Now former Ohio State defensive line coach (and ace recruiter) Mike Vrabel's abrupt departure for the Houston Texans left a void, not just in the development of future pros like Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, and Noah Spence, but particularly on the recruiting trail, where the Buckeyes continue to be in the mix (though now less so) for the likes of Solomon Thomas and Malik McDowell.
Recruiting Must Reads
Bucks to the Future: Marcelys Jones
Cleveland Glenville's Marcelys Jones was a Christmas gift for the ages in 2012 when he became the face of Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class by being the first one to give his verbal pledge.
Recruiting Must Reads
The unexpected nature of Vrabel's return to pro football along with the NCAA's current dead period and Everett Withers, OSU's co-DC and cornerbacks coach last season, departing for the James Madison head coaching job meant that the ordinary pre-National Signing Day urgency to get such a void addressed has been a bit more tempered than usual. The previously mentioned dead period ends this coming Wednesday, January 15th, and with many OSU power brokers at this week (Jan. 12-15)'s annual 2014 American Football Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis, expect Meyer to get in as many interviews as he can and both vacant OSU coaching positions filled sooner rather than later.
And while some scuttlebutt's been that Ohio State needs to wait until January 19th, a full week after an assistant coaching job posting first went live, to announce a hire due to an unspecified state law, Chapters 3345 (which pertains to State Universities - General Powers) and 3335 (which is specific to The Ohio State University) of the Ohio Revised Code don't mention any such stipulations. Some Ohio state agencies are governed by such fairness/transparency policies with regards to their hirings, but the university is actually an instrumentality and thus may fall under slightly different rules and regulations (state of Ohio labor lawyers; get at us if our interpretation is too broad). Regardless, past OSU football precedent would also not reflect such a rigid, unfavorable timeline, or if anything, the athletic department's penchant for wiggling around such requirements.
Now in terms of any specific names or candidates for the two vacancies, we spitballed some hypothetical ones a month or so back when news of Withers' departure first came to light. Florida DC D.J. Durkin probably isn't too terribly likely to make a somewhat lateral move at this juncture (less he sees the writing on the wall and considers the shaky situation in Gainesville too unstable to mortgage his fortune on), and Texas took Louisville D.C. (and former Meyer DB coach) Vance Bedford off the market yesterday.
While many of the other names we alluded to could very well still be in play at either the open cornerbacks or d-line coaching void, one particular name that's gathered support amongst Buckeye backers of late is that of long time Penn State stalwart, Larry Johnson Sr. Johnson's been with the Nittany Lions for 17 years, and when Bill O'Brien high tailed it to Houston, he served as the interim head coach prior to James Franklin's appointment.
Johnson also threw his name in the mix for the gig that ultimately went to Franklin, and by some accounts, his not getting much of a fighter's chance may have ultimately brought his coaching tenure to a close with the Lions. Larry's son (and former PSU WR Tony) had a particularly ominous Facebook post which could give Buckeye (and other fanbase's) fans some reason for hope:
Source close to Penn State's Larry Johnson says he's very upset he didnt get job. His intention is to leave. Hopefully he reconsiders— John Clark NBC10 (@johnclarknbc10) January 9, 2014
I see Larry Johnson's son Tony Johnson posted this on facebook about his dad. pic.twitter.com/6IrIrreYfV— John Clark NBC10 (@johnclarknbc10) January 9, 2014
Arguably James Franklin's first big recruiting job (aside from the two Vandy commits he already flipped into Nittany Lions pledges his first day on the job) will be trying to re-talk Johnson into staying. But speaking of the AFCA Convention, Johnson was actually in Indy yesterday and was one of the conference's first speakers.
From one such coach who had the privilege to hear the veteran coach motivate in person, check out what Johnson could prospectively bring to Columbus: Larry Johnson at #AFCA 14
Another hot name at Day 1 of AFCA 2014 was Jim Tressel's nephew, Michigan State LB coach Mike Tressel, who had a line of of folks spilling out into the hallways to hear him speak. Upsetting Ohio State and then winning a Rose Bowl can do that:
500 guys in the room & coaches standing in the hall listening to Mike Tressel talk linebacker play. He's got "it" pic.twitter.com/Pkb9JSiNCo— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) January 12, 2014
One dark horse name to keep an eye out for for the vacant cornerbacks coaching role is just dismissed Texas secondary coach, Duane Akina. Akina was in Austin for the entirety of the Mack Brown era and a big part of why Texas has produced the Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas and the New Orleans Saints' Kenny Vaccaro. The fiery Akina is a great teacher, solid recruiter, and would further help Tom Herman and co. continue making inroads into talent hot bed Texas. He also has no real ties to Meyer though and his hire would have to be the result of a word of mouth/interview sort of connection.
It's tough to know what to make of any of the names making the message board rounds as most of them have some fatal flaw or another. LSU DC John Chavis makes $1.1 million/year in Baton Rouge while Stanford's fine DL coach (and former Earle Bruce assistant) Randy Hart is almost 66, 5 years older than Jim Tressel. Regardless of who Meyer and co. wind up going with, credit where credit's due to Urban Meyer for keeping the hunts so close to the vest and so little from leaking to point. You can expect with his broad network of coaching connections, track record, and the opportunities afforded at this week's big conference, the guys he ultimately gets will be the right ones.
- Ohio State officially welcomed their class of 2014 early enrollees yesterday. Despite consecutive snow days to start the Spring 2014 semester, all 7 prospects arrived with no surprises.
- Ohio State offered 3-star Columbus product OL (and Virginia Tech commit) Brady Taylor late last week. Taylor tells LGHL he'll be visiting Ohio State this weekend for his official visit but will give VT one last shot most likely the week after.
- '14 WR David Njoku named Ohio State to his top 4 and suggested Friday he'd take an official to Ohio State...but then told Land-Grant Holy Land a day later that "nothing was definite." James Franklin to Vanderbilt may ultimately work in PSU's favor in Njoku's recruitment as well.
- '15 WR DaMarkus Lodge named Ohio State to his top 10.
- Ohio State signee D'Angelo Russell and #1 Montverde put it on Oak Ridge on national television, 93-57, in the Geico High School Showcase Saturday afternoon. Montverde dominated from start to finish, and while Russell is still recovering from knee surgery, he put up 10 points and showed flashes of why Thad Matta and Jeff Boals are so excited about ushering the 5-star guard into the fold.