MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — If Urban Meyer had his way, South Florida would become Ohio South.
Ohio State did not crash Friday night’s Orange Bowl against Clemson just for a football game. The Buckeyes spent their trip continuing to build connections in this talent-loaded state.
Assistants pounded area schools, Meyer invited local prep coaches to their practices at Fort Lauderdale’s Nova Southeastern University, and the team visited nearby powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas.
Rap star Drake taking in the game as a university guest — he was credentialed by OSU — didn’t hurt, either.
"The past few weeks, we've hit [Florida] really hard," said Meyer, who won two national titles in six seasons at Florida. "I can list at least two dozen high schools right in this area that are loaded with talent. We have not good relationships but great relationships with these high school coaches. A lot of them came to visit us at a bowl practice.
"Ohio State — not surprisingly because it's a national brand — has had great success recruiting in Florida. We attack it. It's a primary area for us, because we have so much experience down here. We know most of these coaches."
The Buckeyes have five Florida natives — including defensive end Joey Bosa (St. Thomas Aquinas), linebacker Ryan Shazier (Pompano Beach), running back Carlos Hyde and tight end Jeff Heuerman of Naples — while Meyer is chasing several more.
They recently landed commitments from Palm Beach Gardens four-star receiver Johnnie Dixon in the Class of 2014 and four-star cornerback Jamel Dean of Cocoa in the Class of 2015.
TRADING VESTS: Could Jim Tressel be the next coach of the Browns?
Fox Sports 1350 in Akron sent shockwaves through Ohio with a report Friday night the former Buckeyes coach would interview for Cleveland’s vacancy this week. Yet just as the rumor was about to explode Twitter, the Browns issued an emphatic denial.
"Totally false," a Browns official told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Tressel, 61, is now the executive vice president at the University of Akron. On a recent conference call, he said he hasn’t "given getting back into coaching any thought."
ROBY OUT: Cornerback Bradley Roby finished his Buckeyes career in sweats.
As expected, the NFL-bound junior was held out with a bone bruise to his knee suffered in last month’s Big Ten championship game.
Sophomore Armani Reeves started in his place — one of three new faces on the Buckeyes’ defense.
Sophomore defensive end Jamal Marcus filled in for sacks leader Noah Spence, who was suspended three games for an unspecified Big Ten rules violation, while freshman Vonn Bell got his first career start at nickelback.
Starting middle linebacker Curtis Grant, meanwhile, was sidelined with lingering back issues, pushing sophomore Josh Perry into the Buckeyes’ nickel package alongside Ryan Shazier.
EXTRA POINTS: Though Sun Life Stadium mostly filled in, tickets on the secondary market — both on resale Web sites and on the street — went for as little as $5 just before kickoff. OSU returned 9,000 of its 17,500 allotted tickets to the Orange Bowl. ... Freshman Cameron Johnston’s first-quarter punt that pinned Clemson on the 1-yard line was his 45th boot of the season. Twenty-nine of them have landed inside the 20. ... Meyer is the fifth coach to lead two different schools to the Orange Bowl, joining Bear Bryant (Kentucky and Alabama), Lou Holtz (Arkansas and Notre Dame), Brian Kelly (Cincinnati and Notre Dame), and George Sauer (Kansas and Baylor). His 2008 Florida team won the BCS title here with a 24-14 win over Oklahoma. ... Current Big Ten members are 14-14 all-time at the Orange Bowl; the ACC is 17-22.