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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Having won the past seven BCS National Championships, it's an indisputable fact that the Southeastern Conference has dominated the college football scene for the better part of the past decade. The good news for Ohio State fans, however, is that one of the coaches responsible for two of those titles is trying to turn the Buckeyes into an SEC-quality program.
Just take a look at Urban Meyer's first two recruiting classes and you'll see that it's clear that the second-year OSU coach is trying to mold his program in the same shape of the Florida one that he won national championships in 2006 and 2008. Both the 2012 class that he put together in almost two months' time and the 2013 class that he's still finishing up rank fourth in the nation in their respective years, and this season's class has a chance to climb even higher.
But while some may assume that means that the Buckeyes' coaching staff is now targeting more out-of-state kids in order to get that "southern speed," that's not necessarily the case. Twenty-seven of the 48 commitments that Meyer has secured for OSU's 2012, 2013, and 2014 classes have resided in the state of Ohio, while others hail from northern states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Although nine combined OSU commits in its past two recruiting classes have come from the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, the majority of players that Meyer has attracted to Columbus have been native Ohioans.
So why doesn't Meyer recruit more southern talent to emulate the schools that have found success with them? According to the coach himself, it's because he can find players with similar skills closer to home, even if he has to pick them from a smaller pool.
"The quality is not the difference," Meyer said. "There's some great quality players. But you're seeing just the quantity because of population shifts and everything else. There's more of them. And year-to-year, that changes."
The six-year SEC veteran, however, did admit that there is more talent overall in the south than is currently present in the north. But that doesn't mean that leagues like the Big Ten don't possess some top-notch players, which the OSU coach thinks will be made evident in during the upcoming NFL Draft.
"I've coached in both conferences now," Meyer pointed out. "To say there's not quality football players in the Big Ten, that's not correct. You'll see that on draft day. There will be some very good player's drafted. The quantity's the biggest difference."
The numbers back up Meyer's observation. In the 2012 NFL Draft, 41 players were selected from the Big Ten, while a combined 73 players were selected from the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference (42 SEC, 31 ACC). Furthermore, the Big Ten saw three players selected in the first round- all of which came at pick No. 23 or after- while the SEC alone had eight first round selections, including four of the first 10 players to come off the board.
How does the Big Ten change this trend? According to Meyer, the answer is to attract more of the quality players that already exist in his current conference.
"There's one way to do it: go out and recruit and get some more depth," he said.
Of course that's easier said than done. Only Ohio State and Michigan (No. 6) currently possess top-10 recruiting classes for 2013, with Nebraska (No. 16) being the only other team in the conference that sits inside the top-30.
Only three of Rivals' 32 five-star recruits- Mike Mitchell (Ohio State), Derrick Green (Michigan), and Christian Hackenberg- are currently committed to play for Big Ten schools, while safety Vonn Bell lists OSU as one of his finalists.
Numbers like that are going to have to change moving forward for the perception of the conference to do the same. And while that may not seem likely right now, Meyer said its definitely possible.
"The one thing about college football, it's very cyclical. And the Big Ten for many, many years was without question the number one conference in America," Meyer said at the conference's media day last July. "Right now, we're not, but there's a lot of coaches and players right now very intent on making it the best conference in America."
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