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Published: Wednesday, 11/30/2011

Recruiting a Meyer strength

New OSU coach wants to put a 'wall' around state

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
With a pair of national titles while at Florida, Urban Meyer, the new head coach of Ohio State, has a pedigree to attract blue-chip players. With a pair of national titles while at Florida, Urban Meyer, the new head coach of Ohio State, has a pedigree to attract blue-chip players.
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COLUMBUS -- Any great salesman needs to first get a foot in the door. When new Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer goes out to recruit his initial class of Buckeyes, doors should fly open based on Meyer's track record for building championship teams at both Utah and Florida.

If he chooses to wear the two national championship rings he won while coaching the Gators, the rings will arrive a few moments before Meyer does -- they are that large and ostentatious.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said that when he chose Meyer to lead the Buckeyes out of what was likely the most troubling period in the history of the program, the recruiting prowess of the Ohio native was a big factor in the decision.

"We were looking for someone who was an outstanding coach, but also an outstanding recruiter," Smith said.

"Someone who understands that in the state of Ohio, we're blessed to have great high school football coaches who create great programs, who give young men an opportunity to grow and ultimately dream of the chance to go and play at a collegiate level."

While delivering his remarks at Monday's new conference at the Fawcett Center on the Ohio State campus, Meyer said he intended to start recruiting that night. Meyer was born in Toledo, raised in Ashtabula, and attended college at Cincinnati and Ohio State, while also doing coaching stints at Bowling Green and Ohio State. He said he feels confident his contacts in the Buckeye State remain strong.

"My goal right now is to put together a fantastic recruiting class," Meyer said. "I welcome the opportunity to once again work with the state of Ohio high school coaches and re-establish the many relationships that I had that existed the previous 25 years."

Smith said he hopes Meyer puts a virtual fence up around the state and gives the Buckeyes the pick of the football recruiting litter every year.

"We wanted a football coach who understood that, who would create the environment here that the aspiration for every single football player in the state of Ohio is to be a Buckeye and come to The Ohio State University and have no other thought," Smith said.

Former Buckeye Cris Carter, who was coached by Meyer when Meyer was an Ohio State graduate assistant under Earle Bruce, said the Big Ten recruiting world changed about 5 p.m. Monday when Meyer's much anticipated hiring was made official.

"He will do things in recruiting that Ohio State hasn't been able to do before," said Carter, alluding to Meyer's national profile, Ohio foundation, and significant contacts in Florida.

Kevin Noon, managing editor of the Ohio State fan site BuckeyeGrove.com, said the Meyer effect is already taking place.

"Meyer will go a long way in easing the fears of any player who was on the fence, while also opening the door to players who may not have been seriously considering the Buckeyes," Noon said. "Several top national players are now talking seriously about taking official visits to Ohio State to play for Meyer."

There is already one Meyer recruit in the Ohio State program -- freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier from Plantation, near Fort Lauderdale. Early last year, Shazier had committed to play for Meyer at Florida, then changed his mind when Meyer resigned following the 2010 season. Shazier looked at Ohio State and LSU before choosing the Buckeyes.

Smith said Meyer would focus on recruiting and hiring his staff while the Buckeyes spend the next month preparing for a bowl game. Interim head coach Luke Fickell, who guided the team this season, will coach the Buckeyes in the bowl game and Meyer will not be involved in game-planning, Smith said.

As he set out to spend his first evening as Ohio State's head coach making telephone contacts with recruits, Meyer laid out the framework for the overall effort.

"Our objective is simple," Meyer said.

"It's to make the state of Ohio proud; recruit student-athletes that will win in the classroom and win on the field."

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey.



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