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Recruiting Success Has a Last Name: M-E-Y-E-R

What began as a run of the mill class for Ohio State has evolved into one of the top five classes in the country under the direction of new coach Urban Meyer. The facts speak for themselves:

Before Meyer? 13 commits prior to 11/22/11, a period of 17 months.

After Meyer? 12, in a period of nine weeks. This is as many commitments on 11/22 or later as Ohio State has had in the last three years (’09-’11) combined.

Before Meyer? An average of 3.39 stars per player.

After Meyer? 4.0 stars per player.

Before Meyer? A class ranked in the 20’s nationally, according to ESPNU’s Quint Kessenich.

After Meyer? A class ranked 3rd by Scout.com, 4th by Rivals.com, 5th by 247sports.com, and 6th by ESPN.com.

Even more impressive is the fact that in college football, an abbreviated first recruiting period often lends itself to a lower recruiting class ranking in year one. Meyer’s first class in Gainesville was ranked 15th, followed by 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 11th, and 2nd, respectively, according to Rivals.com’s year-by-year team recruiting rankings. If that pattern retains its shape in Columbus, expect “Titletown, USA” to have a new home.

And how about the fact that Meyer is credited this season with “flipping” six players who were previously committed elsewhere?

While historical “fringe stats” such as this are not kept on file, that has to be some sort of “irritate your competition” record, no? Steve Wiltfong, national recruiting reporter covering the Big 10 for 247sports.com, says it’s no fluke. “Urban works as hard or harder than any coach in college football. Some coaches say they’re the closer. Meyer is the starter, the middle-relief ace, and the closer.”

How does Meyer compare to recent other big name faces in new places?

Butch Davis at North Carolina opened with the #31 class in his first class of 2006 before climbing to #9 in ’09. Bill Snyder, the only coach who has won consistently in Manhattan, Kansas in this generation, capitalized on the excitement of his return with a class ranked #27 in 2008, but has managed to win with some sub-top 50 classes since. Steve Spurrier opened with less fanfare, with a class ranked #35 in 2004, yet over time has improved the reputation of Gamecock football and today the typical South Carolina class is between #15-20.

Urban Meyer has been called the best recruiter in the nation. To serve as an assistant to him, one must be willing to spend countless hours, days, and months travelling around the midwest and the country in search of the nation’s top talent. Nine hour car trips. Overnights in towns you’ve never heard of. Red-eye flights that even Visine can’t correct.

That is the expectation for employment and performance at The Ohio State University under new head coach Urban Meyer. It’s an internal drive that’s led Meyer on a journey to a 104-23 career record, including 7-1 in bowl games and two national championships. It’s also one that’s brought him to a virtual collapse, chest pains, near blackouts, hospital visits, and a resignation for health and family reasons at an uncommon age (46).

But Meyer is now refreshed and reinvigorated. He knows to challenge the present SEC domination in college football, the SEC athletes must be matched by those in Columbus. After all, “If you’re not a good recruiter, you have no value on our staff,” Meyer said.

Meyer was officially introduced as the next coach of Ohio St. on 11/28, and online reports confirming Meyer’s decision began to be leaked on 11/22. Adolphus Washington, who committed to the Buckeyes on 11/22/11, went so far as to mention Meyer in his announcement.

Meyer, seemingly, is in a class accompanied by he, Nick Saban, and nobody else. Certainly, Ohio State and its football program has recovered about as nicely from the indiscretions of Terrelle Pryor, Jim Tressel and company as possible. An interesting dichotomy is forming among college football fans. Those who can’t stand when the same powerhouse teams win big every year (this author raises hand), and those who love the traditional powers returning to their rightful perch on the top of the college football landscape, believing that it truly is in the best interest of the sport.

And with Meyer at the helm, the typically cloudy climate of Columbus seems poised for some sunshine. Pressed in an “on-the-spot” question as to whether Ohio State has a crystal ball in its future under Meyer, Wiltfong didn’t hesitate. “I do think they will (win a national title). Absolutely.”

Marc Ryan is a sports talk radio personality in Pensacola, Florida. You can follow him on Twitter: @marcryanonair.

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