Ohio State wrapped up most of its 2018 recruiting class in December, but Urban Meyer saved plenty of action for the traditional National Signing Day.
Nicholas Petit-Frere gave the coach of the Buckeyes something to smile wide about Wednesday morning when the five-star offensive tackle from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep announced he will wear scarlet and gray next season.
“Everybody in the country is looking for the tall, athletic elongated guys that can bend and they're hard to find,” Meyer said. “That’s why they're paid so well in the NFL because those body types are hard, hard to find. And you throw a 3.8 GPA on top of that, a very intelligent guy, a very mature guy, and he's a great finish to that class.”
He is the No. 3 player in Florida, No. 7 overall and the highest-rated player at his position in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
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His commitment also makes up for the biggest disappointment of the early signing day in December — Fairfield offensive tackle Jackson Carman surprisingly deciding to sign with Clemson instead of Ohio State or USC.
Before Petit-Frère’s announcement, Ohio State received letters of intent from New Jersey defensive end Tyler Friday, California receiver Chris Olave and Cleveland Heights defensive end Tyreke Smith.
Before noon, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, another New Jersey defensive player who could play end or linebacker, sent in his letter to close out a 26-player class.
Here are things to know from National Signing Day at Ohio State:
1. As great as Ohio State’s class looks on paper, it did not end up the No. 1 class in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Ironically, some bad news for Michigan hurt Ohio State’s chances to finish on top. Georgia flipped four-star linebacker Otis Reese, who had verbally committed to Michigan, on signing day to move past the Buckeyes.
“I have fun with the No. 1 class,” Meyer said, referring to previously acknowledging winning recruiting national titles is among his goals. “I don't want people to think that's what we recruit for, it's not at all. It's something we keep an eye on. At Ohio State you should — The coaches here have always recruited very well. If you can't recruit at Ohio State, you're not very good recruiter.”
Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan class was ranked 19th as of this writing.
2. Meyer confirmed Greg Schiano will remain a member of his staff.
Reports earlier in the week indicated Schiano would become the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, but he ultimately decided to stay in Columbus.
“He's essential to our program right now, Coach Schiano,” Meyer said. “If he is not my best recruiter, he's certainly right there near the top. He manages so much for me off the field as well as being one of the top defensive coordinators in America. And he's a relationship person that — he's not one of those coaches that knows his position or that side of the ball and that's it, he knows every one. Because he's been a head coach before. So a very valuable member of our staff as many of the guys.”
Schiano, who maintains deep recruiting connections in New Jersey after spending 10 seasons as the head coach at Rutgers, was considered a key component in the recruiting of Petit-Frere and Jean-Baptiste.
3. Gene Smith confirmed Meyer is getting a contract extension.
Two years will be added to the coach’s current deal, which is set to run out after the 2020 season. It has not been approved by the board of trustees, but that sounds like a formality.
Smith and Meyer both made it sound like the extension is more procedural than anything else. Typically coaches prefer to have their contracts run beyond the end of the current four-year recruiting cycle to prevent opponents from using that against them when wooing top talent.
4. Meyer said he was shocked when he found out Kerry Coombs is leaving for the NFL.
The fiery defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator took a job with the Tennessee Titans after six years in Columbus with Meyer.
“That took my breath away a little bit,” Meyer said. “Kerry is dear friend. Him and Holly are — for the rest of our lives will be very close. He was instrumental in our success we have had here. Great Ohioan, a great person. And I was shocked when he did that, but he's a friend and we obviously wish him all the very best.”
The blow from his exit is softened to some extent by the hiring of Alex Grinch, the former defensive coordinator at Washington State. His background is in coaching defensive backs (as is Schiano’s), but his exact title and responsibilities have not been determined yet.
Meeting with reporters for the first time since Grinch was hired, Meyer said he had targeted the northeast Ohio native before the season when he knew he was likely to be able to expand his staff by one this year.
5. Ohio was not well-represented.
Signing Smith left the class with five Ohioans — Wayne receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith, Toledo St. John’s linebacker Dallas Gant, Westerville South slot back Jaelen Gill and Pickerington North athlete Alex Williams signed in December.
That’s the lowest total and lowest percentage (19) of Ohioans in an Ohio State recruiting class since at least 1985.
The previous low was the previous class. Meyer’s 2017 class had seven in-state signees out of 21 (33 percent).
Since 2013 (Meyer’s first full-year class), Ohio State has signed 54 Ohioans out of 146 players, a percentage of 36.9.
The previous two coaches — Jim Tressel and John Cooper — signed classes that averaged 60.4 and 59.5 percent Ohio natives, respectively.