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December 20, 2011
Urban Meyer has torn a path through the college football recruiting landscape in the three weeks since he was named head coach at Ohio State, but that momentum threatened to be slowed by Tuesday's announcement from the NCAA.
The NCAA levied sanctions against OSU on Tuesday that included a one-year postseason ban, a reduction of four additional scholarships over the next three years and an additional year of probation on top of the two already self-imposed by the school.
Assuming Meyer's honeymoon with recruits is over now might be premature based on the reaction from several of the Buckeyes' top commitments and targets in the wake of the NCAA's Tuesday announcement.
South Bend (Ind.) Washington four-star athlete David Perkins has an official visit set up to Columbus for the weekend of Jan. 13 and considers Ohio State among his top contenders along with LSU, Michigan State, Missouri and Tennessee. The sanctions the NCAA handed down on Tuesday have not knocked the Buckeyes out of the race for his signature.
"From the severity of the situation that people made it out to be, I was expecting a lot more," Perkins said. "The biggest thing is probably going to be the bowl game. As players you look forward to play in them, but with that being only one year I don't really see it being that big of a hit to the program."
Chicago (Ill.) Simeon four-star offensive tackle Jordan Diamond took his official visit to Ohio State the weekend of Dec. 9. He was one of only two prospects out of 15 officially visiting that weekend who is not currently on the Buckeyes' commitment list. He cited the postseason ban for the 2012 season as a concern, but not one big enough to take Ohio State off his interest list.
"It's a negative thing because you're taking away from the team and what they accomplished," Diamond said, "but I'm just going to take my time with it, really look through it and talk about it with my family, see what they think about it.
"Those things aren't really too big and don't knock them off the list or anything. Anything can happen right now and I just have to finish my recruitment. It's just something extra to think about and makes the process more stressful."
Knowing exactly what the sanctions are is almost a positive in itself according to several Ohio State targets. The knowledge that the NCAA was coming through with the final decision had left some measure of uncertainty for recruits prior to Tuesday, but now that the sanctions have been revealed, recruits are moving forward knowing exactly what is in store for the future.
"It's a relief so we can know what we are dealing with and there won't be any surprises when we come in," said Cleveland Glenville four-star safety De'van Bogard, who committed to Ohio State in June.
"It's really a small negative because we can get through that. They are trying to break us? that's all that is. We have a great new coach and once we get off this bowl [ban], we'll be all right."
Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy's Michael Thomas, a four-star wide receiver who committed to Ohio State in October, has fielded calls from college coaches wondering if the NCAA's sanctions have affected his commitment status, but Thomas has no plans to rescind his pledge to the Buckeyes.
"Since the ban has started coming up in the news, a couple programs have been hitting me up trying to see if I would still be interested," Thomas said. "But I have the opportunity in front of me at The Ohio State University that I can't pass up."
Just six weeks remain before the class of 2012 can sign letters of intent with college programs, and Ohio State is already sitting on 19 commitments in a class not expected to crest much higher than 20. Early feedback suggests Ohio State is unlikely to lose any of those 19 commitments based on Tuesday's announcement, and the uncommitted recruits Rivals.com contacted have not vacated their interest in the Buckeyes.
Long term, the effects of the NCAA's sanctions will be felt even less by prospects considering Ohio State in the classes of 2013 and beyond. The postseason ban is attracting the most attention, but it will have passed by the time current high school underclassmen are able to enroll in college.
"It's not really going to affect me much since it's just one year," said Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) junior cornerback Cameron Burrows, one of the state's top prospects in the 2013 class.
How the loss of scholarships will be divvied up over the course of the next few recruiting classes will affect the number of prospects Ohio State can bring in for a given class, but that is not a sanction that generally affects the overall perception of a program by recruits. Several 2013 prospects already sporting Ohio State offers are not wavering in their interest in the program.
"This has no impact on me or my interest in Ohio State," said Voorhees (N.J.) cornerback Eli Woodard, who has listed Ohio State as his favorite in the past. "I was expecting something like that and actually thought it might be worse, so it's not an issue.
"It's so far away for me anyhow; I'll be a senior when the bowl ban is in effect and I spoke to Coach Meyer yesterday about the future of the program and I'm excited."
In the last 10 days, Meyer had convinced four-star defensive tackle Tommy Schutt of Illinois to flip his commitment from Penn State to Ohio State and four-star Canton (Ohio) defensive end Se'von Pittman to move over from Michigan State's commitment list. He also landed a commitment from five-star defensive end Noah Spence of Harrisburg (Pa.) and had Ohio State's recruiting class up to No. 6 in the Rivals.com team rankings for 2012.
Meyer's proficiency on the recruiting trail early in his tenure, while not unexpected, had created a buzz around the Ohio State program that had been missing in the last year since the allegations first came to light. Tuesday's announcement, while lamented in Columbus because it surpassed self-imposed sanctions, is unlikely to curb Meyer's recruiting momentum.
"I think he can still keep it going," Perkins said. "Just looking at who he brought in, a couple of them were big names and I'm pretty sure he can bring in a couple more big names before signing day."
"He's a really good coach and I think he will be able to work through it and move past this," added Burrows. "Everybody is just excited around there right now and he's excited to coach the players there and recruit from Ohio State."
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell and BuckeyeGrove.com recruiting analyst Marc Givler contributed to his report.