COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After a full year of competing head to head, Urban Meyer has taken notice of the recruiting tactics of his new rival, Jim Harbaugh.
Just don’t expect the Ohio State coach to start sleeping over at the houses of recruits, climbing trees or taking his shirt off at satellite camps.
Like seemingly everybody else in the country (and certainly around the Big Ten), Meyer hasn’t been able to miss what’s going on with the Wolverines. But heading into national signing day with the No. 2 class in the country, Meyer clearly isn’t feeling much pressure to copy some of Harbaugh’s unorthodox methods, even while trying to blend his own old-school, relationship-driven mindset with a new-age approach.
“No, no, I don’t think we’ll do that,” Meyer told ESPN.com when asked about sleeping at a recruit’s house. “But you have to be aware of what your rival is doing at all times. You can’t be caught five years behind, and if something is out there, and I’m not going to name any schools, but there are some really good, creative ways of recruiting.
“I’m not talking about the craziness. I’m talking about things of substance.”
Meyer has proven he’s not opposed to evolving his approach, starting with becoming more familiar with social media and encouraging his staff to be active with promotional videos and graphics during weekly brainstorming sessions devoted to recruiting.
He’s also hit a few dance moves that have gone viral, showing another side of his personality to current and future players. And as he reclined on a couch in his office Tuesday during the final few hours before signing day, another example of his willingness to adapt was on prominent display with one of Ohio State’s black jerseys folded neatly next to a matte helmet.
But Meyer has been careful not to stray too far from what has worked for him as one of the nation’s best recruiters for more than a decade, even at the risk of potentially losing the publicity battle that appears to be helping Harbaugh reignite the most storied rivalry in the country.
“Yeah, I do think about that, I do,” Meyer said. “I ask our coaches constantly and, more importantly, I ask the recruits. I bet we do have a reputation that we’re very serious. But that’s very important for us and who we recruit. If that’s our challenge, if maybe we’re a little too serious and that’s our biggest issue, then we’ll just move forward. You don’t want to all of a sudden start losing recruits, so we monitor things very closely.
“But let’s not turn this into something else. This is not a circus. This is a serious matter.”
The businesslike approach is working just fine for Meyer, who is on track to have the highest-rated class in his conference for the eighth time, breaking a record he currently shares with former Texas coach Mack Brown. Harbaugh’s methods appear to be generating results as well, and that obviously hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Buckeyes.
But as much as the rival programs drive and push each other in a nonstop competition, there are some things Meyer simply won’t do. And at this point, it doesn’t look like he has to, either.
“There are some very good coaches out there, very good programs,” Meyer said. “But I think we’re on the cutting edge of videos. We’re on the cutting edge of graphics, that’s all this new, modern era of recruiting. If you ever come in on a Wednesday, you’re going to see a bunch of 50-year-old men learning how to use their iPads, their phones, Twitter, direct message, because that’s the way it is.
“The thing with our staff and our culture here at Ohio State, though, is I think we try to be very old-school with our approach to the game. If a new idea doesn’t change us, I’ll always consider it. I’m just not talking about the craziness, because we don’t do that.”
If that more buttoned-down approach costs the Buckeyes some headlines, Meyer can live with that. It hasn’t cost him any recruits, and those are what ultimately decide The Game.