While the season has come to a conclusion for Ohio State, the recruiting game never ends and coach Meyer and his staff are fully focused on bringing the best talent in the country to the 'Shoe. It never hurts to start early, so the class of 2014 is already hearing from colleges across the country.
Following a couple of dismal years recruiting offensive linemen under the former Buckeye regime, one of the first things Ohio State head Coach Urban Meyer did when he signed his contract was to begin the process of making contact with players at the position in and out of the state of Ohio. Meyer quickly turned things around, signing athletes such as Taylor Decker, Joey O'Connor, and Kyle Dodson.
Despite signing a couple of solid linemen, Coach Meyer and his staff continue to put emphasis on recruiting offensive linemen for the class of 2013 and beyond. Only a month after Meyer was hired, December 15th, 2011 to be exact, the Buckeyes offered a scholarship to 2014 offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne. At the time, it didn't seem like too much of a big deal, as the excitement about the class of 2012 was still on the minds of Ohio State fans. It clearly had a big impact on Byrne though, who later named Ohio State his leader the day after he took a visit for Ohio State's spring game.
The 6'4", 275-pound lineman from Cleveland St. Ignatius was only a sophomore at the time he was offered, but has obviously made an impression on the coaching staff already. Since the spring game, things have changed a little, including Byrne putting Notre Dame right next to Ohio State as his co-favorites. Byrne is a 4-star recruit and rated as the 9th best offensive guard in the country. Byrne is also rated as the 14th best prospect in the entire state of Ohio, something that is essential for Coach Meyer to look at. Keeping a fence around Ohio recruits has always been a part of the tradition at Ohio State, and we're certain that Coach Meyer knows exactly what he's doing.
Despite the recent push of fellow unbeaten Notre Dame on Byrne, the recruiting hasn't been too much of a distraction for Byrne, who helped his team make it all the way to the regional finals. Cleveland St. Ignatius would ultimately fall to Mentor losing in triple overtime by a single point. Byrne still has a while to decide where he wants to go, but we spoke with the lineman to get his take on the recent Ohio State-Michigan game he attended and what he thinks of the Buckeyes himself.
So who specifically is recruiting you from Ohio State? What on your thoughts on Ohio State as a program overall?
Technically, Stan Drayton is my recruiting coach, but I talk to Coach Warriner (offensive line coach) most of the time. I'm impressed with their program. To go from being a mediocre team last season, to an undefeated team the next, is impressive in just a year's time.
What other schools have offered you up to this point? And who is recruiting you the hardest right now?
As of now, I have offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Indiana, Michigan State, West Virginia and Illinois. I'd say Notre Dame is recruiting me the hardest right now.
What would you say are your greatest strengths as a player?
I think my biggest strengths are my ability in pass protection and my technique in general. There are obviously things I can always improve on, but for now I think I'm pretty technically sound.
Is there anything you'd like to improve on before making the transition to the college level?
I'd really like to get up 300 lbs. before college and make gains in the weight room. The biggest thing I'll be focusing on this off-season is staying low out of my starting stance and continuing to stay low into contact.
How does it feel to have received an offer from Ohio State? Did the coaches talk about anything in particular they were impressed with?
The offer from Ohio State was actually my first and I received it as sophomore, so it was pretty special to me. Coach Warriner has often mentioned he was impressed with my pass protection.
What are the biggest factors for you in making a decision as to where you'll spend the next four years?
I think the biggest factors in making my decision would be what the coaching staff is like and the kind of academics that school has to offer.
What do you think of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer?
I think Coach Meyer is one of the best head coaches in college football right now. He's proven that he can motivate and get the best out of all his players. I think going 12-0 in a season where Ohio State was ineligible is a testament to that.
What'd you think about this past Saturday's game? Did you get to talk to any of the coaches, players, or fellow recruits afterwards?
During the Ohio State-Michigan game, I really paid attention to Ohio State's offensive line. I thought they played really well. They were opening up some nice holes and giving Braxton Miller plenty of time to throw. I spoke with Coach Warriner before and after the game. He said he would be coming to St. Ignatius to see me within the next couple of weeks. I didn't really talk to any recruits other than ('14 OL) Marcelys Jones.
Did any of the other players/recruits try to get you to come to Ohio State?
Not really. I played with Blake Thomas last year, who is currently a freshman tight end, but he hasn't tried to convince me one way or the other.
What'd you think about Ohio State finishing the season going 12-0?
I think Ohio State going 12-0 is an amazing accomplishment. Like I mentioned earlier, to go from being mediocre to undefeated is impressive. It's a shame they're not bowl eligible, because it would have been cool to see them play Notre Dame in the national championship.
Back to high school football for a second, how was your season from a personal and team standpoint? Did you achieve your goals?
At Ignatius, our goal every year is to win a state championship, so coming up short is pretty disappointing. We lost in the regional final against Mentor in triple overtime by only one point. Personally, I started off a little slow at beginning of the season. I was coming back from a knee injury, but I was able to get it going later in the season and was playing the way I wanted to. I really think I improved in run blocking, which was my biggest goal coming into the season.
And finally, do you have any idea when you'll be making your decision?
I will most likely try and make a decision sometime before February.
Thanks again to Jimmy for his time. Check out some highlights of the 2014 offensive lineman from his sophomore year: