Urban Meyer’s career at Ohio State came to an end last January following the team’s Rose Bowl victory, but the legendary coach’s impact on the program in Columbus is still being felt a year later with what could wind up being the program’s best team in its storied 130-year history.
Among the many ways Meyer impacted the program as he ushered in the golden age of Buckeye football, none were greater than his elevation of Ohio State’s presence on the recruiting trail from historically good to annually elite.
His 2013 class, which featured the likes of Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Vonn Bell, and seven total NFL first-round draft picks, will likely always be the highest standard, and it played a large role in Ohio State bringing home the 2014 national championship.
As the 2019 Buckeyes head to Indianapolis on Saturday, undefeated and ranked first in the College Football Playoff rankings, it’s another spectacular class signed by Meyer that has them poised to win it again.
Meyer’s 2017 recruiting class featured 21 players and ranked as the second-best class in the country behind Alabama according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. The class included five players ranked in the top 25 overall and 11 players ranked within the top 100 recruits in the entire class.
But recruiting is far from an exact science, and how those recruits ultimately pan out is impossible to fully project. And that is where the 2017 class has moved from great to special in 2019 as many of the players have become household names this season as Ohio State rolled through its regular-season schedule.
Chase Young, who ranked as the seventh overall recruit in the 2017 class, has developed into the most dominant defensive player in the country, earning legitimate Heisman Trophy consideration and topping almost everyone’s big board for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Jeff Okudah, the top-ranked defensive back in the 2017 class, has elevated himself to likely first-round status as well as a finalist for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.
J.K. Dobbins came to Ohio State as the second-best running back in the class, and all he has done is become the third-highest rusher in program history behind Archie Griffin and Eddie George while running for nearly 1,700 yards this season.
Guard Wyatt Davis and center Josh Myers, each ranked first or second at their position in the class, have paved the way for Dobbins’ monster season, and both figure to garner All-American recognition next season.
In addition to those five, defensive back Shaun Wade, who ranked as the second-best cornerback in the class behind Okudah, has evolved into an indispensable resource in the defense because of his versatility. And with the likely departure of Okudah, along with Damon Arnette’s graduation, Wade will be expected to flourish next season in a primary role as he makes his own case for being a first-round draft pick.
While that group represents the star power of the class, several more have carved out integral roles for a team that is well-positioned to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016.
Baron Browning and Pete Werner’s vastly-improved play at linebacker has been crucial in turning around a defense that was largely responsible for keeping Ohio State out of the playoffs last season.
Left tackle Thayer Munford has battled some injuries but has been solid for a dominant offensive line.
Ryan Day’s impact on the program has been immense this season, particularly in retooling the staff, avoiding the devastating landmines that have derailed recent seasons, and, in general, breathing new life into a program that, for all its success, had become stale in ways.
Day deserves all the respect and praise that has come with the 15-0 start to his head-coaching career. He has also proven to be an elite recruiter in his own right, starting with luring Justin Fields to Columbus, and, in all likelihood, will have many of his own classes in the future that classify as special.
But make no mistake about it, Meyer’s fingerprints are still very much all over this team. Led in large part by his 2017 recruiting class, Meyer’s lore at Ohio State might still have one final assist to be added.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.