By Rusty Miller
COLUMBUS: It’s not the same as a victory on the field. Yet having a nationally ranked recruiting class is almost as important to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
“I hear people say it’s not important,” Meyer said Wednesday on the first day athletes could sign up to play major-college football. “I disagree. As long as you’re keeping score we’re going to try to win. I’m disappointed we weren’t the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.”
The Buckeyes had to settle for No. 3 in the country according to most of the experts.
Meyer and his staff were seeking reinforcements at several thin spots — principally linebacker and offensive line — and were pleased with what they got.
“There is a correlation between how teams do and where your recruiting class is ranked,” said Meyer, 24-2 through two years at Ohio State after winning two national titles at Florida. “But certainly that’s not the final product because you’ve got to coach and develop them after you get them here. But we do pay attention to [the national recruiting rankings].”
Ohio State locked up 23 players, including four linebackers, five offensive linemen and four wide receivers. The Buckeyes needed help at all of those positions, since top linebacker Ryan Shazier left a year early for the NFL Draft, the line loses four senior starters and the leading receiver is also graduating.
Perhaps the biggest get was Raekwon McMillan, a 6-foot-2, 249-pound brute out of Georgia who some scouting services called the best linebacker in the nation.
“Every time I visited Ohio State I felt it was the place for me,” said McMillan, who chose Ohio State over several powerhouses including Clemson, which beat the Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl. “Everything about it was great. Coach Meyer, the coaching staff is one of the best in the nation and I really like working with these guys.”
Meyer has been unhappy with his linebacker play. He clearly took a step toward changing that by also bringing in Ohio Associated Press Mr. Football Dante Booker Jr. out of LeBron James’ high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary, along with Kyle Berger from Cleveland St. Ignatius and Sam Hubbard of Cincinnati Moeller — three of the top prep programs in the state.
Johnnie Dixon, a fleet wide-out from West Palm Beach, Fla., said he hoped to step right in and play.
“I’ve just got to work hard,” he said. “Nothing is ever given to you. Depending on how hard you work, it’s there.”