COLUMBUS: Were it not for NCAA-mandated dead periods, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his staff likely would never rest when it comes to recruiting. But in this three-week respite, that ends in two days, the coaches have had a chance to catch their breath, especially since their 2014 class is all but completed.
“All indications are that by the time the last week of recruiting season gets here, for Ohio State it likely will be a matter of waiting on the decision of maybe one or two guys,” recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts.com said.
Those decisions are from defensive end Solomon Thomas of Coppell, Texas, and possibly defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi of Virginia Beach, Va. Both have late official visits still to make — Thomas to Ohio State the last weekend of this month — before making their choices.
But the Buckeyes already have 21 commitments, and the class is rated No. 2 nationally behind Alabama by Rivals.com. Seven of those players already are on campus, led by the only Rivals five-star prospect in the group, inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
The others on campus are offensive linemen Kyle Trout and Marcelys Jones, quarterback Stephen Collier, receiver Johnnie Dixon, athlete Curtis Samuel and kicker Sean Nuernberger.
“There just aren’t many spots left [in the class], but landing No. 5 defensive end Solomon Thomas would be the perfect way to cap off another elite class from Urban Meyer,” said Jeremy Crabtree, senior writer for ESPN’s RecruitingNation. “Thomas would bolster depth at defensive end and do it with one of the nation’s best players.”
He also could serve as a barometer on how the departure of defensive line coach Mike Vrabel to the NFL’s Houston Texans last week could affect the class.
So far, there have been no defections by defensive commitments who might have been attracted to being coached by a three-time Super Bowl champion.
“I think Vrabel’s departure will hurt them down the stretch in terms of their attempts to land guys like Solomon Thomas, Malik McDowell (a defensive end from Southfield, Mich., whom the Buckeyes are trying to flip from Michigan) and Derrick Nnadi,” said Marc Givler, analyst for BuckeyeGrove.com. “That will be something they will need to overcome on upcoming visits.”
In the past week, the Buckeyes offered a scholarship to Ready offensive lineman Brady Taylor, who has been committed to Virginia Tech for some time. Meyer appears to have made it a priority to sign five offensive linemen, and Ohio State has four.
The signing period opens on Feb. 5.
Assistant coaches added
Meyer went to the American Football Coaches Association convention in Indianapolis this week intent on filling the two holes on his Ohio State defensive staff, and did so, grabbing Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash and longtime Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, a high-level OSU source confirmed for the Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday afternoon.
Meyer had no comment when reached, since the deals have not been announced formally. But that should come in short order.
How the two new hires will be shuffled into the defensive staff that includes two-year coordinator Luke Fickell and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs remains to be seen, though Ash was thought to be hired as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
Meyer of course was not pleased with a defense that was torched by the pass at different times through the season, but especially in the last three games – the narrow win over Michigan, the loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and the loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
In the interim, co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers left to become head coach at James Madison, and last week defensive line coach Mike Vrabel suddenly accepted the linebackers job with the NFL Houston Texans under their new head coach Bill O’Brien, formerly of Penn State.
Johnson, 61, had been expected to be a major candidate for the PSU head coaching job, but was passed over for the second time in three years as the Nittany Lions hired James Franklin away from Vanderbilt. Franklin offered Johnson a position on the new staff but Johnson announced Monday that he was going to move on and seek an opportunity elsewhere.
Known for being a stout recruiter and also tutor of high-achieving defensive linemen, Johnson was sought out by Meyer. They reportedly worked out a deal earlier Tuesday after talking for a long period Monday afternoon and evening. Details of the proposed contract are not yet known.
Ash, who went with head coach Bret Bielema from Wisconsin to Arkansas a year ago, not only fits what Meyer wants to see more of from his defense, he’s even starred in a DVD about it. It’s titled Aggressive 4-3 Defense: Shutting Down the Passing Game.