Early Commits Short on Fanfare, Long on Talent
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was no hat ceremony for Jalin Marshall on Wednesday, no live announcement on ESPN. In fact, there wasn’t much fanfare at all for one of the biggest stars in Ohio.
The Middletown quarterback, who was recruited to play the hybrid slot role at Ohio State, had faxed his signature to Urban Meyer before breakfast. He was done for the day and attention immediately shifted to Signing Day commitments like James Clark and Vonn Bell.
The Buckeyes landed both of them, by the way, and afterward Meyer had a nice little celebratory chest bump with safeties coach Everett Withers. He was the primary recruiter who helped Meyer land one of the most highly-coveted prospects in the country, and it happened right in front of our eyes on the big stage.
He might have saved his chest bumping for National Signing Day, but there is no doubt Meyer was just excited last January when he first landed a commitment from one of the cornerstones of Ohio State No. 1-ranked 2013 class.
“I think Jalin Marshall is a young man that if he was a guy that wanted to play the game and wait till signing day to put the eight hats out there, he could have whatever many amounts of hats he wanted,” Meyer said of the 5-star prospect (according to Scout.com).
“He made a decision because he loves Ohio State, wants his family to watch him play, and I think he's one – I don't think – everybody knows he's one of the finest players in the country. And he's even an a better person.”
Marshall was actually the second player to join this historic recruiting class, following in the footsteps of 4-star defensive back Cameron Burrows out of Trotwood-Madison High School near Dayton.
Together, they were probably the two most talented players in the Buckeye State in the 2013 class. Burrows was the first to commit on Jan. 19 of last year, and he was one of the first to enroll at Ohio State.
He and fellow cornerback Eli Apple were among five players from the class who enrolled at OSU in early January – Tracy Sprinkle, Tyquan Lewis and J.T. Barrett being the other three. Like Burrows, Apple is rated as a 5-star prospect (according to ESPN), giving the Buckeyes a dynamic combo at corner that went largely unnoticed during all the National Signing Day festivities.
“I think we have two corners that if they didn't early commit would be as good a corner as there are in America,” Meyer said.
“And that's Eli Apple and Cam Burrows, and they're doing a fine job for us right now.”
Burrows was an instrumental recruiter for the Buckeyes even before he arrived on campus. He was constantly texting and tweeting at other potential recruits right up until the Under Armour All-American Game, when he was down in Florida with guys like Trey Johnson.
Another early commit who normally would have been one of the most talked about players in the class was quarterback J.T. Barrett. When was the last time a quarterback signed with the Buckeyes and wasn’t the focal point of the class?
The dual-threat quarterback from Wichita Falls wasn’t even the most talked about player from his state – the Buckeyes also landed linebacker Mike Mitchell and running back Dontre Wilson out of Texas – but he was a big get for Ohio State when he committed back in April.
“When he did the Elite 11 and some of the feedback we got from him, if he didn't hurt his knee, “ Meyer said, “if he didn't early commit, he would be another guy we'd be scratching and clawing and have a parade for him if he would have come on signing day.”
And the list goes on. The Buckeyes had 11 guys committed to play for Meyer and his staff before they even got past the month of April, and that doesn’t include guys like Alex Anzalone who ended up slipping out the back door.
“Joey Bosa, without question, one of the best players in the country, and a guy that committed early,” Meyer continued.
“The other guy, Billy Price. Billy Price is 6-4, 305 from Austintown Fitch High School. He would have been one of those guys that put nine hats out there, that he would have thrown the Ohio State hat, there would have been a big celebration around here. We believe he's that good of a player and that good of a person.”
The one area of concern for Meyer in the 2013 class was the offensive line, where the Buckeyes ended up taking only two guys. They looked at a few others down the stretch, but that is a position that will have to addressed – and addressed heavily – in the 2014 class.
That doesn’t mean they came away empty-handed,
“Evan Lisle turned out to be – he's probably the most improved,” Meyer said of the tackle who committed to OSU last February.
“He's a guy we had to really think about taking, his development, and he comes from a great high school, Centerville High School. I talked to some coaches who coached him down in the All-American Bowl, one of the most improved players. Started over some other big-time athletes.”
Lisle was the starting right tackle for the East squad down in San Antonio, but the one guy who Meyer keeps coming back to from the early commits is that dynamic young quarterback out of Middletown.
Especially for the way he handled himself during the recruiting process when he could have been one of those guys who made everyone wait and watch to see what he was going to do and where he was going to go to school.
“I think Jalin Marshall is as good as there is in America,” Meyer said this week.
“He's the guy that I just have a great relationship, we all do, have a great relationship with him and his family. They're first-class people. I would rather recruits do it the way he did it, but can you imagine Ohio State University and the state of Ohio and Buckeye Nation if he would have waited and put on a hat?
“That would have been a great day. Because we think he's certainly if not the best player in Ohio, one of them.”
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