Recruit Ohio. Secure the Ohio borders.
If you're an Ohio State fan and your discussion moves into the realm of recruiting, those rules are inviolate. They go back farther than Woody Hayes, the Snow Bowl, and Les Horvath. Heck, they probably go back to before Ohio was awarded statehood.
Recruit Ohio. Secure the Ohio borders.
It is a tried and true strategy for Ohio State, one that has resulted in seven national championships, 10 undefeated seasons, 36 conference championships, and 20 bowl wins. Ohio State recruiting classes almost always have at least half, if not well more than that, were recruits that came from within the Ohio borders.
But something seems to be happening in Columbus that seems to fly in the face of those rules.
It's called planting the flag, and the Ohio State coaching staff is doing a lot of that:
Planting the flag all over Motown today!#GoBucks— Kerry Coombs (@OsuCoachCoombs) April 23, 2013
Just touched down in Newark! Ready to plant the flag tomorrow all over New Jersey. #GoBucks— Kerry Coombs (@OsuCoachCoombs) April 22, 2013
In the last three recruiting classes before Meyer's hiring, Ohio State had a total of 67 recruits. Of those, more than half (37) were from the state of Ohio. Now obviously, Ohio State doesn't get all their recruits from Ohio, but for the most part, they stuck within a fairly contiguous geographic region, centered primarily on the Midwest:
In Meyer's two recruiting classes, you can see he's expanded the recruiting footprint substantially:
Although the previous classes before Meyer had at least two recruits from Maryland and one from Kentucky, and Urban has yet to pull a recruit from either place, it's obvious that Ohio State is going to places they have never gone to before, expanding their footprint in places like Texas, and opening doors into some of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country.
And Ohio State is taking a back seat to no one. Let's look at some of the new areas Ohio State is recruiting:
CO – Joey O'Connor was the first player recruited from that state since recruiting records were available online. Colorado isn't considered prime territory, but it goes to show that the current regime will leave no stone unturned to try and find the best players in the country. True, O'Connor was injured and has since transferred out to be closer to home, but that still doesn't discount the fact that OSU went there and pulled in a prospect.
MO – Ezekiel Elliot was top player in Missouri and the first player from there since safety Nick Patterson in 2004.
MA – Meyer pulled two potential studs from there in 2012, Armani Reeves and Camren Williams. Like the state of Colorado, there hasn't been anyone from Massachusetts here since at least before 2002. And of course, if it's not available online, it didn't happen.
MS – JUCO transfer Corey Smith is a member of the class of 2013, which is also the first time in over at least a decade the Buckeyes snagged someone from Mississippi.
In Texas, Meyer already has three commits, and all from the class – Dontre Wilson, Mike Mitchell, and J.T. Barrett. Before those three, the last recruit from Texas was Kenny Guiton in 2009, and J.B. Shugarts in 2008. Prior to that, the last recruit was in 2003.
But why? In 2012, Meyer had to shore up a shaky class right after he was hired, and in part benefitted from the rough waters at Penn State to help him get an in into places out east that OSU usually hadn't gone to to. Still, even with all the chaos and tumult associated with that offseason leading up to signing day, 15 of 25 recruits were from The Buckeye State.
But in 2013, this was Meyer's first class, with no inherited recruits, and the stats were telling – of the class of 24, only 10 were from the state of Ohio, the lowest in terms of percentage since recruiting records were readily available online.
But again, why? Well, some credit can be given to Brady Hoke and his staff. They rolled in on some prime Ohio recruits early, like LB Ben Gedeon, LB Michael McCray, TE Jake Butt, S Dymonte Thomas and DE Taco Charlton. Those were all kids at positions of need that Meyer either couldn't convince to flip, or didn't seriously pursue, so by either design or otherwise the staff went out of state.
And they did okay. Well, if you consider Texas LB Mike Mitchell, Georgia LB Trey Johnson, California tight end Marcus Baugh, Tennessee safety Vonn Bell, and Florida DE Joey Bosa okay. I mean, you should and all, seeing as how they are all ranked higher than their Ohio counterparts, and are all ranked in the top 10 at their position nationally.
So far in 2014, things seem to be settling back into a pattern most Ohio State fans are used to, and on signing day several weeks back, Meyer himself said that he wanted to get more kids from Ohio. Of the seven commits currently pledged to Ohio State, five are from Ohio, one is from Illinois, and one from Michigan. But the recruiting season for 2014 is still young, and although I would expect more players from Ohio in this next class than in the last couple, there's looks to be a new normal when it comes to recruiting.
Ohio is and always will be an important part of Ohio State's recruiting strategy, but make no mistake, Meyer and his staff are casting nets far and wide, and will go wherever they need to to bring talent into Columbus.