COLUMBUS — The next class of college football recruits can’t make their pledges official for another nine months, and already a creeping sense of angst has infiltrated the Ohio State message boards.
FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2013 file photo, Ohio State football players train in the strength and conditioning room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)
The question: Where is everybody?
By this time of year, each of the Buckeyes’ last seven recruiting classes included at least six commits who later signed with OSU. In 2009, they had 13 in the fold — two less than Alabama has now for its 2015 class.
But this year is an oddity. Ohio State has only two commits — and one of them, Eric Glover-Williams, a four-star athlete from Canton, reportedly could have his scholarship offer pulled after raising a series of red flags.
Recruiting analysts say it is too early for fans to worry. Ohio State’s position is neither ideal nor entirely surprising, given the blue-chip national recruits coach Urban Meyer is chasing — and historically has landed. Per Rivals.com, seven of Meyer’s past eight classes at Florida and Ohio State ranked among the top four in the country.
Among those thinking hard about attending OSU next year include five-star Florida quarterback Torrance Gibson, five-star Kentucky running back Damien Harris, and near-every top Ohio prospect.
“I think there is some angst with fans, but if you look at Urban Meyer’s track record, there’s not really a lot to worry about,” said Bill Kurelic, a recruiting analyst for Bucknuts.com and 247Sports.com. “The players they are going after just aren’t making their decisions yet. They’re not going after the good players, they’re going after the phenomenal players.”
Rivals analyst Marc Givler agreed.
“I’m kind of on the fence right now,” he said. “When this class started to be put together and you saw the names on the board, you would have thought maybe [Ohio State] would have five or six commitments by now. But this was never going to be a class that filled up early.
“They’re in on a lot of national guys. With Torrance Gibson and Damien Harris, those guys are going to take this all the way into January. The targets are still out there. They’re not committing to other schools, they’re just not committing anywhere. I know the staff does not care about numbers right now.”
Still, OSU fans are forgiven for feeling uneasy during a recruiting cycle that has yielded few positive headlines. One former commit, Florida safety Ben Edwards, flipped his pledge to Auburn earlier this month, while smoke continues to surround the heralded Glover-Williams. The Canton Repository reported in January that Glover-Williams’ offer was in danger of being pulled as OSU coaches explored unspecified “off-the-field issues,” then wrote last week of a “relatively serious altercation” between the McKinley quarterback and a teammate at school.
That leaves Jamel Dean, a three-star defensive back from Cocoa, Fla., as the Buckeyes’ only sure commit.
Analysts expect the Buckeyes to land several commitments by midsummer, giving them a foundation of prospects to help recruit the rest of the class.
OSU hopes one of them is four-star New Jersey quarterback Brandon Wimbush, a 6-foot-2 pro-style passer who many believe will choose between the Buckeyes and Penn State after visiting Columbus next month. Gibson — a 6-foot-4 dual threat rated by Scout.com as the nation’s No. 14 overall prospect — lists OSU among his favorites but has said he will not commit until taking all five allotted official visits in the fall.
On Twitter last week, Buckeyes director of player personnel Mark Pantoni wrote, “All great recruiting classes must have a QB as the leader to put the class together.”
For now, though, the canvas remains blank, which would lead some schools to the ledge but Meyer and his staff back on the road. Few coaches close better than Meyer, who has secured 21 prospects within a month of signing day over the last three classes.
“The big-time programs don’t worry about [the numbers] much until September and October because that’s when a lot of the big names come off the board,” Givler said. “I still think Ohio State has a great chance to land a top-five class.”