Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
OSU assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers did not know what school Vonn Bell, a five-star safety from Rossville, Ga., would sign to play for on Wednesday. Withers did, however, make a request to Bell’s head coach from Ridgeland High School, Mark Mariakis, on Tuesday night.
“I said, ‘Coach, if it’s going to be a good phone call, make sure (OSU) coach (Urban) Meyer gets it. If it’s going to be a bad phone call, just call me,'” Withers said he told Mariakis.
Meyer said he received a call from Bell, whose recruitment Meyer called a “street fight” with Tennessee and Alabama, two minutes before Bell announced his decision to become a Buckeye in a televised press conference.
Bell was one of 19 recruits who faxed their letter of intent to OSU on Wednesday – National Signing Day – joining five already enrolled members of a 2013 recruiting class that ranks among the nation’s best.
“It was a great day,” Meyer said. “I thought it was going to be a very good day, but I’d put it in the great category.”
Most of the players who signed Wednesday had already made verbal commitments to OSU, but Meyer said he came into the week with three targets not yet committed to the Buckeyes: Bell, James Clark and Dontre Wilson.
Wilson, a running back/wide receiver from DeSoto, Texas, who had previously committed to Oregon, announced his verbal commitment to the Buckeyes on Monday. Clark, a wide receiver from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., committed to OSU on Wednesday. Wilson and Clark are both rated as four-star recruits by both Scout.com and Rivals.com.
The final recruit to fax his letter of intent Wednesday was Ezekiel Elliott, a running back from St. Louis, Mo., who became the 24th official member of the recruiting class when he reaffirmed his commitment during a 5 p.m. press conference Wednesday.
Elliott is also considered a four-star prospect by Rivals and Scout.
Bell, Wilson, Clark and Elliott are among the 13 signed recruits in the Buckeyes’ 2013 recruiting class from outside the state of Ohio. Ten of those recruits were players who signed their letters of intent Wednesday, also including tight end Marcus Baugh (Riverside, Calif.), defensive lineman Joey Bosa (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), offensive lineman Tim Gardner (Indianapolis), defensive lineman Michael Hill (Pendleton, S.C.), linebacker Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas).
Three of the Buckeyes’ five early-enrollees – cornerback Eli Apple (Voorhees, N.J.), quarterback J.T. Barrett (Wichita Falls, Texas) and defensive end Tyquan Lewis (Tarboro, N.C.) – are also from outside Ohio.
The Buckeyes also have 11 signed recruits from within the state of Ohio, including nine who signed Wednesday: athlete Gareon Conley (Massillon), athlete Darron Lee (New Albany), offensive lineman Evan Lisle (Centerville), wide receiver Jalin Marshall (Middletown), defensive lineman Donovan Munger (Shaker Heights), defensive lineman Billy Price (Austintown), wide receiver Corey Smith (Akron), defensive back Jayme Thompson (Toledo) and safety Christopher Worley (Cleveland). Cornerback Cam Burrows (Trotwood) and defensive end Tracy Sprinkle (Elyria) enrolled earlier this semester.
OSU took advantage of a national footprint in this year’s recruiting, with seven recruits from states along the eastern seaboard, three from Texas and one each from Indiana, Missouri and California. Meyer, however, said the coaching staff’s focus is still on the state of Ohio.
“We recruit Ohio,” Meyer said. “I would rather get, probably, another three or four from the in-state from now on.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said being associated with Meyer and OSU is a recruiting advantage throughout the nation.
“It’s not challenging when you go 12-0 and Urban Meyer’s your head coach and you’re wearing the Block ‘O’ on your shirt,” Herman said. “Those three things certainly help you (in recruiting).”
With their 24 commits, which is one scholarship below the limit of 25 for the recruiting class, the Buckeyes’ recruiting class is ranked No. 1 nationally by Scout and No. 2 nationally by Rivals as of Wednesday night. The Buckeyes have two five-star recruits, 16 four-star recruits and six three-star recruits, as rated by Rivals.
Meyer said the Buckeyes were “just trying to find the best players possible,” but added that there was an emphasis on finding players with speed.
“This year was a concerted effort to go find fast guys,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the coaching staff emphasizes finding players who are ready to contribute immediately as freshmen.
“Really, we don’t redshirt here at Ohio State,” Meyer said. “We want to go recruit guys that are ready to go jump in the fire and want to go play as soon as they can.”
With that said, Herman emphasized that the coaching staff should focus first on developing returning players before counting on immediate contributions from their recruits.
“To say that we’re going to rely on all these guys, as excited as we are, would certainly be putting our eggs in the wrong basket,” Herman said.