Meyer dig a factor in Ohio's top player picking Clemson

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer put the focus on the team’s Big Ten Championship and 21 players that were signed Wednesday.

While Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was busy bringing in the top recruiting class in the nation, it was a prospect that got away that was making the most noise on Wednesday.

Jackson Carman, a consensus five-star offensive lineman and the top-rated player in the state of Ohio, signed with Clemson. But it was the recruiting tactics used by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney that opened many eyes.

According to The Athletic, Swinney told Carman that Meyer is “on the back end of his career in terms of years left.” Carman said it was “an underlying factor” in his choice to go to Clemson.

“(Swinney) also kind of mentioned that Urban was on the back half of his career, which he is, and that Dabo is just starting up, you know what I mean?” Carman told The Athletic. “So having a chance of being a part of something that’s upcoming and being able to establish Clemson as a top-three figure, that was big.”

According to The USA Today, Swinney said he didn’t recall making those comments but did not deny that he made them, either.

“I’m a guy that’s been here for 15 years, and there are obvious differences when you compare coaches, if they’re at different stages in life,” Swinney said. “In recruiting, you talk about anything and everything a recruit wants to talk about that seems relevant.”

Meyer wasn’t asked about it on Wednesday, instead putting the focus on the 21 players that were signed.

Jeremy Ruckert from Lindenhurst, N.Y., could make an immediate impact at tight end, with the departure of starter Marcus Baugh and the medical retirement of backup A.J. Alexander.

Taron Vincent — son of former NFL cornerback Troy Vincent — from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., will join a heralded defensive line that’s losing much of its depth. The Buckeyes also got five-star running back Jaelen Gill, from the Columbus suburb of Westerville.

Three-star quarterback Matthew Baldwin from Austin, Texas, was Ohio State’s second choice after Emory Jones, the nation’s No. 4 rated dual-threat quarterback, flipped his commitment to Florida.

“I can’t remember the urgency that we experienced today or this past two weeks,” Meyer said. “You just start thinking about the time warp that took place, finishing the season that we had to finish the way we did, and then you play your rival, and then you play the Big Ten Championship game, and by the way, signing date is two weeks away now.

“I can’t remember a December like that ever. So we’ve just got to plan, and that’s the way it’s going to be. I just really appreciate our coaches and their families because they were gone. You think, ‘Boy, you guys just won the Big Ten Championship. OK, I’ll see you in two weeks.’ It was incredible.”

It wasn’t all perfect for the Buckeyes. Including Jones heading to Florida, five-star defensive end Micah Parsons signed with Penn State and five-star defensive end Brenton Cox flipped away from Ohio State late. Also, five-star defensive back Jaiden Woodbey had been committed to Ohio State but is expected to sign with USC.

Penn State lands Parsons

The Nittany Lions stayed close to home to land some key pieces to their class that was ranked No. 4 in the nation, according to

Parsons, from Harrisburg, Pa., was the big get. The fourth-ranked player in the nation, Parsons had verbally committed to Penn State in February of 2016. But last spring, he backed away from that pledge and was considering Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia.

He was being recruited heavily by the Buckeyes, but a report came out Tuesday that Ohio State self-reported a recruiting violation involving a picture Parsons took with ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit and former Ohio State running back Eddie George on the set of ESPN’s College GameDay.

According to the report, the Buckeyes stopped recruiting Parsons because he was given a benefit that wasn’t made available to the general public, which deemed him ineligible to Ohio State.

When the time came on Wednesday, Parsons stuck with his original pick — Penn State.

The Nittany Lions also got a flip on signing day as four-star wide receiver Jahan Dotson of Nazareth High School signed with Penn State instead of UCLA, where he had verbally committed in September.

Cowart moves to Maryland

While much of the attention around the Big Ten went near the top of the rankings with Ohio State and Penn State, D.J. Durkin quietly put together another good class at Maryland.

The Terrapins’ class is ranked No. 20 by 247sports and was bolstered by Byron Cowart, who was the No. 3-ranked recruit in the nation in 2015 and signed with Auburn.

However, his playing time was limited and he left Auburn for Hillsborough Community College in Florida this fall and will be immediately eligible next season. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Cowart will enroll early and join the team for winter workouts in January.

“Byron is a tremendous player, a tremendous talent. I think everyone can see that,” Durkin said. “I think his maturity level, what he’s all about, would impress anyone. You come away impressed. He’s very engaging and mature. I think he’ll come in here and do a great job.”