Meyer Trying To Close Strong

Ohio State's 2015 class has had its up and down moments, but a strong finish could wipe away memories of a slow start.

Assembling its 2015 class hasn’t come easy for Ohio State.

The first commitment, Canton (Ohio) McKinley four-star prospect Eric Glover-Williams (5-10, 175), spent months with his status in limbo after participating in a fight at his school. The Buckeyes lost Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian three-star safety Ben Edwards to Auburn and endured months without a commitment in spring. When The Plains (Ohio) Athens four-star quarterback Joey Burrow pledged in late May, it brought OSU’s commitment tally to a whopping total of three. Furthermore, this will be the first Ohio State class in the existence of to not include at least one five-star prospect.

Even the in-state prospects didn’t come as easily this season. The Buckeyes put in countless hours of effort to secure Cincinnati St. Xavier four-star linebacker Justin Hilliard and then worked overtime to pry Cleveland Benedictine four-star linebacker Jerome Baker away from his original commitment to Florida.

Despite those difficulties, there’s no one Ohio State would rather have in its corner for the final weekend of a recruiting cycle than head coach Urban Meyer. For all his exploits on the field – and those are numerous – Meyer is virtually unparalleled as a closer on the recruiting trail.

In 2012, Meyer closed on National Signing Day by locking up four-star offensive tackle Kyle Dodson and three-star defensive end Jamal Marcus. One year later, he secured Dontre Wilson two days before National Signing Day and then picked up four-star wide receiver James Clark and five-star safety Vonn Bell on the big day while also getting a reaffirmed commitment from Ezekiel Elliott. In 2014, Meyer survived four-star offensive tackle Jamarco Jones’ last-minute visit to Michigan State and then added three-star defensive end Darius Slade on National Signing Day.

“In the Midwest and the Big Ten, he’s definitely the best right now, although James Franklin is trying to give him a run for his money,” recruiting analyst Allen Trieu said. “When you look at the last five to 10 years, you’d be hard-pressed to find more head coaches that closed down the stretch like Urban Meyer does. I’d say he’s right there with Nick Saban. They kind of stand alone as the top two in the game right now.”

Meyer showed that prowess when he swooped in late to land Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) three-star cornerback Damon Arnette on Feb. 2. Arnette took an official visit to Columbus the weekend of Jan. 30, just one day after Miami Norland three-star safety Carlton Davis decommitted from the Buckeyes. The nation’s No. 118 cornerback had been committed to South Carolina but visited Ohio State and Michigan in January.

Meyer suffered a setback when Salem (Utah) Hills four-star defensive end Porter Gustin (6-4 ½, 242) committed to USC on Feb. 3 after a late charge from the Buckeyes, but there are still a couple targets remaining.

The Buckeyes stand a good chance of picking up a commitment from former Arkansas pledge K.J. Hill (6-1, 192). Hill, a four-star wide receiver out of North Little Rock, Ark., visited Ohio State in January after decommitting from the Razorbacks. Ohio State’s chances increased when the nation’s No. 32 wide receiver and No. 229 overall prospect decided not to visit Arkansas on the final weekend before National Signing Day.

OSU can also round out its class with Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt four-star offensive tackle Isaiah Prince (6-6 ½, 290), the No. 74 overall prospect and No. 6 tackle. Prince is deciding between Alabama, Maryland and Ohio State. After committing to Alabama on Jan. 23, Prince spent the last two weekends visiting the Buckeyes and Terrapins and is no longer classified as a Crimson Tide commit.

Gustin, Prince, Arnette and Hill all visited Ohio State with less than two weeks to go until National Signing Day. While receiving the last visit from a prospect isn’t always an advantage these days, the ability of Meyer to sell players on his vision could prove to be an advantage. With his track record, opposing coaches don’t even want to see him get a shot at a recruiting target.

“When you have a staff as good as Ohio State and you have a head coach that’s as good of a closer as Urban Meyer, you just want to get a kid on campus and see if you can get his commitment,” Trieu said.

With one of those players already in the bag, Meyer still has a chance to further bolster his recruiting resume with a February flourish. The Buckeyes are currently locked in a back-and-forth battle with Penn State for the top Big Ten spot.

“It’s very important to finish strong, especially because they were overtaken by Penn State in the recruiting rankings,” recruiting analyst Allen Trieu said. “If they get all the guys they’re chasing, that could push them into the top five. I think it would help them maintain the status quo because that’s where they’ve been.”

From start to finish, this recruiting process has been less smooth than the first three classes Meyer landed in Columbus. As he goes to work on the most important few days of the year, though, an already good class has the opportunity to turn into a great one.

“If you had told fans in June that this would be a top 10 and possible top five class, I think a lot of people wouldn’t have believed you,” Trieu said. “They did a good job of filling the class with really good players. Some of the guys who they got commitments from have also proven to be better players than the media maybe gave them credit for. Joey Burrow is a good example of that because when he committed, it didn’t seem like as big of a deal as it does now thanks to the senior season that he had.

“Top to bottom, this is a good class.”

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