By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the Big Ten is becoming more and more competitive in recruiting when he talked about Ohio State’s 25 new football recruits on National Signing Day on Wednesday.
“They’re recruiting their tails off. The Big Ten is on fire,” Meyer said.
But, as usual, there was probably no bigger inferno on Signing Day in the Big Ten than Meyer’s own incoming class.
As he spoke, 247Sports ranked Ohio State’s recruits No. 4 nationally, one spot ahead of Michigan, and ESPN.com had OSU No. 5 and Michigan No. 6. When all the numbers are sorted out, the Buckeyes could rank even higher.
“Our staff went out and grinded. We had to replace some very good players. It’s a great day for us,” Meyer said.
“I’ve just seen a couple of the rankings and rankings aren’t important. But as long as you’re keeping score, we like to do the best we can. What I look at, even more than the rankings, because some people have 30 in their class andsome people have 25, is the average.
“I think that’s kind of appealing to me to know that we’re one of the top teams in the country as far as quality of player,” he said.
Ohio State is bringing in five offensive linemen, five defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three tight ends, two linebackers, two wide receivers and one quarterback, one running back, one hybrid back, one “athlete” and one punter.
Defensive lineman Nick Bosa is a consensus five-star recruit and 15 others in the class were rated four-star recruits.
Ohio State lost 16 starters off last year’s 12-1 team, including nine underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft, a number Meyer admitted was two higher than he expected.
The opportunity for recruits to play early could be more likely next season than it is most years. Meyer said he hopes 18 of the 25 recruits see the field on offense, defense or special teams.
Bosa, the younger brother of Joey Bosa, is that rare five-star recruit who is regarded just as highly by the coaches as he is by the fans.
The younger Bosa had surgery for a torn ACL late in his senior season at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas but is expected to be ready to play this fall.
“He’s playing. He looks fantastic. He’s a little ahead of his brother at this time,” Meyer said.
“It’s probably not fair to him to say that. But that’s a standing offer for the Bosa family if they decide to have more children along their journey, they have a scholarship offer,” he said.
With cornerback Eli Apple and both safeties, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, declaring for the NFL draft, the defensive backfield is obviously an area where young players could have a chance to play.
That makes cornerback Jordan Fuller possibly one of the standouts in the Buckeyes’ recruiting class. Fuller, a four-star recruit, committed to Ohio State on Monday.
Meyer called Fuller “a big get.”
His commitment, along with flipping two former Maryland recruits – quarterback Dwayne Haskins and linebacker Keandre Jones – made a very good OSU recruiting class even better.
Ohio State also made a rare reach into the junior college ranks to get Malcolm Pridgeon, 6-foot, 8-inch, 325-pound offensive tackle from Nassau (N.Y.) Community College.
There will be three new starters on OSU’s offensive line and Pridgeon could compete for one of those positions.
“We don’t recruit a junior college guy to sit,” Meyer said. “He has some work to do in the classroom yet. We hope to get him in here in June and have him compete for a starting spot.”
Meyer said he hopes there are similarities between this year’s recruits and the 2013 recruiting class, which produced six of the nine players leaving early for the NFL and several more who will start in 2016.
“Yeah, I really do. But every coach in the country is walking up to the podium saying how great their class is. The next phase of all that is development,” he said. “Everybody has good classes. But some guys pan out. Some guys don’t.
“Why is that? We take great pride in the fact that now the work starts. And the work starts immediately,” Meyer said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.