COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On a treadmill overlooking the weight room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Urban Meyer’s phone started ringing.
The Ohio State coach had a television tuned into the high-profile signing announcement of the last guy left on his board, the player who could potentially push an already impressive haul over the top and turn the class into something even more special.
Vonn Bell was on the other end, set to walk into his press conference and put his signature on a National Letter of Intent and ready to give Meyer a heads-up about his intentions.
A few minutes later, the Buckeyes had their crown jewel with the sought-after safety. And now, nearly three years to the day later, as Meyer prepares to land another decorated batch of recruits, Ohio State also has a new measuring stick with any group of newcomers moving forward -- trying to match the standard set by the signing class of 2013.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Meyer said. “He called me and said, ‘Coach, I’m coming, by the way.’
“And he’s calling me as I’m watching him walk into the thing on ESPN.”
The Buckeyes obviously wouldn’t have been leaving national signing day empty handed if that broadcast Bell gleefully spoiled for Meyer had gone another way.
Potential No. 1 NFL draft pick Joey Bosa was already in the fold, along with star tailback Ezekiel Elliott, a future top-10 Heisman Trophy finisher in quarterback J.T. Barrett, game-breaking athlete Jalin Marshall, star linebacker Darron Lee and a road-clearing guard in Billy Price -- which is still just scratching the surface for a deep group that featured a staggering 17 members of the ESPN 300.
But Bell was truly the icing on the cake that day for a class that finished No. 3 overall in the country and almost certainly exceeded even those outsized expectations with so many second-year players playing crucial roles on the way to the 2014 national championship. After posting another 12-win season and a victory in the Fiesta Bowl, six of those Buckeyes have also now capitalized on their sky-high draft stock and are skipping their final seasons of eligibility, which simultaneously provides an invaluable recruiting pitch for Meyer while also raising the bar for the signees coming into replace them.
“I mean, it’s what we do when you recruit like that,” Meyer said. “I’ve been in scenarios where you don’t have a lot of conversations about the NFL because you don’t have that caliber of players.
“I’m a fan of great players, and a bunch of those guys are going to play for a while. You have to look at it that way, and the door is open now and we recruited very well. It’s their time to shine and time to go.”
The new group of Buckeyes might actually arrive with even greater expectations than the 2013 class with Meyer’s program sitting at No. 2 in the rankings heading into signing day and at least a chance of finishing in the top spot overall.
But no matter where Ohio State wraps up when all the scholarship papers are signed and the final last-second phone calls are made around the country, Meyer’s next class and probably every subsequent one after will be judged against the first one he landed with the benefit of a full recruiting cycle.
Just in case there was any doubt, Meyer quickly proved he hadn’t lost his touch on the recruiting trail or his passion for the process that year. And he doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down after the 2013 class got the momentum rolling.
“It was a very good junior class,” Meyer said. “I take my hat off to them.
“This the the way it is [with a lot of talented draft-eligible players], and I'd rather be in this situation than have a bunch of not-very-good players.”
The track record for the bunch heading out the door speaks for itself. Now it’s another group’s turn to take their shot at living up to that standard.