Most recently, Meyer’s class in 2013 looked strong on signing day and on the field, producing legendary players on both sides of the ball and several contributors to the school’s eighth national championship.
Eleven years earlier, Tressel took advantage of a historically loaded in-state class by putting together a class that would make him and Ohio State fans proud on signing day and 11 months later in Tempe, Ariz.
Several 2002 signees played major roles on the team that upset Miami (Fla.) in the Fiesta Bowl and won the BCS national championship, as was the case with the ’13 class and the ’14 team that won the first College Football Playoff title.
Cooper walked into a bit different situation when he was hired in 1988. Recruiting rankings weren’t as refined as they are today, but there was a general belief (shared and expressed by Cooper himself) the roster he inherited wasn’t quite up to Ohio State standards.
His first recruiting class was largely thrown together on the fly after he was hired to replace Earle Bruce, but Cooper’s second was a consensus top 10 group nationally that included a half-dozen NFL players and three from Dayton-area high schools.
Here is a summary of all four classes:
Ranked No. 4 (Tom Lemming)
14 from Ohio (58 percent)
Starters? 13 (54 percent)
Drafted? 5 (21 percent)
Won national title? No
Locals: William Houston (Trotwood-Madison), Dante Lee (Meadowdale) and Tim Williams (Waynesville)
Notable: Raymont Harris, Roger Harper, Alan Kline, Alonzo Spellman, Mark Williams and Steve Tovar played in the NFL. Tovar led the team in tackles three times and was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 before playing eight seasons in the NFL, including six with the Bengals. He is in the OSU hall of fame.
Got away? Myron Bell of Toledo Macomber signed with Michigan State, played eight seasons in the NFL, including two with the Bengals and the rest with the Steelers
Buster Stanley of Youngstown East signed with Michigan, played in the NFL and NFL Europe
Dana Stubblefield of North Bend Taylor signed with Kansas, 1997 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Carlton Gray of Cincinnati Forest Park signed with UCLA, spent nine years in the NFL
Notable: Maurice Clarett, Bobby Carpenter, Doug Datish, T.J. Downing, Santonio Holmes, Nate Salley, Rob Sims, Troy Smith
All of the four from our coverage area played in the NFL with Hawk and Mangold being first-round picks who had standout careers. Hawk was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and is in the OSU Varsity O Hall of Fame.
Clarett spearheaded the national championship team but ran afoul of the NCAA and played only one season.
Smith won the Heisman Trophy. Holmes was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII.
While Ohio State cleaned up in Ohio, Tressel memorably lost a pair of Floridians he was thought to have a good shot at — Fort Myers receiver Richard Washington (who ended up at North Carolina State) and Daytona Beach linebacker Buster Davis (Florida State).
Oddity: The intense Ohio flavor of this class led to the assumption Tressel’s recruiting would heavily tilt toward in-state prospects. However, the only other class with such a high percentage of Ohioans was the 2003 class that had only 15 players, including 12 from Ohio.
When all was said and done. Tressel’s recruits were 60.4 percent from Ohio, less than a point higher than Cooper, who was frequently criticized for not recruiting the state enough.
It turned out a major factor in Tressel signing so many Ohio prospects in his second year was just how loaded the state was, history that might repeat early in the Day era, too.
Notable: Eli Apple, J.T. Barrett, Vonn Bell, Joey Bosa, Gareon Conley, Ezekiel Elliott, Darron Lee, Billy Price.
Barrett was a record-breaking quarterback. Elliott finished his career No. 2 on the career rushing list. They both won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football. Price was a four-year starter who won the Rimington Award as a senior. Bosa was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Got away? Pickerington North tight end Jake Butt and Pickerington Central defensive end Taco Charlton became standouts at Michigan. Legacy linebacker Mike McCray II of Trotwood-Madison also signed with the Wolverines and was a captain in Ann Arbor, as his father was in Columbus for the Scarlet and Gray.
Oddity: Ohio has not been known for churning out many stud quarterback recruits recently, but the state had two four-stars this year in Alter’s Malik Zaire and Mentor’s Mitch Trubisky. Zaire went to Notre Dame and had a promising career derailed by an injury before transferring to Florida while Trubisky ended up at North Carolina and was the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft two years ago.