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National signing day: Ohio State lands bumper crop of talent

COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer needed to get away. As time ticked away on Wednesday morning and Ohio State had not yet heard from safety recruit Vonn Bell, OSU's anxious football coach headed to the treadmill to work off some nervous energy and "to get away from our coaches. Poor Everett Withers was driving me nuts."

Signing-Day-Ohio-Stat Sidd

Vonn Bell, a Ridgeland High School safety, is congratulated by his peers after he announced that he is signing with Ohio State University during a news conference on national signing day Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, in Rosslbe. Ga. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dan Henry)

Moments later, Meyer's cell phone rang with Bell on the other end of the call, just prior to announcing his decision on ESPN.

"He said, ‘You know I'm in, right?' " Meyer said.

A chest bump with Withers later, and Ohio State had the clean sweep it hoped for but didn't anticipate heading into national signing day.

With the signing of five-star recruit Bell, four-star receiver James Clark and four-star athlete Dontre Wilson, Ohio State finished strong in a 24-man recruiting class that is ranked among the top three in virtually every scouting service out there.

Ezekiel Elliott's announcement late Wednesday afternoon that he would sign with Ohio State and not with Missouri, as rumors were persisting, was the icing on the cake for Meyer & Co.

"It was a great day," Meyer said. "We thought it was going to be a very good day, but I'd put it in the great category."

So would Scout.com , who ranked OSU's class first overall, as well as Rivals.com and 247Sports, each of whom ranked OSU's class No. 2 nationally, and ESPN, who ranked the class No. 3.

The clean sweep on Wednesday was the reason why.

Getting Bell, Clark and Wilson — three of the most dynamic playmakers at their respective positions — catapulted OSU's class across the board.

"We went to bed (Tuesday) night with three guys on the edge as far as where we're at," Meyer said. "I thought if we hit one out of three, we'd be all right. Two out of three would be a good day. Three out of three was going to be knock it out of the park.

"We hit three out of three."

When word came down shortly after 5 p.m. that Elliott was sticking with the Buckeyes and not going to Missouri, where his parents went to college, Meyer's "out of the park" turned into a grand slam.

"He's our tailback of the future," Meyer said of Elliott. "There was never an issue (over a possible switch to Missouri)."

Ohio State's recruiting class is a mix (11 offense, 13 defense). Fourteen of the recruits are from outside of Ohio, with 10 coming from the Buckeye State.

The common thread is speed and the ability to make plays.

The headliners on offense are most notably the aforementioned Clark (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), Wilson (5-10, 174) and Elliott (6-0, 210), who should help OSU stretch the field horizontally and vertically. Receiver/slotback Jalin Marshall (6-0, 190) also falls into that category.

"We just didn't have enough make-you-miss guys on offense," Meyer said. "We wanted to get some playmakers. We got two sub-10.5 players coming in. That's kind of our benchmark from here on out. ... Big plays are a problem for us. Dontre, Jalen and James Clark are three guys we'd put in that category."

Plenty of playmakers were brought in on defense, too. It's a good thing, since Ohio State has to replace six of its front seven (Ryan Shazier being the only exception) and a defensive back.

Meyer singled out defensive linemen Joey Bosa (6-5, 270) and Billy Price (6-4, 305), linebackers Trey Johnson (6-2, 220) and Mike Mitchell (6-4, 225), and the defensive backfield trio of Eli Apple (6-0, 184), Cameron Burrows (5-11, 200) and Bell but said no one position received more emphasis than others.

"Really, all positions," Meyer said. "We were a little bit light on defense. I think we answered a lot of our concerns."

The one area at which Ohio State didn't hit as hard as it wanted was the offensive line. The only signees there were Tim Gardner (6-5, 320) and Evan Lisle (6-6, 290).

As of late Wednesday, verbal commit Johnny Townsend, a punter, had not yet signed a letter of intent with Ohio State. That could be because of a numbers crunch at Ohio State, with the program being limited to 82 scholarships (from 85) because of NCAA sanctions, or because of Townsend wavering.

"Just a complicated thing right now," Meyer said of the punting situation. "Concerned."

But Meyer said OSU still could add a player to this class, presumably Townsend. OSU doesn't have to be at the NCAA-mandated 82 scholarship players until fall camp opens in August.

Meyer termed the limit of scholarship "awful" and "horrible," saying Ohio State had to pull off would-be recruits because of the restrictions.

But after the haul Ohio State reeled, complaints were few at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Wednesday.

"Statistics show one out of three (recruits) don't make it," Meyer said. "Another turns out to be OK. Average. One out of three turns out to be maximized, whatever he's capable of.

"We're on a mission to change that."

2013 OHIO STATE RECRUITING CLASS

Name Pos. Hgt. Wgt. Hometown

Eli Apple* CB 6-0 184 Voorhees, N.J.

J.T. Barrett* QB 6-1 225 Wichita Falls, Texas

Marcus Baugh TE 6-4 245 Riverside, Calif.

Vonn Bell S 6-1 190 Rossville, Ga.

Joey Bosa DL 6-5 270 Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Cam Burrows* CB 5-11 200 Trotwood, Ohio

James Clark WR 5-11 170 New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

Gareon Conley ATH 6-2 170 Massillon, Ohio

Ezekiel Elliott RB 6-0 210 St. Louis, Mo.

Tim Gardner OL 6-5 320 Indianapolis, Ind.

Michael Hill DL 6-2 305 Pendleton, S.C.

Trey Johnson LB 6-2 220 Lawrenceville, Ga.

Tyquan Lewis* DE 6-3 223 Tarboro, N.C.

Darron Lee ATH 6-2 205 New Albany, Ohio

Evan Lisle OL 6-6 290 Centerville, Ohio

Jalin Marshall WR 6-0 190 Middletown, Ohio

Mike Mitchell LB 6-4 225 Plano, Texas

Donovan Munger DL 6-3 290 Shaker Heights, Ohio

Billy Price DL 6-4 305 Austintown, Ohio

Corey Smith WR 6-1 180 Akron, Ohio

Tracy Sprinkle* DE 6-2 241 Elyria, Ohio

Jayme Thompson S 6-2 185 Toledo, Ohio

Dontre Wilson ATH 5-10 174 DeSoto, Texaso

Christopher Worley S 6-3 195 Cleveland, Ohio

* — Enrolled at Ohio State in January

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