Bill Rabinowitz ?and Tim May
COLUMBUS: In a couple of weeks, Urban Meyer will go on vacation — the calm before the norm.
This year, unlike in 2012, he will leave with confidence that both his football team and something even more important are in good shape.
Earlier this week, Meyer was one of several Columbus sports figures, including Blue Jackets executive John Davidson and OSU athletes-turned-broadcasters Kirk Herbstreit, Eddie George, Chris Spielman and Clark Kellogg, who participated in the “Morning Sports Report” breakfast at the Ohio Union.
Last June, Meyer was full of questions about his first Ohio State team and about his family’s adjustment after moving from Florida. The Buckeyes, of course, went 12-0. His wife, Shelley, and son, Nate, also adapted well.
“I feel much better” this year, Meyer said. “What I really feel better about is, my family is settled. That was a really difficult move for my wife and my son. That means more to me than the football team. They love Columbus and are ready to go, but last year at this time was not very smooth.”
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from having direct involvement in their players’ preparation for the season during the summer. But head strength coach Mickey Marotti keeps Meyer informed.
“About injuries and attitudes, absolutely I keep tabs on it,” Meyer said. “Every coach in America does. You can’t be there, but I’m there [mentally].”
Meyer said that backup quarterback Kenny Guiton suffered a hand injury recently. Meyer said he didn’t know the severity, but his tone indicated that it probably was a minor one. Last summer, running back Jordan Hall suffered a foot injury when he stepped on glass outside his apartment, so coaches always have their fingers crossed at this time of year.
Meyer said Marotti has told him “real positive things” about the incoming freshmen.
“We’re fast, which is something I wanted to be,” he said. “[It appears we] get some more speed on offense, in particular. I hear great things about them.”
The same goes for the whole team, based on Marotti’s observations.
“I’ve heard all positives,” Meyer said. “I really trust my strength coach. We’ve been together a long time. I love my players. It’s going very well.”
Meyer confirms punter
Meyer confirmed the signing of Australian punter Cameron Johnston.
“We needed a punter,” Meyer said. “Because of our scholarship reduction [from 85 to 82 because of NCAA sanctions], we didn’t have one available in February.”
That’s when the expected signing of punter Johnny Townsend fell through. Meyer said he tried to persuade Townsend to enroll as a walk-on, but the punter decided to accept a scholarship at Florida.
Subsequent transfers of linebacker David Perkins and defensive lineman Se’Von Pittman of Canton McKinley, who is expected to land with the University of Akron, created room.
“We had a scholarship come available, so I made the decision we needed to go get a punter,” Meyer said. “To find one of this caliber, from what everybody is telling me, is hard to imagine. But he hasn’t punted in a game, either.”
Latest blue chipper added
There has been no swoon in June for the Ohio State football recruiting effort. The Buckeyes picked up yet another blue-chip prospect in offensive lineman Jamarco Jones, their fifth pledge in the past 11 days.
And Jones echoed one of the primary reasons used by the other four — quarterback Stephen Collier, receiver Terry McLaurin, defensive end Jalyn Holmes and kicker Sean Nuernberger — in picking the Buckeyes.
“They can push me to become a better player and person,” Jones said during his announcement at his high school, Chicago De La Salle, Thursday afternoon.
At the same time, the commitment of the consensus four-star (out of five) prospect helped boost the Buckeyes in the recruiting rankings. Before this latest spate of pledges, the 2014 Ohio State class was ranked No. 13 in the country by 247sports.com and trailing Michigan, which was No. 4. The revised standings as of Friday showed OSU No. 3, behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Texas A&M, and Michigan had slid to No. 7.
The Jones pledge greased that OSU-Michigan dynamic because his final three included those schools and Michigan State.
“There’s no doubt this is a major win for Ohio State, and certainly a boost to the Buckeyes’ offensive line recruiting,” Bucknuts veteran recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic said. “Jamarco is the highest-rated offensive linemen they’ve landed in recent years (No.?4 among tackles according to 247sports; No. 13 according to rivals.com).
“Couple that with the fact offensive line is a major priority in this class, and that makes his commitment a huge plus for Ohio State.”
Jones is the third offensive lineman in the 14-member class that includes Kyle Trout of Lancaster and Marcelys Jones of Cleveland Glenville, also four-star prospects according to 247sports. And Kurelic said he thinks the Buckeyes still have a shot at changing the mind of junior-college lineman Jermaine Eluemunor, who committed to UCLA.
Jones, on the other hand, left no doubt about his choice.
“I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at Ohio State,” he said. “It just felt right.”