It was a big moment for Urban Meyer, who showed once again that he's committed to building a championship-caliber defense. Despite being known for his spread offense and coaching quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow and Alex Smith, Meyer won two national championships at Florida behind the strength of ferocious defensive units.
The Buckeyes lacked that last year, which ultimately cost them a chance to play Florida State for a national title. Ohio State surrendered an average of 38.3 points and 539 yards of offense to its final three opponents (Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson).
Meyer is working hard to right that ship, which starts on the recruiting trail.
Elite Defenses Are Built with Elite Talent
Hilliard was an absolute must-get.
The Cincinnati, Ohio, product is the state's top recruit, and he chose the Buckeyes over offers from Alabama, Iowa, Notre Dame, Michigan and more than three dozen other schools.
He's hoping to give Ohio State's linebacker unit the same boost 5-star LB Raekwon McMillan did this past spring.
The linebacker play during Meyer's tenure has been shaky. In 2012, the Buckeyes had to convert fullback Zach Boren to middle linebacker midway through the season because of a lack of production. Last year, the unit was arguably Meyer's top concern, and that was with All-American Ryan Shazier in the fold.
Meyer has certainly addressed that concern, and Hilliard is the most recent proof of that.
In front of him, the Buckeyes will have one of the country's top pass-rushers coming off the edge.
Cornell is ranked the No. 5 weak-side defensive end, and his burst off the line shows why. He's excellent in pass-rushing situations and is just as good supporting the run.
Cornell's offer list was similar to Hilliard's, but the two dreamed of playing together in college, per a tweet from Cornell. That dream is now a reality for the Buckeyes.
Big-Time Prospects Have Big-Time Plans
Now that Hilliard and Cornell have committed, they're ready to make their presence felt at Ohio State.
Speaking to Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors, Hilliard talked about his desire to build an elite class.
"I'm glad the process is ending because it's time for me to be a recruiter," Hilliard said. "I'm excited to go out and get a class together that will hopefully be a top-three class nationally."
Hilliard is, of course, close with Cornell, which was instrumental in Ohio State's recruitment of the talented defensive end. According to Birmingham, Hilliard also has great relationships with 5-star defensive end Josh Sweat, 5-star running back Damien Harris and 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell—three of Ohio State's top remaining targets. Landing them would set the Buckeyes up for another run at a top-five class.
Cornell is thinking long term. In an interview with Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer, he shared his vision for the Ohio State defense.
We have had the idea of having two great athletes – two elite players on defense – playing on the same team, and it'll be like the Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs combo. We have been thinking about that since my sophomore year.
I think we'd have a big impact on a defense. If we're playing on the same side, it would be a lock down – nobody would run to our side. There's no offense that would be able to play against us because we think we're beasts.
For Meyer, that sounds just fine.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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