Buckeyes Flex Recruiting Muscles
Buckeye recruiting muscles are Ah-nold sized and the Patriots lose again.
Flexing Those Muscles
When 6-foot-6, 272-pound Nicholas Petit-Frere of Tampa, the number one offensive tackle in the country, announced he was signing with the Buckeyes at just after 10:30 Wednesday morning, it ended one of the wildest, most topsy-turvy recruiting cycles Ohio State fans have ever seen. Urban Meyer showed, once again, his Schwarzenegger-like recruiting muscles by bringing in the nation's number two (or three, depending on which recruiting ratings you look at) class. Meyer and his staff had longtime commits flip during the early signing period in late December and saw the Ohio’s top-rated recruit, Jackson Carmen of Fairfield, defect to Clemson (thanks to some questionable recruiting tactics by Tigers’ head coach Dabo Swinney). All Meyer did was put on a fullcourt press for Petit-Frere and fellow offensive tackle Rasheed Walker from Maryland, win a head-to-head battle with Alabama for New Jersey defensive end Tyler Friday, snatch away Mission Hills, CA receiver Chris Olave from UCLA and recover in enough time to get Javontae Jean-Baptiste, a defensive end from New Jersey, who was all but committed to Nebraska as of Monday. Walker signed with Penn State as expected, but getting Petit-Frere is a “home run pick-up” according to one analyst. It is considered the highest rated group of recruits the school has ever signed.
Most felt Petit-Frere would stay close to home and sign with the Florida Gators. Alabama was very much in the mix, it was well-known he liked Notre Dame’s academics (he has a 4.37 GPA), and he included Michigan in his final five. In the end, Meyer convinced him to join his Ohio State program. Bill Greene of 247 Sports believes he is the best offensive line recruit the program has signed since Orlando Pace.
While signing the nation’s top offensive tackle may have been the most important development of National Signing Day for Ohio State, the most surprising signee may be Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Because of a long-standing relationship with newly minted Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, the 2017 New Jersey Defensive Player of the Year was heavily leaning towards the Cornhuskers. Meyer and his staff only had a few weeks to convince Jean-Baptiste to sign with them because they did not decide to pursue him until late in the cycle. By all accounts it was a hot and cold relationship and, after Saturday’s visit where neither side came away happy with the other, he appeared all but signed and delivered to the Frosted Huskers. But, OSU flexed those giant recruiting muscles one more time. Co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has strong ties to New Jersey and helped the Buckeyes land Jean-Baptiste. At 6-foot-5 and just 215 pounds he’s considered a project. But, keep in mind Sam Hubbard was recruited as a safety and after a redshirt year that saw him put on bulk, he turned into one of the country's better defensive ends. Be patient with him, he’s fast, has long arms and is an athlete. I think he could be the real sleeper in this class.
I won't go through each signee individually, it takes too long and all of the profiles begin to sound the same. But, there are a few key points to be made.
-Ohio State signed the number one player at four different positions: offensive tackle, defensive tackle, center and tight end, along with the number one junior college player and number two indside linebacker.
-Their needs along the offensive and defensive lines were impressively addressed. Besides Petit-Frere, they signed Max Wray from Tennessee; he's the number seven offensive tackle. From Brooklyn, New York the Buckeyes signed number one center Matt Jones, who hails from the same high school as ex-Buckeye Curtis Samuel. Cleveland Heights defensive end Tyreke Smith is rated as the ninth best at his position.
-Only three Ohioans are a part of the class. Next year expect that number to double at least as the 2018 Ohio class is one of the deepest in recent years. It includes the number one player in the country; Zach Harrison, a defensive end from Olentangy Orange High School. Harrison is right in the Buckeyes' backyard.
-The defensive tackle group is probably the best in the country. In addition to the number one player at the position, Taron Vincent from Bradenton, FL, the Buckeyes also signed numbers three and eleven at the position. That number one junior college player I mentioned happens to be defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson. This is a very impressive group, who should be ready to make an impact once Dre'mont Jones leaves after next season.
-Jeremy Ruckert, the nation's number one tight end, could be the player who makes the biggest impact next season. The Buckeyes have a decided lack of depth and experience at the position, and Meyer has called him the best tight end prospect he's ever seen. I expect to see inside linebacker Teradja Mitchell contribute on special teams, along with five-star conerback Tyreke Johnson. I'm very excited about the potential of Westerville's Jaelen Gill. His speed could get him on the field returning kicks in some manner. A running back in high school, Gill is projected as an H-back in Meyer's offense.
Why is such a haul of talent so important? Because in every class you have players who don't pan out or see their career end early due to injury or other issues. The bite of losing a player is lessened by the sheer amount of talent you've brought in. If you don't believe me, go back and look at some of the recruiting classes over the last five years and you'll see plenty of players who either did not get much playing time or left early. With the amount of talent signed in the 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes, the Ohio State coaching staff has widened the talent gap between they and the rest of the Big Ten. The exception to that is Penn State, who signed a very good class and is rated just a couple of spots behind the Buckeyes.
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is staying with the Buckeyes. Rumors of his departure to the New England Patriots circulated all last week up until today when he finally confirmed he is staying. Urban Meyer asks for a two-year committment from any assistant coach who joins his staff. 2017 was Schiano's second season in Columbus, so having him again for 2018 is a big bonus for the program. Schiano was very instrumental in the recruitment of Petit-Frere.
On another coaching note, Meyer is working with the school on a two-year extension to his contract. Hey, didn't Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney tell a recruit something about Meyer being on his way out? Yeah Dabo, karma my friend, karma.
In my next blog, I'll take a deeper look at why you shouldn't get too caught up in worrying about how many five or four-star recruits your favorite team brings in. I hope to post it early next week. Thanks for reading!