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2021 NFL Draft: which top-prospects were previously recruited by Urban Meyer?

Meyer's final seasons at Ohio State were the same years many of this year's prospects went through high school recruitment. Could he target those same players again?
Credit: AP
Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth (87) lines up during an NCAA college football game against Maryland in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Nov. 07, 2020. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

First-year Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer may not be able to hand-pick his next crop of recruits -- sorry, “rookie class.” He may not even have final say within his organization.

But he most certainly did in college. 

Meyer’s final two years as head coach at Ohio State University came in 2017 and 2018. That means those were also his final two recruiting cycles at the collegiate level. 2017 and 2018 also happened to be when most of this year’s NFL Draft-eligible players either entered or chose their college destination. 

Translation: many of this year’s top players have been recruited by Urban Meyer before. Even if the Buckeyes didn’t land them from 2017-2018, could that previous interest from Meyer carry over to the 2021 NFL Draft?

Let’s go back through the recruiting archives to explore such connections.

P.S. Given the Jaguars’ inevitable selection of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick, this deep dive focuses on those players that could be available at the Jaguars subsequent five picks: No. 25, No. 33, No. 45, No. 65, and No. 106.

Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

A Cleveland, Ohio, native, Eichenberg’s recruitment came down to Notre Dame and Ohio State. He was raised in a Buckeyes family. He was offered early on. He was quick to tell recruiting services how much he “loved” Urban Meyer and his staff.

But ultimately, Eichenberg opted for that school to the west.

“It’s tough because [Ohio State] offered me when I was a freshman going into my sophomore year,” Eichenberg said, citing “academics” as a big reason he ultimately committed to the Fighting Irish. “[Ohio State] helped me out and everything. It was hard, but I have to do what’s best for me.”

Eichenberg would start 39 games at left tackle for Notre Dame over his final three seasons. He was a unanimous All-American his senior year. Eichenberg is largely regarded as a plug-and-play starter.

The Jaguars are committed to Cam Robinson for the 2021 season, having used the franchise tag on the fifth-year left tackle. But after that? Eichenberg will probably be available for the Jaguars at both No. 25 and No. 33.

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Then a five-star defensive end out of Pennsylvania, Meyer’s Buckeyes were considered the favorite to land Parsons… until they self-reported for NCAA recruiting infractions. While on a visit in Columbus, Parsons and his family visited the set of ESPN’s College GameDay. There, he interacted with former Buckeyes Eddie George and current ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Recruits on official visits can interact with former student-athletes, but they cannot “have contact with members of the media associated with former student-athletes.”

Parsons tweeted and retweeted photos of himself on the set and is assumed to be the “2018 prospective student-athlete” the report alludes to. Subsequently, the Buckeyes’ recruitment of Parsons ceased.

Combined with some controversial tweets directed at Meyer’s decision-making and who Ohio State’s starting quarterback should be… maybe Urban doesn’t go near him with a 39.5 foot pole. Then there’s the report from NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks, who noted Parsons’ consistent immaturity since his high school days. 

Parsons projects as a MIKE linebacker. Technically, the Jaguars are darn-near set with Joe Schobert and Myles Jack up the middle. But Parsons’ stats from his sophomore year (he opted out this past fall) are eye-popping: 109 tackles, 14 TFL, 5 sacks, 5 passes defended, and four forced fumbles. Parsons also ran a 4.39, 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He probably doesn’t make it past the Top-10, let alone pick Number 25, unless those off-the-field issues really do scare teams away. Could Meyer look past those issues and take “the best player available?”

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

The son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn first visited Columbus with a friend in 2011… when he was in middle school. He was officially offered in March 2017 and attended the Buckeyes’ Spring Game. Ultimately, he selected nearby South Carolina over Ohio State. 

“This was the right decision,” he said at the time. “[South Carolina] develops DBs and gets DBs to the league, so it’s the place for me.”

Then ranked the 60th best-cornerback prospect in the nation, Horn is largely regarded as a Top-5 cornerback in this year’s NFL Draft.  

Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

The worst kept secret in Duval County: new Jaguars tight ends coach Tyler Bowen served in the same capacity at Penn State from 2018-2020. His tenure in State College spanned Freiermuth’s entire, Nittany Lion tenure. 

And while Freiermuth committed to Penn State early and never wavered, there was a “late push” from Ohio State his senior year of high school. Interestingly enough, Freiermuth told BlueWhiteIllustrated in 2018 the following:

“Honestly, the guy recruiting me from [Ohio State] didn’t talk very highly of Penn State, which always annoyed me. Don’t talk bad about my school. That’s never going to get me to listen to you.”

Freiermuth went onto score a touchdown off three catches in his first game against Meyer’s Ohio State in 2018. 

I think it’s safe to say Meyer and the Jaguars staff will speak highly of the Nittany Lions when they speak to “Big Pat.”

Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

Moore is a St. Thomas Aquinas alum, so it should be no surprise he was recruited by Meyer and Ohio State. Both Joey and Nick Bosa graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas, as did current Oakland Raider Damond Arnette. Trevon Grimes would ultimately finish his career at the University of Florida, but the fellow STA grad began his college career with the Buckeyes. 

Ohio State was among Moore’s top-three schools, even if Ole Miss appeared to be the front-runner from the jump. Moore went onto rack up more than 2,400 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons in Oxford. He’s got the speed that Meyer has preached for this Jaguars team since taking over in January. He also can feast in the slot -- perhaps the one, receiver position where the Jaguars still have a bit of a hole. Oh, and he’s got his former head coach Lane Kiffin’s endorsement. 

Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State

Outside of the quarterback position, Urban Meyer seems hell-bent on drastically improving the Jaguars’ defensive line. He told reporters last week that Jacksonville’s defensive line will rank in the top-fourth of the league in 2021. The team certainly addressed the interior of that defensive line through free agency, adding 1,209 pounds last week alone. 

Perhaps they opt to add Oweh’s 257 lb frame along the edge, too.

While Jacksonville has former first rounders Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson projected to start at outside linebacker in Joe Cullen’s 3-4 scheme, the only other rotational piece along the edge (as of this writing) is Dawuane Smoot. And Smoot probably projects more so along the front-three. Additionally, Allen missed eight games in 2020. Chaisson started just three games. 

Oweh had 13.5 TFL and 7 sacks in 37 games for Penn State. He, too, showed off at Penn State's Pro Day, running a 4.36, 40-yard dash. The New Jersey native did indeed receive an offer from Meyer’s Buckeyes late in his recruitment; many believed this was only after fellow defensive lineman Brenton Cox spurred Ohio State for Georgia. But the Buckeyes were Oweh’s runner-up; Meyer even made a last-effort visit to Oweh in December of 2018. 

Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

Here’s where things get spicy.

Moore first received an offer from Ohio State in April 2017, visiting both that spring and again that September. His reaction to the Buckeyes program?

“I really loved the way they practice,” Moore told Eleven Warriors. “They practice really fast and hard, so I really loved the culture they had there.”

Fast. Sound familiar, Jaguars fans?

Moore ultimately settled on Purdue (he did fake out on-lookers at his National Signing Day ceremony, picking up an Ohio State hat at first). He’d go onto win Big Ten Freshman of the Year, absolutely torching the Buckeyes in Purdue’s massive, 49-20 upset that fall. Moore set a new program record for all-purpose yards in a single game that day, tallying more than 250 receiving, rushing and return yards, and adding two touchdowns. It would prove to be Ohio State’s only loss of the season, holding them back from a College Football Playoff berth in Meyer’s final season at the helm.

I think it’s safe to say: Urban Meyer remembers this. All of this.

P.S. Moore ran a 4.29, 40-yard dash Tuesday at his Pro Day. Pretty fast. 

Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami

Meyer and Ohio State did offer the Las Vegas-native a scholarship, just as they did his high school teammates Tate Martell and Haskell Garrett. The Buckeyes weren’t among his finalists (Michigan and UCLA joined Miami in Jordan’s top-three). But as the top-rated tight end in the Class of 2018, Jordan had every offer. Florida. LSU. …and Alabama.

That’s where this gets interesting: Tosh Lupoi, then with the Crimson Tide, was the lead recruiter for Jordan. Lupoi is now the defensive line coach for the Jaguars. 

Jordan isn’t alone in that category, as fellow, projected draftees Aman Ra-St. Brown (WR, USC) and Hamsah Nasirildeen (S, Florida State) received offers from Alabama and were directly recruited by Lupoi. 

Jay Tufele, IDL, USC

The four-star defensive tackle and highest-rated player in the state of Utah ultimately opted for a school closer to home in Southern California. But it largely came down to USC, his hometown Utah Utes, and Ohio State.

Urban Meyer prided himself during his Ohio State tenure in maintaining strong ties in Utah, where he previously coached. He made a last-effort, at-home visit himself to Tufele’s Utah home in late January 2017. At that point, Utah and BYU were Tufele’s other, primary pursuers; an offer from another blue blood like USC that was closer to home ultimately changed the game.

Tufele opted out this past fall. He tallied 64 tackles, including 10 for loss, to go along with 6.5 sacks in two seasons at USC. He’s a three-down interior lineman with versatility to play in a variety of fronts. 

Asante Samuel, CB, Florida State

Like Elijah Moore, Samuel is another St. Thomas Aquinas guy that had the Buckeyes in his top-five before ultimately choosing his home state Seminoles. Samuel specifically mentioned fellow St. Thomas Aquinas grads as the biggest reason for his interest in Ohio State. Even after Jimbo Fisher’s departure for Texas A&M, Samuel stuck with the Noles, who were the frontrunner for his services all along.

Samuel tallied 97 tackles and four interceptions in 31 games in Tallahassee, including a career high three picks in 2020.

Amon Ra-St Brown, WR, USC

While Ohio State did not make his top-three, St. Brown did previously say the Buckeyes were among the six teams recruiting him the most aggressively at the peak of his recruitment. A variety of factors hinted at this never being a fit: St. Brown played high school ball in Los Angeles, and his brothers played football at Stanford and Notre Dame. However, he did tell Eleven Warriors that he and Urban Meyer texted back-and-forth regularly. 

As previously mentioned, St. Brown also was recruited by Tosh Lupoi at Alabama. 

In 30 career games, St. Brown racked up 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns, including seven this fall. And if his name didn’t suggest it, St. Brown’s life-story reads like a superhero movie waiting to be written.

Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson

The ultimate “one who got away” for Urban Meyer and his staff while at Ohio State. Carman was the rare, in-state product the Buckeyes weren’t able to keep home. More specifically: he was the only, No. 1 prospect in the state of Ohio that Meyer did not sign during his tenure in Columbus. 

“[Clemson head coach Dabo 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, so I mean having the chance to be a part of something that’s up-and-coming and establish Clemson as a top-three figure is something,” Carman said at the time. 

(There was also a Twitter feud with Kirk Herbstreit that may have rubbed Carman the wrong way, too.)

In the ultimate twist of fates, two years later, Carman was starting along the Tigers’ offensive line in the College Football Playoff… opposite Ohio State. Carman and Clemson (and Trevor Lawrence) won that game, en route to a second straight, College Football Playoff Championship game appearance.  

He's another individual who Urban Meyer probably hasn’t forgotten about. Moreover, having already had experience blocking for Trevor Lawrence, Carman might be a prime candidate to learn under Cam Robinson this year. He is also projected by many outlets as a starting guard, and both A.J. Cann and Andrew Norwell’s contracts expire after this season. 

Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

Another South Florida recruit, Ohio State made Campbell’s top-five, which also featured Miami, Clemson, Alabama, and his eventual choice, Georgia. But here's two, contrasting perspectives to the Buckeyes’ recruitment of Campbell:

  1. Campbell told Eleven Warriors after The Opening Finals in July 2017 that he and Urban Meyer talked almost “every day.” 

  1. When asked by The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman later that year if he “could feel how bad Ohio State wanted him in its 2018 Class,” Campbell bluntly responded, “Not really.”

Campbell went onto play in 31 games in Athens, registering 89 tackles, 3.5 for loss during that time. He had 10 career passes defended, five of them coming this fall, as well as his lone, career interception. Durability was an issue at UGA, but he played his entire, final season. He made himself some money with a 4.38, 40-yard dash at Georgia’s Pro Day this month. And we know the Jaguars value speed….