Upon his arrival at Ohio State, head coach Urban Meyer’s initial recruiting class in 2012 consisted of 25 players. While Meyer had high hopes for his initial crop of Buckeyes, he also was far from satisfied.
He described that 2012 class as “pretty strong, but I wouldn’t consider that a great recruiting effort.” It was clear that Meyer was intent on making a splash with his next class. He wanted to sign a 2013 class that could compete for and win national championships. What he got was just that, as well as one that would impact future NFL Drafts.
Part one of this series on Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class showed the minimal impact caused by departures, as only three players from that group ended up leaving the program. Part two took a look at the nine members who have contributed to the Buckeyes’ success these past several years, with several players still in the running to possibly become starters before their respective collegiate careers conclude.
Part three will discuss the 2013 recruits who were or have developed into starter starters for the Buckeyes. Several of these players have already moved on to the NFL, as Ohio State’s presence was clearly felt in this year’s draft.
These 12 players will be listed in the order that they verbally committed to Ohio State.
1. Jalin Marshall, WR
The second player to verbally commit to Ohio State in January 2012, Marshall was described by Meyer as "a young man that if he was a guy that wanted to play the game and wait till signing day to put the eight hats out there, he could have whatever many amounts of hats he wanted." Marshall redshirted in 2013, but was a key contributor to Ohio State in ‘14 and ‘15 as a wide receiver and special teams player. Marshall's best game as a Buckeye came against Indiana in 2014, when he scored four touchdowns to seal a victory, and clinch the Big Ten East Division for the Buckeyes. Marshall surprisingly declared for the 2016 NFL Draft with two years of eligibility remaining, and was not selected. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets.
2. Billy Price, OL
Price was recruited as a defensive lineman, but moved to offensive line after a redshirting in 2013. Price has been a starter at guard since the 2014 season, enters this fall as one of the projected returning starters, and still has one year of eligibility remaining. Price was named a freshman All-American by Athlon Sports and an Academic All-American by the Big Ten in 2014.
3. Eli Apple, CB
After redshirting in 2013, Apple earned a starting cornerback spot in ’14. A key member of the 2014 national championship team, Apple earned freshman All-American recognition by Athlon Sports. Last season, Apple was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and was the 2016 Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP. With two years of eligibility remaining, Apple declared for the 2016 NFL Draft where he was selected 10th overall by the New York Giants.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Elliott verbally committed to Ohio State in April 2012, but wavered towards possibly flipping to Missouri as the 2013 National Signing Day approached. Fortunately for Ohio State, Elliott remained strong with his commitment to becoming a Buckeye. Elliott earned playing time as a true freshman in 2013, contributing as a running back and on special teams coverage. He took over in the backfield the next season, and served as the catalyst for Ohio State's march towards the national championship. In 2014, Elliott rushed for 1,878 yards rushing, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Eddie George, 1,927 yards in 1995), and named the MVP of the national championship game win over Oregon. Last year, Elliott racked up the accolades, including Big Ten Offensive Player and Running Back of the Year and he won the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football Award as the conference’s Most Valuable Player. He was a semifinalist for the prestigious Maxwell Award and was named second-team All-American by AP and FWAA. Elliott finished his career at Ohio State second on the all-time rushing list with 3,961 yards. Elliott declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft and was taken fourth overall by the Dallas Cowboys.
5. J.T. Barrett, QB
Meyer inherited Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton and Cardale Jones at quarterback when he was named Ohio State's head coach in November 2011. Barrett was the first quarterback that Meyer and his coaching staff truly recruited. A knee injury that ended his high school career caused Barrett to redshirt in 2013. But it was a season-ending injury to Miller less than two weeks before the start of the 2014 season that thrust Barrett into the starting lineup. Despite a rocky performance against Virginia Tech in his second game, Barrett went on to set 19 records (17 Ohio State, two Big Ten) in leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title. For his efforts, Barrett won the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, Thomspon-Randle El Freshman of the Year awards and was named first-team All-Big Ten and a freshman All-American by USA Today, Scout.com and Athlon Sports. An injury in the regular season finale against Michigan sidelined Barrett as Ohio State went on to win the Big Ten Championship Game and the inaugural College Football Playoff. Last season, Barrett alternated snaps with postseason hero Cardale Jones, until the former was named the starter near the end of the season. With Jones now in the NFL, Barrett is the unquestioned No. 1 on the depth chart and has one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.
6. Joey Bosa, DE
As soon as he made his commitment official, Meyer was quick to label Bosa as “one of the best players in the country.” One scan of Bosa’s numerous accolades from his official Ohio State bio proves Meyer knew what he was talking about. A two-time consensus All-American, Bosa also was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and took home the award for conference defensive lineman of the year twice in this three seasons. As a Buckeye, Bosa played in 41 games, started 37 times and ended his career ranked in the program’s top five in four marquee defensive categories: sacks (3rd, 26), sack yardage (4th, 177), tackles for a loss (4th, 50.5) and TFL yardage (4th, 247). Bosa had more stops behind the line of scrimmage during his three seasons than any player in the nation. His five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries also led to 44 Ohio State points, according to his bio. Bosa declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft where he was taken third overall by the San Diego Chargers.
7. Darron Lee, LB
Lee was an underrated recruit coming out of high school, earning his Ohio State scholarship through stellar performances in summer recruiting camps. Redshirted as an athlete in 2013, Lee moved to linebacker in ‘4, and immediately made an impact with a fumble recovery for a touchdown versus Navy in the season opener. Lee was a second-team Associated Press All-American in 2015 after earning freshman All-American honors in ‘14. Over the last two seasons, he ranked second only to Joey Bosa in tackles for a loss (27.5) and sacks (12). Lee also recorded 147 tackles, five pass breakups, 10 quarterback hurries, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during that span. Lee declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft and was selected 20th overall by the New York Jets.
8. Michael Hill, DL
Hill played sparingly in 2013, resulting in a redshirt season. He appeared in eight games during the 2014 national championship season before becoming a starter last season. Hill is expected to start this fall, alongside 2013 classmate Tracy Sprinkle. Hill will have one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.
9. Tyquan Lewis, DE
Lewis redshirted in 2013, but emerged as a contributor along the defensive line and on special teams the following season. Last season, Lewis started up front for the Buckyes, serving as the bookend to Joey Bosa. Lewis led the team in sacks with eight. He sat out spring practice due to shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, but is expected to start once he’s cleared to return. Lewis will have one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.
10. Gareon Conley, CB
Conley originally committed to Michigan, but flipped to Ohio State late in the recruiting process, making it official in December 2012. After redshirting in 2013, Conley played extensively at cornerback and on special teams coverage in ‘14. Last season, Conley started opposite Eli Apple, finishing with 49 tackles, five pass breakups, two interceptions, and a blocked punt. Conley is slated to start this fall and will have one year of eligibility remaining after the 2016 season.
11. Dontre Wilson, H-Back
Wilson was a late addition to the 2013 class, flipping his original verbal commitment from Oregon after Chip Kelly departed for the NFL. At H-Back, Wilson plays a hybrid role within the Ohio State offense, as both a running back, receiver, and kickoff/punt returner. Small in stature (5-10, 195), Wilson's primary strength is in creating matchup problems for opposing defenses. Wilson has battled injuries over the last two seasons, which has limited his on-field impact to this point.
12. Vonn Bell, S
Bell was the last of the 2013 class to commit, signing with the Buckeyes on National Signing Day. A backup in 2013, Bell earned his first start in the 2014 Orange Bowl against Clemson. A full-time starter in 2014 and ’15, Bell’s Buckeyes tenure consisted of 42 games and 28 starts over three years. A first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, he also claimed first-team All-American honors from the AP, The Sporting News and SI.com. Bell ended his Ohio State career with 176 career tackles, 24 passes defended and nine interceptions. Bell declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft and was taken in the second round (61st overall) by the New Orleans Saints.
Of the 24 players that signed with Ohio State on Feb. 6, 2013, 21 have either stated or contributed to the Buckeyes’ success during their time on campus. That is a success rate of 87.5 percent, which is better than any other Ohio State recruiting class I have evaluated (since 2005), applying the "The Rule Of Thirds" criteria.
Of the 21 players who remained, 12 emerged as starters, with the possibility that others could eventually emerge as starters before the conclusion of their respective careers. And here is a tidbit that Meyer may not have anticipated when these players signed back in 2013 – three players from the same recruiting class would wind up among the top 10 players picked in the 2016 NFL Draft (Bosa, Elliott, Apple).
With the 2016 college football season rapidly approaching, the remaining members of the 2013 recruiting class still have a chance to contribute positively in what has been arguably the greatest recruiting class in Ohio State's illustrious football history. It will bear watching throughout this fall how players such as Marcus Baugh, Tracy Sprinkle, Chris Worley and Corey Smith perform for the Buckeyes.
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.