Urban Meyer’s prowess as one of the nation’s top recruiters is well known, and he’s putting together another top class for 2014.
According to ESPN.com, the Buckeyes have the No. 9 class in the nation, which includes seven Top 300 recruits. The class is heavy on defensive talent, loaded with speed and has multiple members ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions.
In the end, the Buckeyes could land the best overall recruiting class in the conference. But Meyer’s rival to the north, Brady Hoke of Michigan, has done a better job bringing in names at the very top of the national rankings. And he could be adding another blue-chipper toward the end of the season.
At the moment, Ohio State’s well-rounded class is headed by four-star cornerback Damon Webb, ironically out of Detroit. Webb is ranked as the No. 35 player overall by Scout.com and is No. 58 according to ESPN’s rankings. Going off of both sites, he’s a top-10 cornerback nationally.
Hoke and the Wolverines, though, have already landed the crown jewel at that position in five-star corner Jabrill Peppers out of New Jersey, ranked as the second-best overall prospect in the country by ESPN.
At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Peppers already has the size desired out of an NFL prospect.
ESPN only lists 14 five-star recruits in the 2014 class. Peppers, who committed to Michigan in late May, was one. The Wolverines are close to adding a second in Virginia product Da’Shawn Hand, the No. 4 overall prospect and top defensive end in the nation.
Hand, like Peppers, already possesses NFL Draft-caliber size for his position at 6-foot-4, 262 pounds. Hand is scheduled to officially visit only three schools before making his decision, which is expected to come Nov. 14 — Michigan, Florida and Alabama, in that order.
The Wolverines hosted Hand during their game with Notre Dame two weeks ago, taking advantage of the all-time record crowd and night-game atmosphere. He reportedly came back impressed. The fans at Michigan Stadium also got into it once he was spotted on the sideline.
“The fans, they had a little chant going, which was crazy,” Hand told ESPN.com. “ ‘We want Da’Shawn’ is what they were chanting. That was really cool, that was my favorite part of the trip.”
Hand will visit Florida on Oct. 5 and Alabama on Nov. 9. He’s keeping much of his opinion from each visit under wraps.
“It was a good visit. You know I’m not going to give out too much,” he said. “In all my schools that I have, Florida and Alabama, I know they’re all going to be good schools, too. So I can’t wait to see what they have to offer.”
Ohio State’s putting together another fantastic recruiting class. But if Hand skips out on the southern schools to go to Michigan, Hoke will nab his second ace and another player who could make an immediate impact as a freshman next season.
The 2015 class, obviously in its infant stages, is shaping up in a similar way.
Michigan already has a commitment from four-star athlete George Campbell, the No. 3 overall player in that class.
And the top junior prospect in the country, defensive end Jashon Cornell out of St. Paul, Minn., was present for the Notre Dame-Michigan game and came away impressed just like Hand.
“We all thought it was crazy that they had Beyonce on the big screen and Eminem and all the famous people. It was like the Super Bowl,” Cornell said. “All the recruits thought it was special, too, because that’s the last time they will play each other there.”
Meyer has previously spoken about the importance of recruiting top defensive linemen. The Wolverines are zeroing in on adding the best defensive ends to come out of high school over the next two seasons.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.