followed a day later. Dublin Scioto linebacker Nick Conner got his offer and pledged a week after that, kicking off a run of four commitments in six days.
Cleveland St. Ignatius defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones was next, and speedy defensive back Denzel Ward of Macedonia Nordonia earned an offer at a camp the next day and declared his intentions to be a Buckeye. Finally, on June 22, monstrous New Jersey lineman Kevin Feder picked OSU after making an early pledge to Miami, suddenly giving the Buckeyes 10 pledges.
“I think there were some guys Ohio State needed to see in person, and a lot of them came to camp, kids like Grant Schmidt and Denzel Ward,” Greene said. “Once they came to camp, that kind of reaffirmed their offers.”
Green would eventually decommit but the Buckeyes suddenly had momentum on their side and even picked up a 2016 commitment in the span from Tyler Gerald.
Two For One
While the previous month gave the Buckeyes much-needed numbers in the class, the second day of July added some much-needed quality. Within minutes of each other July 2, four-star prospects and Scout 100 members Justin Hilliard, a linebacker from Cincinnati St. Xavier, and Jashon Cornell, a DE/LB from St. Paul, Minn., announced they would be Buckeyes.
It was a plan the two came up with after attending the Nike Football Training Camp event in Columbus in June and becoming close.
“The relationship is one we've built over the years,” Cornell said. “Sophomore year we met each other at Iowa and had the idea of playing with each other wherever we go. We can be like a Ray Lewis-Terrell Suggs combo, him at linebacker and me on the line.”
The two then tripped to The Opening to compete against – and recruit – some of the best players in the nation. Camp season continued through July, and the Buckeyes added a pair of pledges at Friday Night Lights including three-star tight end Josh Moore of Kansas and defensive lineman Joshua Alabi of Detroit Cass Tech. Moore has since decommitted.
Gibson Highlights In-Season Commits
The Buckeyes still had to work in-season to pick up pledges, and they came slowly but surely.
First, three-star Virginia wideout A.J. Alexander pledged in September, then the Buckeyes offered and were able to flip Lakewood St. Edwards four-star wideout Alex Stump in October. A big decision came Oct. 21 when four-star LB Jerome Baker, who had pledged to Florida in June, switched to the Buckeyes.
Three-star tight end Rashod Berry of Lorain, Ohio, was next, but the big in-season fish was reeled in Nov. 3 when four-star QB Torrance Gibson pledged to Ohio State. Gibson had taken his official visit to Ohio State in September after camping at Friday Night Lights in July.
“I give a lot of credit here to Urban Meyer and Ohio State,” Scout analyst Jamie Newberg said. “He knows exactly the type of player and quarterback he needs to take Ohio State to the national championship and topple the SEC.”
The in-season parade continued through the Michigan game as three-star Georgia CB Joshua Norwood pledged after visiting for the Illinois contest, four-star Virginia lineman Matthew Burrell pledged Nov. 17, three-star OL Branden Bowen of Utah committed Nov. 23 and Ohio State added a third straight offensive lineman Dec. 4 when Mirko Jurkovic Jr. committed.
Bolstering The Line
One of the most intriguing recruiting stories of the year has included Mike Weber, Scout’s No. 69 overall player and No. 9 running back who was a Michigan pledge before decommitting late in the Brady Hoke era.
The Detroit Cass Tech prospect then made a commitment to Ohio State in mid-December, but the recruiting process is not over for the four-star back. Reports from Scout indicated that Jim Harbaugh made Weber a priority from the moment he was hired in late December, and the two parties met last week.
Two more Ohioans have joined the fray since Weber, and both seem firm. The two are also defensive tackles, a position of need for the class, as the Buckeyes have hauled in four-star prospect Robert Landers of Huber Heights Wayne and three-star prospect DaVon Hamilton of Pickerington Central.
Both were flips, as Landers was a West Virginia pledge and Hamilton a Kentucky verbal before switching, and both showed up strong on the OSU radar after excellent senior seasons.
Time will tell exactly how the class will finish up for the Buckeyes, as the fates of Gibson and Weber remain up in the air, while three-star safety Carlton Davis of Florida – who committed in August – decommitted in the days leading up to signing day.
Gibson has made multiple visits as signing day has neared while Weber continues to be wooed by Michigan. Big fish like Porter Gustin, Isaiah Prince and K.J. Hill are still up for grabs for what stands as the eighth-rated class in the nation.
But one thing seems for certain – yet again, Urban Meyer has put together a class that ranks among the best in the nation and should have the Buckeyes in a spot to contend for years to come. And coming off a national championship season, the best very well could be yet to come.