-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
No. 4: Ohio State Buckeyes (25 total signees)
Big Ten Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 6
National Signees: 11
Where They Got 'Em:
The Ohio State University has been a national brand for decades, and with Urban Meyer now at the helm, its recruiting stature will only continue to grow into the Southeast. Expect Meyer to hit the Sun Belt hard in 2013 for talent. In his short three-month tenure as the Buckeyes' coach, however, Meyer concentrated on dominating the more traditionally recruited areas for tOSU.
Like Florida, Alabama and Texas ahead of them in the rankings, Ohio State used a heavy in-state crop to land an elite class. Meyer signed 16 players from the Buckeye State, including three of the top five and the state's top target in defensive end Adolphus Washington.
The Scarlet and Gray also landed the top players in the states of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts en route to the top class in the Big Ten. Meyer also dipped into California, Florida, Indiana, Colorado and North Carolina for one signee each.
Areas of Focus:
The story most Buckeyes fans are waiting on is obviously Stefon Diggs, the No. 1 athlete in the nation who will announce this Friday primarily between Florida, Ohio State and Maryland. The Gators are the team to beat but should he sign with OSU, this class becomes the No. 3 class in the nation, jumping Florida in the process.
Even without Diggs, this is a special group of future Bucknuts — especially along the defensive line. Meyer is clearly establishing his SEC style along the defensive front by landing the nation's No. 1 pass rusher in end Noah Spence. The 2011 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year finished with 204 tackles, 50 tackles for a loss and 35.5 sacks over his final two prep seasons. He will lead the Ohio State pass rush into the Meyer era with force.
Joining Spence is fellow AC100 ends Washington and Se'Von Pittman as well as top-100 defensive tackle Tommy Schutt. That gives Ohio State four AC100 defensive linemen — which equates to signing four of the top 25 trench players in the nation. This was a clear area of focus for Meyer's staff, and he delivered in brilliant fashion.
The back-end of the defense was improved with plenty of depth as nine players are slotted into either the linebacker or defensive back positions. Nationally rated linebackers Joshua Perry and Camren Williams replenish the middle of the defense. Williams, who finished his final season with 119 tackles, is the son of 11-year NFL vet Brent Williams. At 6-3 and 230 pounds, Perry, who is already enrolled in class, is a tremendous athlete who play inside, outside or even along the D-Line. He is a track and field long-jumper and brings tremendous athletic ability to the linebacking corps.
Armani Reeves and De'Van Bogard head up the secondary class. Reeves was the Catholic Conference MVP after 445 yards rushing on offense, 57 tackles on defense and nine total touchdowns. His ability to score on offense, defense and special teams makes him one of the more versatile prospects in this class. Bogard, who hails from OSU pipeline and prep powerhouse Cleveland-Glenville is one of the hardest-hitting safety prospects in the entire nation.
On offense, the offensive line got the most focus as five total — two nationally ranked — new faces join the offensive front. Joey O'Connor, Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson add tremendous size, talent and depth to an area that Meyer is sure to solidify early on in his career. The lines of scrimmage are where national championships are won, and Meyer landed elite talent on both sides of the ball as six of his 11 nationally ranked prospects will play in the trenches. And lone tight end signee Blake Thomas is considered an overpowering blocker who will make his earliest impact in the running game.
Tailback Bri'onte Dunn is the most touted offensive player in this class, however. The early enrollee checks in at 220 pounds and rolled up 5,479 yards in his prep career at GlenOak High. He posted 1,657 yards as a senior and 2,030 yards back in 2009 while scoring 51 touchdowns over his final three years. Dunn and local product Warran Ball add depth to an already deep but undistinguished tailback depth chart.
Three wide receivers and one tight end also add much-needed depth to the pass-catching pool. Michael Thomas led the state of California (no easy task) with 1,656 yards receiving this fall, while Ricquan Southward brings that Florida speed north to Columbus. He is the lone Sunshine State signee in this class.
After one year at Fork Union Military Academy, quarterback Cardale Jones, who claimed MVP honors of the 2010 Offense-Defense bowl, finally gets to campus — and at 6-5 and 220 pounds, he has the exact skill set Urban Meyer looks for from his quarterback.
The biggest storyline surrounding Meyer's instant recruiting fame has been his ability to yank prospects from other powerful Big Ten programs. Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all lost highly touted prospects to Ohio State down the stretch — and opposing coaches have been outspoken about Meyer's recruiting practices. That said, all is fair in love and recruiting, and Meyer deserves all the praise he has gotten for pulling together the Big Ten's top class in a short three-month period of time.
Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 5, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 1, LB: 5, DB: 4, K: 0
4. Noah Spence, DE (6-4, 245), Harriburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt
27. Adolphus Washington, DE (6-5, 245), Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft
67. Tommy Schutt, DT (6-3, 300), Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard
86. Se'Von Pittman, DE (6-5, 245), Canton (Ohio) McKinley
98. Bri'onte Dunn, RB (6-2, 220), Canton (Ohio) GlenOak
Other National Signees:
120. Joey O'Connor, OL (6-4, 295), Windsor (Colo.) High
142. Armani Reeves, DB (5-10, 185), West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Mem.
175. Joshua Perry, LB (6-3, 230), Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy
179. Taylor Decker, OL (6-8, 315), Vandalia (Ohio) Butler
215. De'Van Bogard, DB (6, 175), Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville
256. Camren Williams, LB (6-2, 215), West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Mem.
Bri'onte Dunn, RB (6-2, 220), Canton (Ohio) GlenOak
Jacoby Boren, OL (6-2, 275), Pickerington (Ohio) Central
Cardale Jones, QB (6-5, 220), Cleveland (Ohio) Glendale/Fork Union
Joshua Perry, LB (6-3, 230), Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy
Tyvis Powell, DB (6-3, 180), Bedford (Ohio) High
Michael Thomas, WR (6-4, 205), Los Angeles (Calif.) Taft
Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
5. Wed., Feb. 8
6. Thur., Feb. 9
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
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10. Wed., Feb. 15
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18. Mon., Feb. 27
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25. Sun., Mar. 4