Recruiting is equal parts inexact science, art form, and black magic -- and there are few better alchemists in the game than Ohio State's Urban Meyer.
Per Meyer's own admission on the radio the day of National Signing Day 2015, four four-stars and a super sleeper three-star who wound up in the Buckeyes' 2015 recruiting class weren't set-in-stone pledges as recently as the night before. That sort of zero hour sorcery is virtually unheard of.
And though some of the names in the Buckeyes' more off-the-radar-than-usual (and yet still a Composite Top 6) class aren't exactly household ones at this juncture, even to those with a casual interest in college football recruiting, we're fairly certain they will be before you know it.
Introducing Mark Pantoni, Urban Meyer, and the Ohio State Buckeye football team's 'Elite '15':
The Buckeyes' 2015 recruiting class started with a bang when a player who's long been considered to be one of the state's best became Urban Meyer's first commitment. Glover-Williams first endeared himself to Buckeyes fans at Friday Night Lights 2013 when he and current Ohio State corner Damon Webb went one-on-one in an exhibition for the ages.
While Glover-Williams' final year and change in high school wasn't without drama -- there were transfer rumors (yes in high school) and a viral video that emerged of him in an altercation with a teammate -- almost against the odds, he was able to turn his story into one of redemption culminating in his becoming a Buckeye on National Signing Day.
Though there's not a lot of chance EGW becomes the next Chris Gamble, he has that kind of versatile skill set. Whether he ends up in the defensive backfield or necessity forces the Bucks to think of other creative ways to leverage his immense talent, expect Glover-Williams to become a household name if he's able to remain tunnel visioned on the goal at hand.link
Jamel Dean's commitment didn't come with a lot of fanfare. Perhaps it didn't even come as all that much of a surprise. But in the Cocoa, FL product, the Buckeyes got a good one, who has the kind of talent to follow in a great line of Ohio State defensive backs.
While it's arguably a lot easier to be second in a recruiting class than first, where Dean's likely to score points with Buckeye backers (and the coaching staff alike) is with the head start he's getting as an early enrollee. Health permitting, expect to see the 6'1 corner in this April's spring game in Ohio Stadium.
Is Dean the most highly touted guy in the 2015 recruiting class? Certainly not, but that doesn't mean he won't be one of the best when everything's said and done.link
A real-life Matt Saracen (but with Alex Smith-type upside), Joe Burrow initially went from the annual quarterback Ohio State likes to stash in its class to venerable cult hero as his senior season went along.
Rewriting the record books in some context seemingly week in, week out, Burrow proved that he was even better than his early ratings indicated. Deceptively fast doesn't apply in this case either; the guy's got wheels, and throws a nice, accurate ball to boot.
Though the jump pass and the QB draws of Urban Meyer's Florida days are what gets thrown around the most this side of the Percy Harvin position, Joe Burrow is just about the prototypical quarterback for Meyer's system. And while there were some late second thoughts, a meeting with new Bucks co-OC/QB coach Tim Beck and the offensive brain trust prompted Burrow to tweet simply "Freakin' go Bucks."link
When Grant Schmidt puts his signature on his National Letter of Intent and faxes it to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Wednesday, he'll become the first Ohio State football player ever to hail from the state of South Dakota.
Though his game is raw to say the least -- you don't see a ton of pancakes, even against significantly lesser competition than he'll see even at an Ohio State practice -- the measurables and ability are all there. The Buckeyes staff knows it when they see it and Schmidt fits the bill to a T.
While it'd be unrealistic (and frankly, unfair to Schmidt) to expect him to show up and start making an impact on day one, Schmidt did himself a favor and enrolled early this past January. Any extra prep time puts him closer to the two-deep. At the end of the day, you shouldn't sleep on what Schmidt brings to the Buckeye football program.link
You wouldn't ordinarily think of Urban Meyer as the kind of head coach to use a scholarship on a long snapper. But Liam McCullough isn't your ordinary long snapper.
Perhaps influenced in part by the skill of fellow long snapping prodigy (and important cog/starter on the Buckeyes' national championship team) Bryce Haynes, Meyer made a committable offer to the Columbus area native who, despite some flirtation with other schools like Michigan State, ultimately decided to follow his heart and stay home.
Adding to his legend, McCullough received an invite to the prestigious US Army All-America Bowl, virtually unheard of for someone from his position. But McCullough has the attributes to be a real difference-maker on special teams. It won't happen from the first time he sets foot on campus, but in two to three seasons, expect to see Liam McCullough do his job so well you won't notice that he did anything at all.link
As if his highlight tapes didn't already speak for themselves, Nick Conner is cut in many ways from the same cloth as Ohio State Sugar Bowl Defensive MVP Darron Lee.
Though Conner had been making plays in the Columbus area for the better part of his high school career, he wasn't an obvious take for the Buckeyes. Fans of Conner's game and the young Dublin product alike were undoubtedly frustrated as he continued to be tied to other programs but never to the hometown Buckeyes.
But Conner never stopped trying to prove himself. And eventually, he did. The Bucks extended the offer and the rest was history. Conner added to the laundry list of positives about him by getting ahead start on his fellow 2015 classmates and enrolling early. Expect to see a highlight play or two, potentially on special teams, in Ohio Stadium from the young linebacker sooner rather than later.link
To call Dre'Mont Jones a sleeper would be beyond underrating one of the higher upside members of the Buckeyes' 2015 class.
He may not have the name recognition of a Justin Hilliard or even a Jashon Cornell, but the latest St. Ignatius product to join the Buckeyes is an Army All-American for a reason. With heart, determination, and measureables to match, Jones jumps off the tape when you see him in action.
Though he heads into a bit of a logjam on the defensive line, if there's one place Urban Meyer hasn't shied away from inserting true freshmen in the past, it's be on the D-line. Jones is the latest in a line of talented players to have the chance to do just that.link
Denzel Ward continues in the tradition of the 2015 class as the kind of player who only frequenters of recruiting roundups and comment sections can likely rattle of his 40-yard dash time, but that doesn't make him any less important a member of the Buckeyes' 2015 recruiting class.
Fitting the "speed kills" M.O. that Urban Meyer and Co. have brought to the Buckeyes, Ward should fit in just nicely with an already stocked Buckeye secondary.
Even if he may need some grooming -- to say nothing of long, hard hours under the tutelage of Mick Marotti -- before he makes a big impat, Denzel Ward should be in the mix for a regular role in the secondary within a couple of seasons. Don't bet against the No. 9 player from the state of Ohio.link
Kevin Feder doesn't move mountains with his star score at most of the major outlets, but that doesn't make him any less of one.
A sheer athletic freak if there ever was one, Feder's reach is sure to have the NFL Draft drooling -- as a college true freshman. He's pretty raw and is unlikely to see the depth chart in year one, but Feder could be the best in this entire class before too long.
Feder had been committed to the Miami Hurricanes as a high school junior, but after Ohio State began the aggressive press over the summer, many felt it was only a matter of time. After taking some time to consider what was best for him, Feder flipped to the Buckeyes. Miami's loss, Ohio State's gain.link
One of the crown jewels of the Buckeyes' 2015 recruiting class, Justin Hilliard is a name you might well already know and if not, one you'll certainly have burned into your memory banks by the time his career in scarlet and gray is over.
Despite some stiff competition from Iowa of all places -- his brother plays for the Hawkeyes -- Hilliard pledged for Ohio State this summer and helped turn a streak of pessimism among Buckeye faithful regarding the 2015 class into giddy optimism.
They don't grow Raekwon McMillans on trees, but in Hilliard (and fellow classmate Jerome Baker), Ohio State doesn't just land two of the best linebacking prospects in the Midwest, it adds two of the best in the entire country. Accordingly, opposing quarterbacks will curse Feb. 4 for years to come.link
Committing on the same day as his friend and The Opening (Nike's elite annual recruiting camp) partner-in-crime Justin Hilliard, Jashon Cornell could soon find his name spoken in the same breath as the likes of Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, and all the other great recent OSU defensive linemen.
In addition to excellent size, Cornell has a great motor. He approaches at the point of attack with relentless effort, and with the size and frame he brings to the table, he is a load for offensive linemen to have to deal with.
Though he doesn't quite have that fifth star officially from the 247Sports Composite rankings, he's close enough to where you shouldn't be surprised if he's a starter on a championship-caliber team in but a few short seasons. Pray for the opposing young running backs who have to try and pick up the rush when Cornell's on the opposing end staring down their quarterback.link
Alabi's commitment was a shocker. And right down to the bitter end, there were still plenty of questions about whether he'd end up in the class when everything was said and done. But after sending in his paperwork on National Signing Day 2015, the Buckeyes might just have an under-the-radar gem.
The big versatile lineman (he could end up on defense or offense) hails from Cass Tech, home of Damon Webb and Mike Weber and a seemingly burgeoning pipeline from That State Up North to Columbus.
Even though he doesn't have the same hype as some of his classmates, Alabi is a member of the Elite '15 for a reason. And if any of his new teammates overlook him, he'll be in the mix for their spot on the depth chart.link
A.J. Alexander wasn't a name on the radar of even Ohio State recruitniks at this time last year, but now his inclusion in the 2015 recruiting class almost makes too much sense.
With the versatility to play wide receiver, tight end or his most likely destination, H-back, Alexander already has the physique to step onto a college football field. In his particular instance, the biggest adjustment will be learning the playbook and figuring out the speed of game.
Not all the major outlets have him as a four-star, yet the ceiling is awfully high for Alexander. And while he might not fit into the typical Urban Meyer tight end/H-back role, it's not out of the question that he eventually defines his own mold while in Central Ohio.link
Urban Meyer has something of a reputation as a master recruiter. Even if another prospect has pledged elsewhere prior, if Meyer and staff decide he'd be a fit with them, anything's still possible.
While Kevin Feder was the first prominent flip of the 2015 recruiting class, St. Ed's Alex Stump would follow suit the ensuing fall.
The big-time receiver prospect catches just about everything thrown his way. With great size and agility, Stump is a prototypical wide receiver and a great get for the Buckeyes. While he could've been one of the ones that got away, instead he's staying home to add to an already deep wide receiver corps.link
A number of insiders consider Jerome Baker the best player in Ohio State's class. And even if that's objectively hard to prove, he'll certainly be a good deal of Buckeye faithful's favorite when everything's said and done.
After initially spurning the Buckeyes in favor of the Florida Gators, the season-long turmoil at UF, coupled with Ohio State never giving up, culminated in a renewal of acquaintances. Ultimately Jerome Baker decided to do what was best for him and flip his commitment, electing instead to join a legacy of stout OSU linebackers.
Though his reclassification as an athlete in 247Sports Composite Rankings late in the process may have knocked him down a spot or two in positional rankings, there's no questioning the freakish athleticism that Baker brings to the table. And if you think about what Mick Marotti and Luke Fickell did with hidden gem Darron Lee, imagine the end product with Baker.link
Rashod Berry comes into the Buckeye program as a very lengthy prospect with a great build, standing at 6'5, 240 pounds. The three-star player is one of 12 prospects that the Buckeyes officially inked to their program who played high school ball in the state of Ohio.
Despite the efforts of programs like Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, and more, Berry went with his heart and decided on playing in Ohio Stadium while donning the scarlet and gray. It was running backs coach Stan Drayton who built a great bond with the Lorain, OH pass rusher.
Berry is a three-star player and it will likely be a redshirt season for him. It will be an opportunity for Berry to learn his position and get his body ready for the collegiate game. But the biggest question is, will he play on the defensive line or at tight end? The team lists him officially at tight end, so expect to see him begin his career on that side of the ball.link
The suspense and drama is finally over. Ohio State can rest easy knowing that it sealed up a long, tough recruiting battle for one of the most talented athletes in the class of 2015.
Torrance Gibson's recruitment has been followed closely for the past year (and beyond), and even with all of the ups and downs, he still remained a Buckeye. Because of it, Ohio State now has one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country and one of the best all-around athletes in its recruiting class.
While his position is not yet set in stone (and probably won't be until later on down the line), Gibson has the natural ability to fit in at multiple spots, including wide receiver, the Pivot role (think Jalin Marshall), or competing with Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones at quarterback.
Whatever his position is, coach Urban Meyer is the ideal person to utilize Gibson's talents wherever he will be the most successful. And that's nothing but good news for the Buckeyes.link
Joshua Norwood was very much a late bloomer during the recruiting cycle. It was the Cincinnati Bearcats who initially held the inside track to landing the 5'10, 175-pounder. However, once Kerry Coombs gained knowledge of Norwood, things quickly changed.
The Buckeyes were Norwood's first big-time offer during the recruiting cycle and it didn't take him very long to accept the opportunity. Just one month after presenting the Valdosta, GA prospect with a scholarship offer, Norwood took an unofficial visit to the campus and decided Ohio State was the place for him.
Yes, Norwood may only be a three-star player, but he is a player that the coaching staff is high on for good reason. Norwood is a ball hawk with great instincts and an aggressive playing style. While Ohio State has a handful of three-star players coming in, Norwood is one who is widely believed to be the "sleeper" of the bunch.link
Ohio State's young, but highly touted offensive line will get some powerful reinforcements next year with four-star guard Matthew Burrell. Hailing from Woodbridge, VA, Burrell is a 6'5, 305-pound beast who's ranked as the fourth-best player coming out of Virginia and the fifth-best offensive guard nationwide. And now he's joining one of the most effective offensive lines in the country.
Linemen may not be the sexiest signings, but quality depth here allows gems like Ezekiel Elliott to shine. With most of the Ohio State offensive line slated to return next year, Burrell will have time to work his way into the rotation and learn from guru Ed Warinner.
Burrell chose Ohio State over offers from Penn State and Tennessee. He's among the highest-ranked members of this recruiting group, and his signing will push this Ohio State class up the rankings.link
You can teach an offensive lineman technique. You can improve his conditioning, his awareness, his endurance, and more. But you can't teach an offensive lineman "big," and Ohio State's Branden Bowen has Big in spades.
The three-star offensive tackle is 6'7, 330 pounds, another one of the massive linemen prospects in this class. Meyer mined his Beehive State contacts from his time coaching the Utah Utes, and pulled Bowen away from Utah, BYU, Nebraska, Boise State, and others.
Bowen isn't a finished product yet, and will need to spend time in Ohio State's renowned conditioning program, but his celling is high. He's a massive load who should be able to swallow up rushers; he's extremely strong and was able to help push his high school team deep into the Utah playoffs, something that Meyer is known to love in his prospects. With Ed Warinner's expert-level ability to coach up linemen, Bowen could become a massive mainstay in Ohio State's linemen rotation soon.link
Buckeye Nation can thank Nebraska for Mirko Jurkovic. After letting Bo Pelini and his coaching staff go in December, the Cornhuskers pretty much gift wrapped the South Bend, IN native to Ohio State.
While he might not have received the attention and accolades as classmates Matthew Burrell and Isaiah Prince did throughout the recruiting process, Jurkovic is a huge piece to the Elite '15 and to the future of the Buckeyes' offensive line unit.
A high school tackle, don't be surprised to see the three-star prospect, and son of former Notre Dame and NFL offensive lineman Mirko Jurkovic Sr., make the switch inside to guard or maybe even center for the Buckeyes. He'll be in the mix for serious playing time very early on during his career in the scarlet and gray.link
Flat-out one of the best running backs in the class of 2015, Mike Weber adds power and overall athletic ability to Ohio State's roster after signing with the Buckeyes over Michigan.
Weber is the lone running back signed to this class, but that in itself says how the Ohio State coaching staff feels about his ability to run the ball. Weber fits in nicely with the stable of running backs the Buckeyes already have in Columbus, and he should be able to find himself some playing time provided he puts in the work during practice and fall camp.
Despite some last-minute drama when announcing his signing, Weber chose Ohio State over their arch rivals. Michigan signed another running back before Weber's announcement, which could have helped nudge his decision to honor his commitment and sign with the Buckeyes. Regardless, Weber is a fantastic cherry on top of what was a tremendous class of 2015, and excitement is already building for what this group of players will do on the field.link
Ohio State's flip of in-state defensive tackle Robert Landers is complete. Landers comes to Ohio State via the Huber Heights pipeline, following in the footsteps of some guy named Braxton Miller.
Landers is a matchup nightmare, coming in at 6'2 and 295 pounds. He's as tall as Michael Bennett and weighs more, so opposing offenses better take note.
Landers initially committed to West Virginia, but in December he re-evaluated his options and decided to stay closer to home with the Buckeyes. Landers is a three-star recruit, ranked as a top-50 defensive tackle nationwide and the 41st-best player in Ohio. We'll see what kind of mayhem he can cause next year potentially playing alongside Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa.link
It's great when Ohio kids sign with Ohio State, but it feels a little sweeter when a Central Ohio kid is able to suit up for the Men of the Scarlet and Gray. Defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton had a long road to get there, but he'll join the Buckeyes in their 2015 class and could be an exciting sleeper prospect for the future.
The Pickerington product originally committed to Ohio, Pitt, and later Kentucky, and also had an offer from Toledo. The three-star defensive tackle flew under the radar, until an absolutely monster senior season raised his profile enough to earn an offer from his hometown Ohio State Buckeyes.
Hamilton is big and athletic, but will probably need some time to season a bit before contributing to Ohio State. Given this coaching staff's record of developing young talent though, and Ohio State's depth at the position, that's fine. If Hamilton works hard in the weight room and with refining his technique, his motor could make him a steal at defensive tackle for the future.link
The recruitment of Damon Arnette was relatively quiet until the last couple of months. It was initially Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks who had the grip on the three-star prospect's pledge. After being chased down late by Jim Harbaugh and having Urban Meyer maintain constant contact, things started to heat up. It was ultimately the Buckeyes who impressed Arnette enough on an unofficial visit about one week ago.
The 6'2, 185-pounder is yet another piece for Chris Ash and Luke Fickell to work with on the defensive side. Arnette is an aggressive corner who won't mind sticking his nose in run support. He'll find himself in a crowded defensive back room as the Buckeyes continue to stockpile talent in the secondary.
Despite Arnette not being one of the highest-rated players that the Buckeyes have inked, do not count him out. He is a player who has potential to be one of those three-stars that comes to Columbus and impresses. We're sure Ohio State wouldn't mind Arnette having an impact like the last St. Thomas Aquinas prospect it added to the program -- Joey Bosa.link
Up until K.J. Hill's National Letter of Intent came into the hands of Ohio State's staff, the Buckeyes hadn't signed a true wide receiver prospect in the class of 2015. They solved that quickly with Hill's decommitment from Arkansas and his commitment to Ohio State on National Signing Day.
Hill was viewed as a long shot for the Buckeyes during much of his recruiting process, but with some help from former Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash and wide receivers coach Zach Smith, Ohio State was able to land one of the top playmakers in the nation.
Hill has the frame and look of some current star wide receivers and should be a great addition to a team that is filled with talent at the position from top to bottom. Despite that, don't be surprised if Hill is able to fight and earn himself some playing time on the field at some point. Urban Meyer and his staff have never been shy about putting young players on the field, as long as they've worked themselves into that role. Hill is definitely a player that fits that description.link
With a top-10 recruiting class already wrapped up, Ohio State pulled off another National Signing Day coup when it landed a commitment from offensive tackle Isaiah Prince.
A one-time Alabama commitment, Prince joined an elite 2015 recruiting class and became the sixth offensive lineman to sign with the Buckeyes. Highly sought after by his home state Maryland as well as Alabama, the addition of Prince at Ohio State can only mean good things for the future in Columbus. With time to develop under Ed Warinner, one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, Prince could become a household name by the end of his career.
For now, Prince gets to work with an incredible strength and conditioning coaching staff, including Mickey Marotti. With time and the right amount of work, Prince can mold his body into a fine-tuned machine that will help protect his quarterback and open up lanes for his running back teammates for years to come.link