Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is one of the best recruiters in college football, and that's because he's one of the most tenacious recruiters in college football.
Meyer doesn't care about your unwritten rules, and he certainly doesn't care if you're vulnerable on the recruiting trail. In fact, I would dare say that Meyer is at his best when his opponent is at his worst.
Look no further than Meyer's recent recruiting moves against Oregon for proof of that statement. The Ducks lost Chip Kelly to the NFL, and Meyer apparently saw his chance to pry away a few recruits, per Josh Canzano of The Oregonian (h/t Ty Duffy of Big Lead Sports)
Dontre Wilson, a 5-foot-10, 174-pound running back from Texas, committed to Oregon last spring. He now plans to visit Columbus this weekend. Meanwhile, Ohio State celebrated Kelly's NFL announcement by rushing Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman to San Diego to visit four-star wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr., another UO recruit. Also in San Diego, Ohio State offered two more critical Oregon commitments, twin basketball/football stars Tyree and Tyrell Robinson, scholarships after the Eagles-Kelly business went public.
Some may find the practice of "stealing" recruits despicable, but I personally consider it to be fair game.
Remember, we may be analyzing Meyer and his staff as recruiters right now, but they are coaches first and foremost.
As a coach, your first job is to look for any weakness in your opposition and figure out how you can exploit it. You spend countless hours trying to find any advantage you can, and once you finally have it, you do not let it go.
As a coach, ultimately you're judged by your win-loss record.
This is the mindset of a coach, and frankly, it should be the mindset of a good recruiter. Ultimately, a recruiter is judged by the talent that is brought into the program.
Nothing is official until National Signing Day (Feb. 6), so until that point even the most firm commitments are fair game. There's no harm in at least talking to a recruit and making a pitch, and if it ends up in a flip—well, the other programs should have done more convincing when they had the chance.
Everything is a competition in the world of college football. The games extend beyond the field and onto the recruiting trail, and oftentimes that's where we really see if a program can keep up with the best of the best.
Great recruiters know that their success is determined on National Signing Day, and they treat the recruiting trail with the same amount of tenacity that they would show on the sidelines on Saturday afternoons.
Meyer is one of those coaches, and he's certainly one of those recruiters. He saw the opportunity to grab a foothold with a few Oregon recruits when Kelly left the program, and if even one of them was to flip it would be well worth it.
Note: In regards to the recruits Meyer was trying to flip, keep an eye on the Robinson twins. Both Tyree and Tyrell Robinson started checking out other options as soon as the news broke that Kelly went to the NFL. USC and Notre Dame were two of their potential options, but it was reported by Brad Bournival of ESPN that they were planning on taking a visit to Ohio State as well (subscription required).
Of course, you have to stay within the rules, but unwritten rules are simply that—unwritten.
If schools are tired of their recruits getting flipped, then the best way to counteract that is to push for an early signing period. Until then though, no commitment is final until pen hits paper. That means programs have to be on their game, even after a recruit has committed.
That means more work and more time, but ultimately that's work and time that winning programs are willing to put in. Just as in any competition, you have to keep up and always stay on your toes. Somebody is always out there trying to be better than you. Somebody is always trying to take your job, and in recruiting, somebody always wants your recruit.
If you can't handle some pressure on the recruiting trail as a program, then you certainly don't belong in the upper echelon of programs. Schools like Ohio State and Alabama are successful because their coaches (Meyer and Nick Saban) are not afraid to be aggressive on the recruiting trail, and they're not afraid to exploit the weakness of another program.
It's a mindset that leads to wins on the recruiting trail, and that leads to wins on the football field.
You can call it unfair, but I see it as competition—and that's why we love college football.