COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s exclamation point on national signing day came down to the choice of a hat more than 1,000 miles away from its campus.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer holds the trophy after Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 27-21 in the Big Ten championship game.
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The Buckeyes spared no resource chasing five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, a Tampa, Fla., prospect who was the top-rated offensive lineman in the country.
OSU saw him as the final piece to a recruiting class that began the day ranked first overall, and at 10:33 a.m., the Buckeyes officially put a bow on the 2018 recruiting cycle: Petit-Frere smiled and chose a scarlet Buckeyes hat, becoming the highest-rated player in the decorated bunch.
ESPN cameras — on campus for the occasion — caught Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer giving a fist-pump worthy of Tiger Woods when he found out the news.
Georgia, however, was even more active, flipping high-profile recruits from Alabama and Michigan, and signing a seventh five-star player to finish with the No. 1 overall class in America according to 247Sports.com.
The Buckeyes finished second, but had no complaints at the end. Petit-Frere’s decision was a fitting end for the 2018 recruiting class, which Ohio State finished with the tackle prospect it sought all along.
“That's why they're paid so well in the NFL, because those body types are hard, hard to find,” Meyer said of Petit-Frere. “And you throw a 3.8 GPA on top of that, a very intelligent guy, a very mature guy, and he's a great finish to that class.”
Later in the day, Meyer told Big Ten Network that OSU also had signed linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste, a four-star prospect from New Jersey.
The two late additions cemented the Buckeyes as the second overall team in 247Sports’ composite recruiting rankings.
Meyer said the high praise nationally was a reflection of the work his assistant coaches did on the recruiting trails.
“As far as recruiting staff, this is one of the best I've ever been around,” Meyer said. “... The one thing about [Ohio State], and I made it clear: You can't coach here unless you're an elite recruiter.”
Of the past 10 programs to finish first in recruiting, seven of them won the national championship in the following four years. Eight of them won at least one conference championship.
The only two programs in that time period that did not — Miami in 2008 and Florida in 2010 — experienced a coaching change before the recruits had graduated college.
Since Ohio State hired Meyer after the 2011 season, the Buckeyes have signed the highest-rated recruiting class in the Big Ten seven years in a row. In every season, the Buckeyes have finished inside the top 10 nationally.
All of the past 17 national champions have landed at least one top-10 class in the the three years prior to winning the title game.
The Buckeyes narrowly missed out on the first overall spot, but were nonetheless thrilled with a class of 26 players, 21 of whom signed in December. Four-star defensive linemen Tyreke Smith (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) and Tyler Friday (Ramsey, N.J.) as well as three-star California receiver Chris Olave also committed since December and signed Wednesday.
Because most of the class signed in the early period, the Buckeyes spent January focusing on the few players it sought the most. And with Petit-Frere’s commitment, OSU filled every position of need in recruiting.
“The focus was on a few guys,” Meyer said Wednesday. “And the few guys jumped in the boat, for the most part.”
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