Archie Griffin. Chris Spielman. Troy Smith.
When looking at the brightest stars in Ohio State football history, many share a common bond as products of the Buckeye state. Griffin, college football's only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, played his prep football at Eastmoor High School, just eight miles east of Ohio State. Spielman's hometown is only a two hour drive north from Massillon, Ohio, and Smith—Ohio State's most recent Heisman Trophy winner—hails from Glenville High School in Cleveland.
That's why, year in and year out, Urban Meyer and Ohio State make it a priority to protect their backyard on the recruiting front.
Cities such as Cleveland, Akron, Columbus and Cincinnati are hotbeds of talent, and it takes relentless work to keep other schools from invading the Buckeyes' inherent territory. And with a loaded crop of 2016 blue-chip prospects, that task will be even tougher for Meyer and Co.
But locking up that home-grown talent is only step one in Meyer's recruiting strategy. The Buckeyes will, of course, reach up and down the east coast, into the SEC footprint and out west in search of stars—but it all starts in Ohio.
"We try to hammer Ohio the best we can, and we've done pretty well," Meyer said of Ohio State's recruiting, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "Then we cherry pick around the country, but you have to make sure they fit."
Hammering Ohio should yield a big reward for the Buckeyes in 2016.
There are currently eight Ohioans in 247Sports' top 100 recruiting standings for 2016. The Buckeye state hasn't produced that many top-100 recruits since 2003, when players such as Donte Whitner, Shawn Crable, Brady Quinn and Tony Gonzalez were high school seniors.
That top-end talent should fuel Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class.
Meyer has already secured commitments from five of Ohio's top 13 prospects.
|OSU's In-State Commitments for 2016|
|Player||Star-Rating||Ohio Rank||National Rank|
|George Hill (RB)||4-Star||No. 3||No. 63|
|Jake Hausmann (TE)||4-Star||No. 7||No. 76|
|Jonathon Cooper (DE)||4-Star||No. 9||No. 161|
|Tyler Gerald (OG)||4-Star||No. 11||No. 191|
|Kierre Hawkins (WR)||4-Star||No. 13||No. 279|
Sparked by the commitment of running back George Hill, who was the first member of Ohio State's 2016 class, Meyer has set himself up to dominate the in-state recruiting scene.
The Buckeyes have commitments from three of the top 10 prospects in the state. Six of the 10 who are currently uncommitted—Demario McCall (running back), Prince Sammons (defensive end), Brendan Ferns (linebacker), Liam Eichenberg (offensive tackle), Justin Layne (wide receiver) and Luke Farrell (tight end)—are favored to land at Ohio State, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions.
If those predictions come to fruition and Ohio State's current commits stick, that would give Meyer nine of the state's top 10 players.
The lone exclusion? That would be Ohio's top-rated recruit: 5-star offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer. The 6'5", 305-pound standout committed to Notre Dame last October, just three months after Ohio State was named the leader in his recruitment.
But that's not stopping the Buckeyes from pursuing Ohio's finest. In fact, four days after Ohio State beat Oregon in the national title game, Meyer made the trip to Cincinnati's Elder High School to pay Kraemer a visit. And while the offensive tackle reaffirmed his commitment to Notre Dame afterwards, via Dave Berk of Scout.com, it's clear that the Buckeyes aren't giving up on him.
One thing that could work in Ohio State's favor is the recent hiring of former Notre Dame running backs coach Tony Alford. The 18-year coaching vet also served as the Irish's recruiting coordinator, and now that he's with the Buckeyes, he could help Meyer flip Kraemer from Notre Dame.
Whether Kraemer joins the fold or not, Meyer is still building a tall and nearly impenetrable fence around Ohio.
Since 2012, the Buckeyes have secured a majority of Ohio's best recruits, signing 23 of Ohio's top 45 prospects. But with the work Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff are putting in this year, the Buckeyes could make those numbers look pedestrian.
All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.