This is not how the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State is supposed to end.
Regardless of your opinion on the matter, the Buckeyes decision to put Meyer’s career in Columbus on hold, a little more than a week after he had to announce the termination of long-time wide receivers coach Zach Smith, puts a large gray cloud over what has been a sterling six-year run at helm of Ohio State.
What happens from here with Meyer’s job and the immediate future of the Ohio State football program? There’s no way to know.
It feels, I don’t know, wrong to be talking about — or writing about — recruiting at a time like this, when so many people’s lives are being thrown into turmoil. Still, that’s the nature of this profession and as I wrote last week: the show must go on.
Ohio State has, at the time of Meyer’s paid suspension — and let’s call it what it is — the country’s eighth-ranked recruiting class and once again is setting the Big Ten standard, as they’ve done every recruiting cycle since Meyer’s ballyhooed arrival in November of 2011. Now, the Buckeyes program finds itself in an incredibly unenviable position, forced to considering replacing a second legendary head coach in seven seasons, and for the second time being forced to consider that under a suffocating cloud of scandal.
And Ohio State has to try, without any idea of what the plans for a long-term head coach would be, to secure its current crop of commitments at the start of a recruiting dead period with just one full day left before the 2018 football season was set to officially kick off in Columbus. The next few hours and days will be pivotal as the remnants of Meyer’s staff are forced to face the prospects they’ve recruited, and their families, even though they’ll do so with far more questions of their own than answers. They’ll also do it without Urban Meyer’s steady hand guiding the ship.
Where do the Buckeyes go from here? Who sticks and who doesn’t? Again, these are big questions but again — right now — there aren’t answers. You’ll no doubt see movement and decommitments, though. You’ll see players who had been seriously considering the Buckeyes, in both 2019 and 2020, back away from their interest as they wait to see what the next move made by Ohio State is.
Garrett Wilson, a 5-star wide receiver from Texas, is the country’s 12th-ranked overall prospect and the Buckeyes highest-rated commitment right now. He’s one of the leaders of his class, and now he’s put in a position where he’ll have to make some difficult choices.
“If they were to fire Coach Meyer,” Wilson told Lettermen Row. “Which I hope they won’t, unless Coach Day got the job, I’d probably look at some more schools.”
Whether Day is a candidate for the job long-term — and it stands to reason he would be — his relationships with key recruits and his rising coaching star status made him the savvy choice to take on the interim head coach title while Meyer’s leave is sorted out. It made sense even with former head coaches Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson in the wings. That pair will serve as invaluable counsel for a young, but extremely polished and talented young coach in what could be the audition of a lifetime.
Garrett Wilson’s take on the matter is measured and reasonable, and in no way dismisses the chances of still ending up in Columbus in January. That will not be the same approach taken by many other recruits, who will no doubt have coaches and peers from around the country in their ears telling them they need to quickly get as far away from the Buckeyes situation as possible. That’s what happened in the summer of 2011 after Jim Tressel’s “resignation.” Ohio State still ended up with the Big Ten’s best recruiting class that year, though, because they had a major ace up their sleeve: Urban Meyer was available to take over.
He’s not available now, and college coaches are already on the prowl, trying to turn Ohio State’s embarrassment into their gain.
Coaches Recruiting Me Talking Down On Anotha School.. Shows Alotta Character… Not A Good Look 🤨
— Rakim Jarrett (@RakimJarrett) August 2, 2018
That is 2020 standout Rakim Jarrett, who visited Ohio State last weekend and has been very honest that he’s close to committing to the Buckeyes. Whether or not he still decides to do that in the coming weeks or months isn’t clear, but it is clear that he sees Ohio State as Ohio State, not as just Urban Meyer. A lot of kids, coaches, parents, etc. will not. That’s going to be a major hurdle for the Buckeyes recruiting efforts if things go from bad to worse with respect to Meyer’s employment.
When Jim Tressel stepped out of the Scarlet and Gray spotlight, there was no Ryan Day in place. There was no concrete or real evidence, in late May of 2011, that Urban Meyer was set on taking over.
That didn’t stop players like Pat Elflein, Tyvis Powell and Joshua Perry from committing to the Buckeyes in a time of tremendous turmoil, or from sticking with the program when an unfortunate and unpredictable change occurred.
It’s a short to trip to “Buckeyes legend” status for the players that stick it out, but there’s no reason to blame those that don’t. Meyer has elevated Ohio State into one of the country’s top three programs. Can the Buckeyes sustain that if his career is abruptly over?
Players like Garrett Wilson, a Dublin, Ohio native, and 5-star 2020 offensive tackle commitment Paris Johnson, from Cincinnati and local guys like 4-star 2019 linebacker Cade Stover will have their loyalty to Ohio State — not just Urban Meyer — tested.
Can the Buckeyes pass that test, no matter the outcome of the storm that’s rolling into Columbus?