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There is no questioning that landing five-star defensive end Noah Spence was a huge get for Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football program. Rated as the No. 9 overall prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, Spence is the highest ranked prospect that the Buckeyes have landed in the 2012 class. Spence's importance goes deeper than just his star ranking, however, and we caught up with Rivals.com National Analyst Mike Farrell to get his thoughts on Spence as well as Meyer's impact on Ohio State's recruiting.
"Strengths are definitely his ability off the edge," said Farrell. "He's so quick and so fast from the outside. I think the thing that separates him is his ability to play straight up and by that I mean that he can play as a five-technique guy and he can still make plays against the run and in pass-rush as well. He's so good at using his hands, dipping and getting low, and curling back to the run play."
Farrell specifically pointed to his ability to curl back against the run as a large part of why Spence is such a special prospect. Farrell also offered up a lofty comparison to a former NFL great.
"That's the one thing that stands out to me the most," Farrell said. "Every pass rusher likes to pin their ears back and they all like to go outside because they know that they're faster than the tackle. What he does, he initiates contact and he will peel off the blocker if he sees that it's a run play, or an inside hand-off, or a draw and gets back into the play. He's never out of position and that tells me that he's a very smart kid who understands football and has a lot of football sense. As far as a comparison, we compare him to (former Kansas City Chiefs great) Derrick Thomas for his ability to rush the passer."
While many were surprised at how quickly Meyer was able to get into the mix with Spence and then secure a commitment, Farrell isn't one who falls into that group.
"In a way it's not surprising because I know how quickly Urban Meyer can flip things around," he explained. "We saw Sharrif Floyd was all set to go to Ohio State and Meyer flipped him, Matt Elam was at Florida, de-committed, and Urban flipped him back. Dominique Easley was committed to Penn State and Meyer flipped him."
"Noah Spence was essentially going to Maryland," Farrell continued. "Had Urban Meyer not been hired, he still would be going to Maryland. His ability to change the minds of prospects is really un-matched as a head coach in the country. He's the best at doing that and it's just hard work, he's relentless."
Spence joins a defensive line class at Ohio State that rivals just about any the Buckeyes have landed in recent memory. Farrell's time covering recruiting across the nation gives him the added national perspective of how just how good of a haul this is for the Buckeyes.
"It's obviously very good," Farrell said. "This is something that Urban Meyer sort of became known for, at least in the last couple of years when he pulled that Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley class. That one was a little more balanced; this one is skewed more towards defensive end. Tommy Schutt is a terrific football player and we think a great deal of him but when you're talking about just having pure pass-rushers like Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence, and Se'von Pittman, it's got to be one of the best defensive end classes in the country overall."
Already, Meyer has shown the ability to reach out to states close to Ohio and snag top talent. Moving forward, Farrell expects the flow of highly recruited players to come from all over the nation.
"I think they're going to be national," he said. "They're going to have to focus on the state of Ohio first. The difference between Florida and Ohio is that in Florida, you've got everyone coming in (to recruit) and you've got Florida State and Miami in there. Plus you've got Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama all within driving distance. Nobody has lock down on that state, Ohio State with a great coach can lock down Ohio."
Naturally, most coaches at Ohio State have had tremendous success locking up the in-state talent and Farrell expects that trend to continue.
"They're going to beat Michigan (in recruiting Ohio prospects) consistently with Urban Meyer, they're going to beat Notre Dame, and they're going to beat Nebraska, Penn State, all of those schools. I'm not saying they're going to get one-hundred percent of the guys, that's unrealistic, but they're going to get most of the guys they want (in-state) so that cuts down what you have left very dramatically."
"After that, you'll start to see them spot recruit nationally," he continued. "If there's a kid out in California that they like a lot, Urban Meyer is not going to be afraid to go after him. He did that with Ronald Powell and he's done that with other players in California. If there's a five-star kid or a high four-star kid in another state, it doesn't matter if it's New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama, he's going to throw his hat in the ring and see what comes out of it and he's going to be successful quite often."
Of course, the big question for recruiting fans is seeing just how high Meyer can take this class in the team rankings. Just three weeks ago, Ohio State was sitting at No. 18 in the team rankings and probably trending downward. After some huge commitments, the Buckeyes are all the way up to the No. 6 spot and could continue to move up.
"It depends on how much room they've got," Farrell said. "The way our rankings work is we take the best 20. Right now, they have 10 three-star commitments and right now that is kind of hurting them a little bit, if they add a few more four-stars or another five-star, that changes everything. What you want is your top 20, in a perfect world, to be fifty-percent or more four and five stars."
"Right now they are at a points disadvantage (based on having fewer than 20 commitments) so if they can add a four-star, that is all points right there. They could finish as high as fourth, and if they could pull off a Stefon Diggs or pull a big upset on a five-star kid, they could possibly get higher but I don't think given their numbers that they can get higher than third. A top five class is definitely within reach."
With the handful of outstanding prospects still looking at the Buckeyes, the odds seem strong at this point that Meyer will turn what may not have been a top 20 class into a top five class in 2012.
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