The Ohio State football team has won 24 of its last 26 games, but there is an air of disappointment surrounding the program since it lost in the Big Ten Championship Game to Michigan State and the Orange Bowl to Clemson.
The quickest way for Urban Meyer and Co. to turns things around again is on the recruiting trail.
Will Ohio State win the Big Ten in 2014?
Fortunately for Buckeyes fans, Meyer and his coaching staff will have one of the best classes in the country when the ink dries on national signing day.
As of Feb. 4, Ohio State is ranked No. 2 nationally behind only Alabama, according to 247Sports.
If there was any doubt that the Ohio State brass was working hard to land an impact group of freshmen for 2014, take a look at the elements offensive coordinator Tom Herman was willing to fight through on the recruiting trail:
Live update from ATL. I've moved .6 miles in the last hour. Yes, there is a decimal point in front of that number. pic.twitter.com/AbM9sIQhVv— Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) January 29, 2014
This Buckeyes class is loaded with elite prospects, including Raekwon McMillan, Damon Webb, Marshon Lattimore and Dante Booker, among others, but it will take more than just the nationally recognized names to win Big Ten titles and compete for national championships in the future.
With that in mind, let’s dig into a discussion about some of the more underrated prospects in Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting haul who will make an impact during their time in Columbus.
Dylan Thompson is a 3-star defensive end from Lombard, Ill.
While Ohio State typically brings in 4- and 5-star prospects, don’t let the 3-star label fool you.
Thompson is an imposing force on the defensive line at 6’5” and 270 pounds and will help fill in gaps when stopping the run. He is also quick for his size and has a solid first step off the point of attack.
If Thompson’s high school coach, Chris Andriano, is to be believed, Ohio State won’t be the last stop in Thompson’s football career, per Bob Narang of the Chicago Tribune: "Dylan's got a shot at playing in the NFL. He's that good. He's got a nonstop motor. He's physically gifted and mentally tough and strong. He's got all the attributes. He'll have a great opportunity to be the first from Montini to play in the NFL."
Thompson’s size and work ethic will be critical in the Buckeyes’ effort to stop the run in the physical Big Ten.
Brady Taylor is a 3-star offensive tackle from Columbus, but, much like Thompson, his impact at Ohio State will extend beyond the 3-star label.
For one, Taylor is from right outside the confines of the Ohio State campus. Presumably, he has an understanding of how much Buckeye football means to those in central Ohio and will arrive ready to work and improve from day one.
If there was any doubt about Taylor's motivation to prove himself on the field, look at what he said when he flipped his initial verbal pledge from Virginia Tech to Ohio State recently, via Ben Axelrod of Buckeye Sports Bulletin and Scout.com:
New Ohio State commit Brady Taylor: "Some kids want to grow up and be an astronaut. I wanted to be an Ohio State football player."— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) January 20, 2014
Taylor’s size (6’5” and 276 pounds) is the first thing that jumps out when he is playing, but his lateral quickness is why he will prove to be an excellent pass- and run-blocker. He is notably athletic for his frame and typically wins the initial battle off the snap, which is critical at the college level.
According to the 247Sports composite rankings, Malik Hooker is a 3-star athlete (although he is ranked as a 4-star athlete by 247Sports) from New Castle, Pa.
Hooker is the type of versatile athlete Meyer wants to stack the Ohio State program with, but as Jordan Wagner of Eleven Warriors points out, perhaps Meyer isn’t the only Buckeye coach who should have shown interest in Hooker:
Ohio State commit Malik Hooker scored 30+ points in front of Urban Meyer. Maybe Thad Matta should have tagged along?— Jordan Wagner (@JWagner11W) January 22, 2014
Hooker’s excellence in basketball and football is further proof of his outstanding athleticism. While he is listed as an athlete and played some wide receiver in high school, expect Hooker to start his Buckeye career in the secondary.
Ohio State struggled to stop the pass in 2013 and needs all the help it can get at the safety position. Hooker will give Meyer some much-needed depth and possibly contend for an initial spot on the two-deep depth chart thanks to his overall ball skills and explosiveness.
Note: All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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