Friday, February 3, 2012

SIGNING DAY: COACH MEYER GOT DEFENSIVE WITH HIS FIRST CLASS

COLUMBUS — Wrapping up his first signing day as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Urban Meyer has to be gleaming with this batch of defensive recruits.

Highlighting the class are five-star defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington and four-star defensive end Se'Von Pittman. Meyer, who addressed the media at the Woody Hayes Center on Wednesday, said the three defensive linemen were "the prize of the recruiting class."

"They are the guys you can take anywhere in the country at any time," Meyer said. "High character guys that play really hard."

Spence, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound speed rusher who hails from Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg (PA), could be the perfect fit for Ohio State's Leo/rusher position.

"(Spence) is a fast ball pass rusher," Meyer said. "He is a guy who lines out and his acceleration up the field is what you are looking for and he has that."

Washington and Pittman both have the ability to rush the passer using quickness or power, according to co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

"The thing you see with Se'Von and Adolphus is versatility," Fickell said. "Everybody wants to be an end, wants to be a rush guy. I think that's one of the things we had to focus on is finding guys with speed. They do have that. Who knows in a year or two exactly what they'll do."

The Buckeyes seemed to lose a bit of luster on the defensive side of the ball in 2011 and it looks as though Meyer was out to address a unit that finished 27th in scoring defense, the first time Ohio State ranked outside of the top-six since 2004. Traditionally, the Buckeyes are strong defensively, but last year's front seven failed to put pressure on the quarterback. Ohio State tallied 23 sacks in 13 games, good for 70th in the country. With former interim head coach Fickell leading the defense with co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, Meyer is looking for a quick turnaround.

"You don't want to blitz every time you want pressure," Meyer said. "Coach Fickell and I talked. To get pressure, you don't want to have to bring five every time. You want to recruit guys that put their tails up in the air and go. (John) Simon and Nate Williams are going to be gone. They're seniors. We have them one more year. It's a perfect time to come in for a defensive end."

Ohio State also made it a point of interest to upgrade the linebacker position. The Buckeyes certainly did that by recruiting tons of speed and athleticism in five linebacker recruits — Jamal Marcus, David Perkins, Luke Roberts, Joshua Perry and Camren Williams. Meyer said the depth at linebacker took a hit this offseason and addressing the position was a major issue.

"The area that was probably in the most dire need was our linebacker position," he said. "Because of attrition, because of injury, shear numbers we were way down and we're excited."

Meyer couldn't help but light up when he brought up Marcus, who just hours before the press conference decided to attend OSU to Meyer's delight. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and playing mostly defensive end at Hillside in Durham (NC), Marcus had a highlight reel that quickly won over the Buckeyes' leading man.

"I invite you at some point, it's easy to do on YouTube," Meyer said, "Watch (Marcus') highlight video. It borders on ridiculous as far as his ability level."

If the Buckeye want to return to championship form under Meyer, defense has to be a major concentration in recruiting and it looks as though that's the case.