With Urban Meyer having retired as Ohio State football coach in January, we analyzed his seven recruiting classes to look for trends ahead of another National Signing Day.
But how do they compare to those of predecessor Jim Tressel, who replaced John Cooper in 2001?
We took a look at that and for good measure Meyer’s recruiting at Florida along with Cooper’s years on the job (beginning in 1988) for added perspective.
1. Yes, they approached in-state recruiting differently.
Although Cooper was known as the first coach to make Ohio State a truly national recruiting program, his signees still came from the Buckeye State 59.5 percent of the time (163 of 274).
Although he was known for emphasizing Ohio in recruiting, Tressel’s classes averaged only a tick more Ohio-ness at 60.4 percent (134 of 222).
Meyer went the other way.
After 58.7 percent of Meyer’s recruits at Florida were in-state signees, only 40.6 percent of his OSU signees (69 of 170) came from Ohio, including 12 of 47 the last two years.
2. What about Florida?
This became an interesting subplot as soon as Meyer took the Ohio State job because, his connections from coaching in the Sunshine State aside, both Tressel and Cooper got the majority of their out-of-state recruits from Florida already.
Cooper signed 23 players from Florida in 13 years, or 1.8 per year.
Tressel signed 24 players from Florida in 11 years (2.2), while Meyer signed 18 Floridians in his seven years.
That average of 2.6 is higher than Tressel’s mark, but Meyer signed more players per year overall than Tressel.
In terms of percentage of signees from Florida, Tressel actually edged Meyer 10.8 to 10.6.
3. Meyer cast the widest net.
Meyer’s seven Ohio State recruiting classes drew players from 27 different states, surpassing Tressel (20) and Cooper (22) in fewer years.
Aside from Florida, Meyer’s top out-of-state talent suppliers were Texas (10), New Jersey (seven), Georgia (six), New York (six), Virginia (six) and Indiana (six).
Tressel was most successful in Pennsylvania (14), Georgia (8), Michigan (6), Indiana (5) while nabbing four signees apiece from Illinois, Maryland, Texas and California.
Cooper signed 14 Californians, 10 Michiganders and eight players from New Jersey.
4. Cleveland led the way for both Tressel and Meyer.
No city sent more players to Ohio State than Cleveland during the time of Tressel, a Berea native who brought in 19 Buckeyes from the city.
Meyer and Cooper both signed 11 Cleveland natives as well, though Cooper did so in six more years, and his top city was Columbus with 17.
The story of Tressel’s time at Ohio State can’t be told without a chapter on Glenville High School in Cleveland. A 17-player pipeline began with Troy Smith in 2002 and continued through Cardale Jones, who was part of Tressel’s last Ohio State recruiting class and Meyer’s first after spending a semester at Fork Union Military Academy.
Meyer kept it going with five more Tarblooders, including current New Orleans Saints standout Marshon Lattimore.
A different Cleveland high school topped Cooper’s list: St. Ignatius. He signed six Wildcats while snagging four apiece from Columbus Brookhaven, Canton McKinley, Columbus DeSales, Cincinnati Moeller, St. Henry and Westerville South.
5. What about Cincinnati?
A former University of Cincinnati defensive back and St. Xavier High School assistant coach, Meyer was supposed to improve Ohio State’s recruiting in the Queen City and surrounding area, which has tended to be more competitive than the rest of the state for the Buckeyes.
It did not really work out that way.
His average of 1.3 Cincinnati signees per year edged Tressel (1.2) but is a tad lower than Cooper’s mark of 1.4.
Eight Meyer signees list Cincinnati as their hometown (including Thayer Munford, who finished at Massillon), but Tressel and Cooper combined to sign 13 players from the quartet of Lebanon/Hamilton/Middletown/Lakota West while Meyer signed one (Jalin Marshall of Middletown).
6. Meyer recruited the Dayton area less.
Six players from the Dayton area —two from Wayne, one each from Trotwood-Madison, Centerville, Miamisburg and Butler— signed with Ohio State during the Meyer era, an average of 0.9 per year.
Tressel and Cooper signed 17 and 18 players from the Dayton area, respectively, to average 1.5 and 1.4 per year.
The first two also went all over the area, including Troy, Piqua, Beavercreek, Xenia, Bellbrook, Alter, Sidney, Springfield (South), Chaminade Julienne, Waynesville and Urbana plus four Dayton Public Schools prospects.
All three Ohio State coaches signed at least two players from Wayne and at least one from Centerville.
7. The last two Ohio State coaches both loved their defensive backs.
Tressel and Meyer both signed more DBs than any other position — 37 and 33, respectively.
The defensive line was No. 2 for both, too, as Tressel signed 33 and Meyer 30.
Cooper signed more linebackers (46) than any other position, but it was close. He brought in 45 defensive linemen, 44 offensive linemen and 43 DBs.
8. Tressel and Meyer differed on offensive line recruiting.
Veterans of Ohio State recruiting message boards will recall Tressel’s offensive line recruiting was the a regular source of consternation.
Despite his old-school approach, Tressel was reluctant to tie up too many scholarships on the offensive front. He signed only 2.6 offensive linemen per year, well below Cooper’s average of 3.4.
Meyer, who ironically left an uncertain situation behind at the position, avenged 4.1 offensive linemen per class.
9. What about attrition?
Here is the biggest example of the changing landscape of college football programs and players over the past 30 years: The transfer rate for Meyer so far is 22 percent, up three points from the Tressel years and 15 points higher than the Cooper years.
Given how many of his signees are still on the roster, the natural turnover that tends to accompany any coaching change and nationwide trends, Meyer’s rate is pretty much certain to go up, too.
Related: 33 percent of Cooper’s signees used their eligibly up without ever becoming a starter, a figure that dropped to 14 under Tressel. At this point, that is only true of two percent of Meyer’s signees, though that also has a high potential to change over the next three years.
10. So, who signed better classes?
Tressel was a good recruiter, but Meyer was better.
(Rankings were less uniform during Cooper’s era, but his classes regularly received high marks from various analysts across the country.)
While Tressel’s classes checked in with an average of around 10th in the country (rankings vary a little the farther back we go), Meyer never signed a class at Ohio State ranked lower than ninth, and Meyer’s Ohio State average of 3.4 bettered also what he did at Florida (No. 8).
While casting a wider net helps and Meyer is known as a relentless recruiter who emphasize talent acquisition in building a program (while expecting his assistants to do the same), this is also where spots created by all those transfers come in handy.
Meyer, who it should be noted also averaged 2.6 NFL draft early entries per year compared to 1.3 for Tressel and 1.1 for Cooper, took advantage by bringing in 24.3 recruits per class.
That is about 20 percent more per year than Tressel’s average (20.2) and 13 percent more than Cooper (21.1) while also one more signee per year than he averaged at Florida, where he typically signed smaller classes than most of his competitors in the SEC.