Originally written on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 12/20/11

To any college coach who’s even thinking about recruiting in the Midwest, be warned: There’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Urban Meyer, and he’s coming to your cit-ay… and likely leaving with your highly-sought after five-star football recruit.

That’s right, King Urban is back on the prowl, and in just a few weeks since taking over at Ohio State, he has snagged a handful of elite recruits. The latest, and quite possibly greatest coup came over the weekend, when five-star defensive end Noah Spence verbaled to Meyer and Ohio State. He was the third highly rated recruit to sign up with the Buckeyes in the last week.

On Sunday, Spence told ESPN.com:

It just felt right -- the family atmosphere, the great coaches," Spence said shortly after leaving the Ohio State campus. "The players want to win and the coaches want to win, and they're trying to build something that I want to be a part of.

Along with Spence, two other elite defensive prospects also gave verbals to Meyer and Ohio State in the last week. They are defensive end Se’Von Pittman of Canton, OH and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt of Illinois. And the trio may represent the beginning of a growing recruiting trend in the Midwest.

The truth is that aside from looming NCAA sanctions (which will be announced on Tuesday afternoon), Meyer couldn’t be coming to Columbus at a better time. Off a 6-6 season, Ohio State has plenty of playing time to offer any potential prospects looking to get onto the field immediately. And while Brady Hoke is doing a bang-up job recruiting himself at Michigan, Meyer is using the uncertainty of the rest of the Big Ten- specifically the situation at Penn State- to his advantage.

Simply put, no one is quite sure what will happen in Happy Valley in the coming days, weeks and months, not even the current coaching staff at Penn State. And while Tom Bradley and his assistants are out on the recruiting trail, even they cannot guarantee that they’ll in Happy Valley in the fall to coach any recruit in the class of 2012. Because of it, Penn State- a program which usually has no problem picking up commitments in its backyard- has a surprisingly low number of high school guys interested in the program. At last count, there are only eight players who are considered “solid verbals,” at this point in the recruiting game, a surprisingly low number for any program the stature of Penn State at this time of year.

And it is that uncertainty that Meyer is using to his advantage. Spence, who is a Harrisburg native, was long thought to be a Penn State lean deep into the recruiting process, and Schutt himself was actually committed to the Nittany Lions up until a week ago. As for Pittman, he was Michigan State verbal as well, proving that Meyer is not only picking off players from the weak, but the strong too. The Spartans just completed their second straight regular season of 10 wins or more.

What is truly interesting about the commitments though, is that Meyer has once again proven that despite being one of the brightest offensive minds in college football, his focus remains on the defensive side of the ball, and on the defensive line in specific. Spence, Schutt and Pittman are all defensive linemen, and a fourth recruit high-profile recruit, Adolphis Washington plays there as well.

Then again, for those who followed Meyer’s recruiting at Florida, this trend isn’t all that surprising. For all the talk about the offensive stars in Gainesville (you may have heard of Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez), where Meyer truly made his mark on the defensive side of the ball. His final full recruiting class at Florida in the winter of 2010 was considered to be amongst the best defensive hauls ever, with Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and Dominque Easley all considered five-star prospects. Over the rest of his time in Gainesville, Meyer recruited plenty of other big name defensive players as well, including Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden and others.

Now, the only question will be if Meyer has enough time to finish off this recruiting season with any further bang. The three latest commitments moved the Buckeyes into the No. 10 spot on ESPNU’s rankings, and Ohio State is still in the mix for a handful of other elite players, most of whom will likely see the field if they end up in Columbus next year. While Braxton Miller is entrenched at quarterback, holes still remain at wide receiver, and along the offensive line. Whether Meyer has enough time to fill them will be the question.

Still, it’s very clear that Meyer is back, and if you’re a 17-year-old, he isn’t taking no for an answer.

For those who were worried about Urban Meyer slowing down upon his arrival at Ohio State, apparently, the only thing to fear, was fear itself.

For all his insights, opinions and commentary on college football, follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

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