Just as my mother use to remind me as a kid, patience is a virtue. It's a virtue, however, that Buckeye fans wish they could go without learning right now on the recruiting scene.
Back in February, fans were on top of the world. Meyer and the staff had resurrected a mediocre 2012 class and finished in the top five recruiting rankings nationally. Not only was Meyer able to flip a handful of players from rival schools, but he made a major splash in the national recruiting scene grabbing prospects from all over the country.
With all that success in such a short period of time, the perception nationally and throughout Buckeye Nation was that Meyer would dominate the 2013 class. That perception quickly grew into wild expectations after Meyer quickly nabbed the three best players in Ohio in Cameron Burrows, Jalin Marshall and Billy Price. Many fans were ready to believe Meyer would not only lock down the Buckeye state from the rest of the Big Ten, but that he and the staff would have their pick of players in this class and moving forward.
While the Buckeyes have added two more excellent players in Eli Woodward and Evan Lisle since then, Buckeye fans have watched a lot of good players in Ohio and in the Midwest heading elsewhere. In fact, a large percentage of those players have gone to Michigan and now Notre Dame. Guys like Jake Butt, Malik Zaire, Dymonte Thomas, Jacob Matuska, Logan Tully-Tillman, Chris Fox, Hunter Bivin, DeVeon Smith, Michael McCray, Colin McGovern, and others are now off the board. The culmination of all those guys committing elsewhere has also started to created some uneasiness as to what is going on in this class. Why does there appear to be a mass exodus of top-tier Ohio talent? Are Meyer and the staff recruiting properly? Were expectations too high after the 2012 class?
While there may be some concerned fans in Buckeye Nation, I want to give you some things to think about. The sky is not falling and the Buckeyes' recruiting outlook is still just fine. Let's take a look...
We also have to face the reality that this team is very talented in the underclassman ranks. Seriously, go back and look at the last two classes. While there are some spots where the staff desperately wants to add depth and more talent, there are many positions that this team is already very loaded at. With immediate playing time not available at those spots, some guys will look elsewhere. Even if the staff didn't have talented underclassman or limited scholarships, which they do, there are way too many good players in Ohio and in the Midwest for Ohio State to get them all anyways.
2) Remember how long it is until signing day. We currently sit over 10 months away from signing day. There is still a long way to go and a lot of players still on the board. Recruiting isn't a sprint, it is a marathon, and it is obvious Meyer and company view it as such. Personally, I appreciate the strategy. While it was nice to have the security of locking up the best Ohio talent early on under Tressel, it also meant compromising the national recruiting draw to Ohio State to an extent.
The current staff has locked up the best 3-4 players in the state, but aren't going to fill the rest of the class with three and four star Ohio guys at this point. No offense to Taco Charlton, Malik Zaire, DeVeon Smith or Michael McCray, but there are better guys out there in my opinion. There are better guys that the staff has positioned themselves in a good place with and have a great shot at. If the Buckeyes want to be faster, stronger and legitimate national title contenders, recruiting with patience at the national level is a necessity.
3) Don't underestimate Meyer's national focus and draw. I'm guessing that some of you at this point are thinking something like this: "That sounds great, but what happens if we get burned nationally?" It's a valid concern. Over the last decade we can provide plenty of examples of guys that spurned the Buckeyes at the last minute only to commit elsewhere. From Anthony Davis to Seantrel Henderson, Ohio State fans know that heartache.
There are two rebuttals to that argument and line of questioning. First, I think the difference moving forward is Meyer's focus and intensity in recruiting out-of-state players. If you haven't noticed that already you need to catch up on what is going on in the Buckeye recruiting world. Meyer has tons of offers he's given out nationally, and is relentless pursuing players well beyond the boarders of Ohio in a way Tressel never did. He's not hinging the entire class on one or two guys at position either, which was part of the reason Tressel did get burned on occasion. Meyer is after dozens of out-of-state guys at each spot and fans will see the results in the end. A perfect example is on the offensive line. Four or five of the names on Ohio State's radar have already departed to Michigan and Notre Dame, and the staff still has four or five more they are in the hunt with.
Second, Meyer is a very good salesman, both in personality and image. Let's face it, Tressel didn't want to tell the national players what they wanted to hear. Bottom line, if you wanted to be a Buckeye you would chose Ohio State. That's definitely honorable, but isn't going to get many players to come to Columbus that don't live in Ohio or have Ohio ties. Now I'm not suggesting that Meyer lies to recruits or is a snake oil salesman, but I think he does actually try to sell the program a bit more and has a personality that resonates with top tier talent. It also doesn't hurt that he has been incredibly successful, which sells top recruits by itself.
4) Wait to see what happens after the Spring Game and Friday Night Lights. This goes back to No. 2 - be patient! The staff has a couple of their best recruiting events still on the horizon. The spring game is already drawing a crowd and has some big time players attending. I think you will see a lot of momentum start to build from that point on. Then there is Friday Night Lights, which has served as Meyer's top recruiting leveraging tool. At Florida, he not only was able to assemble some of the best talent the country had to offer on campus, but on multiple occasions grabbed a couple of elite players following the event. FNL is still a foreign concept to Buckeye fans, and this year should prove to show everyone just how powerful of a recruiting tool it is.
So while panic is starting to creep onto the message boards and Twitter status' of many Buckeye fans, there is no need to feel uneasy. Meyer is a seasoned recruiter, who is arguably the best in the business, and will bring in a solid class to Columbus. In fact, I fully expect the Buckeyes to have one of the highest average star ratings on signing day of in anyone in the country. While numbers may hinder the "team ranking" some of the recruiting services give OSU, this will be a talented class. While watching Michigan load up early might freak some fans out now, we have to step back and see the big picture.