COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer reached back to his days as a minor league baseball player to describe the football recruiting class Ohio State signed on Wednesday.
“Knocking it out of the park,” was the description OSU’s coach attached to the signing of 24 athletes to national letters of intent, including some who kept the Buckeyes in suspense until the final day.
“It was a great day. I thought it was going to be a very good day but I would put it in the great category,” Meyer said.
And he said that even before running back Ezekiel Elliott reaffirmed his commitment to Ohio State around 5 p.m.
“It was a very eventful day. We went to bed last night with three guys we were very on edge about. I thought if we hit one out of three, it would be all right. Two out of three would be a good day and three out of three would be knock it out of the park,” Meyer said.
The three late-decision recruits who pushed signing day to great from very good were safety Vonn Bell, wide receiver James Clark and running back/wide receiver Dontre Wilson.
Bell, rated one of the top two safety prospects in the country, called Meyer to tell him of his decision just before going on ESPN at 10 a.m. to make his announcement.
Clark, who was recruited hard by Florida, revealed his plans at 9 a.m. and Wilson, a former Oregon commitment, said he was coming to OSU on Monday night.
Signing Bell gave Ohio State five players rated in rivals.com’s top 50 — linebacker Mike Mitchell (26), Bell (32), athlete Jalin Marshall (35), defensive back Cam Burrows (39) and defensive lineman Joey Bosa (47).
Ohio State’s class was a consensus No. 2 nationally when several of the major recruiting service rankings were averaged.
Elliott, who Meyer called “our tailback of the future,” made Ohio State fans nervous by delaying his announcement until late in the day after making a recent visit to Missouri, where both of his parents were former athletes.
But Meyer said he was never concerned about getting Elliott’s signature on a letter of intent.
“There has never been an issue with Ezekiel,” he said after getting Elliott’s letter of intent.
Fifteen of Ohio State’s 24 recruits are defensive players. Thirteen are from out of state and several are from areas where Ohio State made inroads into unfamiliar territory. The only misses for the Buckeyes on signing day came when wide receiver Taivon Jacobs flipped to Maryland and punter Johnny Townsend went back on a verbal commitment to go with Alabama.
The Buckeyes’ coaches went head-to-head with the SEC to win several recruiting battles, including getting linebacker Trey Johnson and Bell out of Georgia. They also scored big in Texas, where they got quarterback J.T. Barrett, Mitchell and Wilson – all rated in the top 20 prospects in that state by Rivals.com.
“Now we go from the recruiting phase to the preparation phase to get them ready to play,” Meyer said. “We’re going to recruit guys and get them on the field as soon as we can, as soon as they’re ready.”
Co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who did much of the recruiting in Texas, cautioned against thinking the new recruits will all get a lot of playing time immediately, though.
“We’ll see. To say that we’re going to rely on all these guys, as excited as we are, certainly would be putting our eggs in the wrong basket. First and foremost, I think we have to spend this off-season developing the guys who are here and teaching them how to be better at what we want them to be better at,” he said.
Meyer also mixed a little caution with his excitement. “It remains to be determined how this class will be remembered,” he said.
How it will be remembered will play out on football fields next year and beyond. But until then Wednesday will be remembered as one of Ohio State’s best signing days.
Ohio State Class
J.T. BARRETT: 6-2, 205, quarterback. Wichita Falls, Tex. Rider. Four stars rivals.com and scout.com. Rehabbing from knee surgery after fifth game of senior season. Passed for 1,600 yards and rushed for 1,500 as a junior. Already enrolled at Ohio State.
TYQUAN LEWIS: 6-3, 225, linebacker/defensive end. Tarboro, N.C. Four stars rivals.com and scout.com. Thirteen sacks as a senior. Team won three consecutive state titles. Already enrolled at Ohio State.