Buckeyes Sign 25, Still Room for One More Under 82 Limit
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As it turns out, Urban Meyer can count after all.
When Ohio State landed Signing Day commitments from two key players—Cleveland Heights offensive tackle Kyle Dodson and North Carolina linebacker Jamal Marcus—it looked like the Buckeyes were going to be oversigned for their 82 scholarship limit.
Head Coach Urban Meyer
Photo by Dan Harker
On a normal year, the Buckeyes could get all the way to 85 without an issue, but Meyer has to work around NCAA sanctions that dock Ohio State three scholarships for each of the next three seasons.
That doesn’t mean he is suddenly going to ignore the Big Ten’s rule about oversigning, or his own for that matter, just to make up the difference.
“I've never oversigned,” Meyer said Wednesday evening during his National Signing Day press conference.
“At Florida we never oversigned. Obviously we didn't do that here.”
There have been five known departures among underclassmen since Meyer took over at Ohio State back in November. Quarterback Taylor Graham, defensive Jeremy Cash and fullback David Durham have all left or will leave of their own accord. Meyer dismissed cornerbacks Dominic Clarke and DerJuan Gambrell for violating team rules.
Subtracting those five and adding the 25 new names to the roster—including Dodson and Marcus—would put the Buckeyes at 84 scholarships, two over their NCAA limit. The fact Meyer says they are not oversigned means at least two more players have left the program or are on their way out.
“At some point in the near future I'll give you that. I don't have that in front of me,” Meyer said about further departures.
In fact, not only are the Buckeyes not currently oversigned, they are actually undersigned for the total scholarship limit.
“I think we're at 81 right now,” Meyer said.
“I think we have room for one more.”
One more would put the Buckeyes at 26 players in the class of 2012, but that is permissible under NCAA, and Big Ten, rules because six of the players can be counted towards last year’s class after enrolling at Ohio State in January.
Those six—Cardale Jones, Michael Thomas, Bri’onte Dunn, Jacoby Boren, Josh Perry and Tyvis Powell—are joined by 19 others in a class that many are proclaiming as one of the best in the country.
Meyer is not ready to go that far without seeing this group of players up close in a Buckeye uniform.
“I don't want to give the opinion that it’s a home run. We'll evaluate that,” Meyer said.
“We signed a class one year, I heard a reporter say it's the greatest class in the history of football. Half of them aren't there any more. You just don't know.”
There were plenty of things Meyer did like about the class of 2012, starting with his new trio of defensive ends—Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence and Se’Von Pittman. He also mentioned his two new offensive tackles—Dodson and Taylor Decker—along with the five linebackers Ohio State signed on Wednesday.
While only 10 of the commitments in this class were Meyer’s, he got most of what he wanted and needed across the board. That includes a quarterback and two tailbacks, but there is still one thing missing from the class.
“Speed at the skill,” he said.
“I would say some of the things we like to do offensively, you're going to hear us talk—we want the defense to defend the width and length of the field. There's only one way to defend the width, that's flat speed. We've tried it. There's no other way that you can make a defense defend the entire width of the field.”
The Buckeyes did land three wide receivers in this class—including Lakeland, Fla. product Ricquan Southward, but they are still lacking that dynamic playmaker on offense that Meyer wants as the focal point of his offense alongside Braxton Miller.
“In our offense, we're still lacking that game-changer that you can hand the ball to speed-wise,” Meyer added.
“I think we got some bigger guys, but we're still looking for a difference maker in one of those 10.4 100 meter guys that can change the game.”
Fortunately for Meyer, there are still two of those kids who are not only available, but also interested in Ohio State. Arizona wideout Davonte Neal and Maryland athlete Stefon Diggs both held off from announcing their decisions on National Signing Day.
Both fit the mold of what Meyer is looking for and both have interest in Ohio State. Neal visited Columbus in mid-January and watched OSU’s basketball team blast Indiana 80-63. Diggs visited two weeks later and took in the Buckeyes’ basketball win over Michigan at Value City Arena.
Neal is scheduled to take another visit to Arizona, but it is rumored that Meyer and his staff would like Diggs, who is also looking at Florida and Maryland, to be the 26th and final member of their recruiting class.
“That's something we're still actively recruiting because we have one spot available,” Meyer said.
“Is there any difference? I don't think so. I know you can't visit them. It's quieter. Well, I think it is dead. It's unlimited calls for 48 hours after. I have to make sure I know those rules because I've never done that.”
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