Urban Meyer is off to one helluva start at Ohio State, turning two coveted Big Ten commitments into future Buckeyes, and hotly pursuing even more. In what was supposed to be an off couple of years for Ohio State in the wake of a rather large athletic scandal, Meyer has people in Columbus extremely excited for football once again.
Like them or not based on their allegiance, the guys at Eleven Warriors have been doing some great work recently, specifically our guest today, Alex Gleitman. Alex has been covering recruiting for 11W since '09; suffice it to say the past two weeks have been the most exciting time for him during that span. Alex sat down with us to talk sanctions, scholarships, and the man I'm sure most people in Happy Valley will grow to hate, Urban Meyer.
BSD: Let's get this out of the way first: Flipped - Tommy Schutt (five-star DT previously committed to Penn State) and Se'von Pittman (four-star DE previously committed to Michigan State); Hosted - Cam Williams (four-star LB committed to PSU); Will Host - Noah Spence (five-star DE highly targeted by PSU) and Jameis Winston (five-star QB committed to Florida State). What the heck is Urban Meyer doing in Columbus that has everyone talking?
Alex: This is unlike anything we as Ohio State fans, or anyone in the Big Ten, has ever seen before.
Buckeye fans knew they were getting a great coach who knew how to win football games and pull in big recruits. They didn't realize how much the latter would be true, or necessarily how fast it would happen.
We have learned Meyer loves, absolutely LOVES, recruiting and is relentless in his pursuit to bring the best players to Ohio State, regardless of where they call home. He is very aggressive in pursuit of the nation's best players, something Jim Tressel was criticized of not doing enough. Where Tressel was a guy who charmed a recruit and his family's pants off, he also was a guy who was more passive in recruiting. Meyer will come after you hard and won't stop until you tell him a restraining order may be on the way.
I think, overall, Meyer walked into the perfect storm. It appears OSU will escape the NCAA relatively unscathed and all will be well in terms of settling worries on that end. He has a program that is rich in tradition and winning, is located in the 15th largest city in the country with a beautiful campus, and is still fresh in the minds of recruits as the program that just won 6 straight outright or shared conference titles. Couple that with his "rock star" status as a two-time national champion in the last decade and the fact that he is solely focused on recruiting, and you get the momentum on the recruiting trail that Ohio State has seen over the last few weeks.
BSD: Speaking of "solely focused on recruiting", many people (especially "That School Up North") find it unfair that Ohio State is allowed to essentially have one coaching staff prepping for the bowl game and one staff (Meyer and the new coaches) doing nothing but recruiting. To be honest, I'm quite certain that Penn State would apply for (and likely receive) the same allowance if they hire a new coach prior to their bowl game, but how do you respond when people say it's not fair?
Alex: I definitely see why people are angry over this, as Ohio State definitely has some sort of competitive advantage on the recruiting trail. My question, though, is if this was Pittsburgh, would people care? It is because this is Ohio State that people are throwing a fit, which tells me that they fear the damage Meyer will do in terms of hauling in top recruits to come to Columbus.
Ohio State isn't the first program ever to be granted this waiver (Miami-FL was granted this waiver last year) and isn't the first program to get it this year (UCLA, Illinois, probably soon Pitt with Graham gone and Penn State with whomever their new coach is). This is something that has been granted before and will be granted again. If you want to get angry at anyone, get mad at the NCAA for having such a rule.
I'm sure if this weren't allowed, OSU would fire the current QB coach or video coordinator to allow the new staff to gain recruiting spots, but why not take advantage of something that is within the NCAA rules?
BSD: As of this morning, Ohio State had 18 commitments, and is rapidly rising the Class of '12 rankings. How many scholarships do you expect to have left, and who are the top targets for the Buckeyes, in addition to those already named?
Alex: I think they will have about 23 or 24 scholarships available. This seems high given the loss of 1-2 scholarships for this year due to self-imposed sanctions, but with transfers pending and a couple of players going on medical hardship, I think you will see 5 or so more players join this class.
As for top targets, you have to start with the offensive line. This is the greatest need for Ohio State and they are targeting two good ones in Kyle Dodson and Jordan Diamond. Dodson committed to Wisconsin this past summer, but I spoke to him that night and I always felt he would flip back to OSU once the dust settled, as that was his dream school growing up. Diamond had a blast on his visit to Columbus last week, but still has some visits left, including a couple to SEC schools. I think OSU is in a good spot with both of these players for now.
After that, in addition to Spence, Williams, and Winston, the Bucks are looking at WR Joel Caleb (ed. - Penn State target), WR Stefon Diggs, WR Cyrus Jones, LB David Perkins, LB Jamal Marcus, DB Demetrious Cox (ed. - Penn State target), DB Bam Bradley (ed. - Penn State target), OL Alex Kozan, OL Nick Davidson, and ATH Davonte' Neal (ed. - Penn State target).
I can see any of the aforementioned players ending up in Scarlet and Gray, but my guess on the finish would be Dodson, Diamond, Jones, Marcus, Williams, and Bradley.
BSD: Finally, the sanctions. Somewhat lost in the Penn State mess is the fact that Ohio State is still under investigation from the NCAA, and could be looking at future sanctions including scholarship losses. If that happens, ala USC, do you expect an appeal? How will recruiting be affected over the next few years if Columbus is hit with say a 10 scholarship-per-year punishment?
Alex: Right now, what we are hearing is that this will likely come down in the next week or so and a bowl ban is not likely. Best case, we hope that the self-imposed sanctions will be enough, as Gene Smith has worked closely with the NCAA on getting guidance to levy those sanctions. In my personal opinion, I think OSU will get another year of probation and maybe a few more scholarship docks tacked on to the 5 total over 3 years that is currently in place.
If our guess is wrong and more serious sanctions (like 10 schollies per year) are handed down, things would definitely hurt in terms of recruiting. In that case, you virtually go from 25 players on Signing Day to about 15, meaning you only have 60 scholarship players on the roster for offense, defense, and special teams. Considering right now the limit for scholarship players is 85 and total players is 105, that would hurt a ton, although with Urban it seems those 15 players a year would be of the best caliber in the nation.
That being said, I think 10 per year is a little outrageous. Right now it is 5 total over 3 years, meaning over the next 3 years, Ohio State will have something like 2 less scholarships in 2012 class, 2 less scholarships in 2013 class, and 1 less scholarship in the 2014 class. I think if anything the NCAA could raise it to 10 total (so 4-3-3), which wouldn't have that large of an impact on recruiting.
Thanks again to Alex and Eleven Warriors. Hopefully their Penn State poaching stops with Schutt, though one Ohio State beat writer thinks they might not be done.
We'll have more with Alex and other Big Ten recruitniks throughout the year, but especially over the next seven weeks, as Signing Day is a mere 48 days away.