Meyer Talks Recruiting Challenges
By Brandon Castel
CHICAGO — In 1973, the NCAA imposed a limit of 105 scholarships for all programs in major Division I college football.
It was a direct response to Title IX of the Education Amendments put forth one year prior. The goal of which was to more equitably distribute resources—including athletic scholarships—across different sports and sexes.
College football would never be the same.
Before this drastic shift, college football coaches could recruit as many players as they wanted in one season. Many often did, some of them recruiting as many as 100 players in a year.
That all changed in ’73, when the NCAA first began limited college coaches to just 25 players in each recruiting class. They would take it a step further in 1978, cutting total scholarship numbers to just 95, and eventually 92 (1992), 88 (1993) and finally 85 in 1994.
It has been the standard for nearly two decades, and it has made things a lot more interesting across the college football landscape. Teams like Ohio State and Alabama still stockpile talent, but not the way they used to.
And especially not when they are under sanctions from the NCAA.
Photo by Dan Harker
“We’re going with 82 and I’m finding we’re (coming up short),” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said last week in Chicago.
“It’s three scholarships for three years. That’s significant because you look at your board you’re one short at offensive line and two short at linebacker.”
Meyer didn’t even want to imagine what coach Bill O’Brien was going to go through at Penn State, where the Nittany Lions have to be down to just 65 scholarships by the 2014 season.
Ohio State’s head coach said it would “really, really hard” to win game with 65 scholarship players, although he did win his first football game as a head coach with fewer guys on scholarship.
“We beat Missouri my first year at Bowling Green with 52 or 55 scholarship players,” said Meyer, who became a head coach at BG back in 2001.
“We traveled to Missouri and won that game.”
The final score was 20-14, Falcons, but that was largely due to the fact Missouri coach Gary Pinkel—who was also in his first year at a new school—couldn’t figure out Meyer’s innovative new offense.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema believes it takes all 85 scholarships and then some to be competitive on the national level. Meyer would certainly agree.
“If everyone stays healthy, in our situation, I think we’ll be OK,” he said.
“When you have injuries, that’s when it really starts to get noticeable.”
It also became noticeable as Meyer embarked on a path to fill his second recruiting class at Ohio State. After so much success in his first two months on the job, Meyer quickly realized he was going to have to be a lot more selective with the 2013 class.
“I worry that (we’re) going to make a mistake,” Meyer admitted in Chicago.
“We’re being forced to offer guys I usually don’t offer right away. I’d like to see them in camp. I think the guys who have been at the same staff for a while and knew them better than we did, we’ve only been here a year. So we’re a little bit behind.”
Meyer and his new staff—which includes two holdovers from last season in Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel—decided to wait on offering a handful of in-state kids back in the spring. With a limited number of spots in the class, Meyer wanted to make sure he knew exactly what Ohio Sate was getting.
One of those kids was Trotwood-Madison linebacker Mike McCray, an OSU legacy recruit who ultimately committed to Michigan, of all places, in March. The Buckeyes had wanted to see McCray at camp in the summer.
The same goes for Pickerington Central’s Taco Charlton and Archbishop Alter’s Malik Zaire.
“Kids are getting advised to only speak to those schools with offers,” Meyer said.
“We had that happen this spring. I wanted a kid to come to camp so we could get to know him. He said, ‘I’m not coming unless I’m offered.’”
It sounds cold, but Meyer can’t exactly fault kids for going with the sure thing.
“I can’t blame them,” he said.
“He has a couple birds in the hand, so it forces us to offer. Puts us in a position, what if he takes it?”
Ohio State’s 2013 class is filling up fast, even without guys like McCray, Charlton and Zaire. The Buckeyes landed their 16th commitment this past week when Indianapolis offensive lineman Timothy Gardner made his verbal public.
Normally, the Buckeyes would have 7-8 more spots available, but the sanctions leave Meyer with only a few spots to fill before he has to start turning kids away.
“This past year’s been real fast,” he said.
“We’re almost done. We’re looking at the gonna-be-juniors now.”
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