February 2, 2012

Marcus made a believer of Meyer

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According to the Rivals.com rankings there are 16 commits out of the class of 25 (to date) that rank ahead of linebacker Jamal Marcus out of Durham (N.C.) Hillside high school. That low ranking however didn't keep major colleges from offering the three star player with schools like USC, Florida, Auburn, Notre Dame and South Carolina all making up part of the 16 offers that Marcus reported during the process.

On Wednesday morning Marcus ultimately said he was going to be a Buckeye and there may not have been a person out there who was any more excited than Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Rankings aside he feels that his new 6-foot-2, 230 pound incoming freshman has all of the tools to be a huge success at the next level.

"The guy that is really impressive to me is Jamal Marcus," Meyer said during his post Signing Day press conference. "I invite you at some point, it's easy to do on (online), watch that highlight video. It borders on ridiculous as far as his ability level."

In this day of age of college recruiting there aren't very many players who get discovered at the 11th hour. Sometimes it takes schools longer than others to get on board with a player and sometimes one offer turns into 10 once other schools catch wind that a power-player is making a move.

"Jamal is a player who for some reason kind of flew under the radar," Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr said of Marcus. "But in addition to Ohio State, he's someone Florida also liked a lot."

Former North Carolina interim head coach and current Ohio State co-Defensive Coordinator Everett Withers was well aware of Marcus however and it was only natural that once Withers made the move to Ohio State that he would continue to pursue the talented defender. But Withers had to make the sale to Meyer, apparently it worked.

"I just heard about him two weeks ago," Meyer said. "We put on the film. He just blew us away on the videotape. I never heard of him."

But what is it about Marcus that makes coaches stop and take notice?

"Jamal is an outstanding pass rusher off the edge, and utilizes great quickness and explosiveness to get to the quarterback," Niebuhr added. "He is relentless, and re-directs extremely well, which puts a lot of pressure on those who attempt to block him."

Going into Signing Day the Buckeyes had commitments from four linebackers or players who project to play linebacker (David Perkins is listed as an athlete but will get his first look at linebacker). Ohio State knew that it wanted to get as many at that position in this class as possible however.

Entering the 2012 the Bucks only have three linebackers on the team that are juniors or older with Storm Klein, Etienne Sabino and Jordan Whiting (Whiting has never seen meaningful minutes at the linebacker position yet in his career). Obviously the departure of Dorian Bell before last season and Ejuan Price's last second change-of-heart before NSD 2011 put the Buckeyes in a position where they needed to make a move.

"He's obviously something that when you pop on the film, it jumps off the screen at you very quick," Co-Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell said. "It's also somebody that is a position of need. Have the ability to put him in a position where you need somebody to step up in that role. Obviously he has the great abilities."

So why was he rated so low? It isn't as if this is a case where just one of the recruiting services saw things one way and was in disagreement with everyone else. Across the board Marcus was viewed to be in that three-star range. That doesn't meant that three start players, especially three star linebackers at Ohio State, can't have success in the college game. But with everyone enjoying the process and 'star-gazing' it just seems odd that a player thought of so highly by one of the premier coaching staffs could rate so much lower.

"He isn't very big, and that's a little bit of a concern," Niebuhr said. "It also remains to be seen how well he does in coverage. All in all, though, this is an underrated pickup in my opinion."

And sometimes a player may be just further along in his development to make the jump from high school ball to college ball. Ryan Shazier was not rated as high as Curtis Grant coming out of high school but it was Shazier that ended the season as a starter. All the more remarkable for the fact that Shazier didn't play a traditional linebacker role in high school.

Funny thing is, Marcus was being looked at as a defensive end by many and some of the same parallels can be drawn.

But that is an unfair observation to make about a player who has not set foot on campus for one day of "practice" or "conditioning" or even "film study". What we do know however is that the staff is thrilled with all 25 current signees in the class of 2012 and Marcus has just as good of a shot as anyone of coming in this fall and making a name for himself.

"Obviously (Marcus) has the great abilities," Fickell concluded with. "There's a lot of guys with great abilities. Maybe some are going to come in here in a position that you couldn't think, 'you're an immediate need', whereas Jamal might be in a position where this is a spot of immediate need."


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