Regarding Ohio State’s seemingly sluggish start in the 2015 football recruiting cycle, coach Urban Meyer had a “What, me worry?” look a few weeks ago.
“I’m not that concerned,” Meyer said then as the Buckeyes sat with a mere three commitments. “I think we’re a little bit behind, but nothing to panic about.”
Today, the Buckeyes have 10 pledges to the 2015 class, and have picked up two commitments for 2016. NCAA rules forbid college coaches from speaking about specific recruits until letters of intent have been signed or players have enrolled early, but there’s no doubt OSU’s recruiting is gaining momentum.
“There were a lot of critics of Ohio State’s class a few weeks ago,” said Jeremy Crabtree of ESPN.com’s RecruitingNation. “But those that follow recruiting and know how Urban recruits, it was easy to see the Bucks were in a good spot with a lot of kids and were just waiting to make a run.”
That run could be on the verge of picking up some five-star recruits in the next week or so. Justin Hilliard, the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the country according to Rivals.com, has said he plans to make his college choice known a week from today. The Cincinnati St. Xavier senior is expected to choose from among OSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Iowa and Alabama.
And there is a chance Hilliard could bring company in the form of some friends. There are rumblings that Hilliard could be the key piece in a package that includes five-star running back Damien Harris, a former Michigan commit from Berea, Ky., and Jashon Cornell, a defensive end from St. Paul, Minn.
“Landing Hilliard would be significant,” said Crabtree, whose ESPN300 has Hilliard ranked No. 1 among outside linebacker prospects. “Not only is he one of the top 15 players in the country, but it sends a signal to everybody else that Ohio State isn’t going to let anybody march into Ohio and steal away the state’s top players.”
Quality seems to be the name of the game for 2015; Meyer indicated it will be a small class, probably only 14 or 15 players. By comparison, Alabama has 19 commitments thus far and Penn State has 17 to lead the Big Ten.
“We’re being very cautious,” Meyer said. “I’m not a big early commitment guy; I never have been. … I think you ought to be able to watch your senior season and recruit. I think we are going to have to accelerate our game a little bit, because some people are sort of forcing our hand.”
This is the last season in which the Buckeyes have to operate under a limit of 82 scholarships. The NCAA cut three from the normal 85 for three seasons as one of the sanctions for NCAA violations under Jim Tressel.
Meyer said the Buckeyes have felt the impact.
“I’m the special-teams guy — that’s where you really feel it,” Meyer said. “Then you start having injuries. ... I feel much better knowing that after (this coming season) we will be at 85.”