Tom Herman flashed back to National Signing Day 2013, to what was very nearly a huge mistake for the Ohio State Buckeyes in their recruitment of Ezekiel Elliott.
Herman, now the head coach at Texas, was Ohio State’s offensive coordinator at the time under Urban Meyer. He told the Dallas Morning News that during the lead-up to Signing Day that year, Meyer was not sure if it was worth it to keep fighting Missouri for running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“We were debating on just whether to take him,” Herman recalled to The News. “It came down to the 11th hour with Missouri. We were like, ‘Maybe we should just let him go’ because we had another running back in that class.
Elliott was the No. 5 ranked running back in the country that year, per 247Sports. Ohio State also had Dontre Wilson, who was one spot below Elliott at No. 6, committed, so you can excuse Meyer for thinking the effort might have been worth spending elsewhere.
Ultimately, running backs coach Stan Drayton, who is now at Texas with Herman, convinced Meyer that they needed to keep on Zeke, even with his home-state Tigers hard after him.
Meyer: “Well, how good is he, really? Man, Stan. We’re fighting Mizzou. Ohio State doesn’t recruit against Mizzou. I’m sitting here looking at this kid. He’s a man amongst boys. Is he Ohio State caliber.
Drayton: “I think he is, no doubt about it.”
“There was a moment when Urban could have walked away from Ezekiel Elliott; it wasn’t out of the picture,” Drayton said. “But thank God, you work with a man for so long and they trust your evaluation.”
Elliott went on to dominate for the Buckeyes en route to the 2014 national championship, and is coming off of one of the great rookie seasons for a running back in NFL history. If not for Stan Drayton, Ohio State football history might look a lot different.