Ohio State 2006 Preview Part One: Recruiting Class
Scout.com Ranking: No. 13
Jake Ballard TE 6-7 255 Springboro/Springboro
Bryant Browning OL 6-4 328 Cleveland/Glenville
Chimdi Chekwa DB 6-1 180 Clermont, Fla./East Ridge
Kurt Coleman DB 5-11 185 Clayton/Northmont
Walter Dublin DE 6-3 235 Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota
Aaron Gant DB 6-0 205 Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's
Thaddeus Gibson LB 6-3 220 Euclid /Euclid
Larry Grant LB 6-3 225 Community College of San Francisco
Antonio Henton QB 6-2 210 Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County
Ross Homan LB 6-1 237 Coldwater/Coldwater
Mark Johnson LB 6-4 230 Los Angeles/Dorsey
Dexter Larimore DT 6-3 275 Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville
Andy Miller TE 6-6 250 Washington, Pa./Trinity
Tyler Moeller LB 6-1 205 Cincinnati/Colerain
Aram Olson FB 6-2 252 Columbia, S.C./Irmo
Robert Rose DE 6-5 260 Cleveland/Glenville
Grant Schwartz DB 6-0 200 Dana Hills, Calif./Dana Hills
Ray Small WR 6-0 175 Cleveland/Glenville
Connor Smith OL 6-5 295 Cincinnati/Colerain
Chris Wells RB 6-1 225 Akron/Garfield
In the course of attending combines, camps, and gathering film of prospects in Ohio, I've been able to see a good portion of Ohio State's incoming recruiting class. In part one of our preview of the 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes, I offer some thoughts on the new Buckeyes and what impact they may have next season.
The top player in the class is running back Chris Wells. I went to see Wells at Akron Garfield when he was still a Michigan recruit as a junior, and certainly he is an impressive young man. Seeing him again at the Akron Scout.com combine and on film, he again showed what a great athlete he is. Wells maintained his chiseled frame and he ran a 4.5 forty. Wells also had a standout US Army All American Game, earning game MVP on his way to three touchdowns. What makes Wells special? He is a very, very tough runner to bring down. He has plus athleticism, a strong lower body, and battering ram power. It's no surprise he was recruited as a linebacker earlier in his career as well. Wells has been compared to Adrian Peterson and I do see plenty of parallels in their games. Wells also has been compared to former Ohio State back Maurice Clarett (on the field wise). I was able to watch most of Clarett's high school games on film and although Wells doesn't make as many ridiculous plays as Clarett did, Wells is certainly that caliber of player. Certainly he should see plenty of playing time as a 1-2 punch with Antonio Pittman next season. Given Jim Tressel's dedication to running the football, Wells should grow into the future horse of the Ohio State ground game. As with every freshman, there is a question on how quickly he will adjust but physically speaking, Chris Wells is ready.
JUCO linebacker Larry Grant could make the biggest impact of any of the incoming freshman. Given Ohio State's lack of depth at strong side linebacker, Grant should win the starting job there. I haven't seen Grant but word is he is a fast linebacker who makes a lot of plays. Given his two years of experience, he does come in with some polish.
Another player from this class I really like is Thaddeus Gibson. The outside linebacker from Euclid, Ohio had a strong interest in Michigan (more than I can go into) before committing to Ohio State, his favorite from the start of the process. Watching Gibson on film you can't be anything but blown away at the playmaking skills of this young man. He is strong for his size and current weight, extremely athletic and a dominant pass rusher. He is so athletic, he could project as a strong safety but he needs to be in the box to make his full presence felt. I think ideally you would want Gibson to work from the strong side because he matches up so well with tight ends and he could rush more from the position but he will start out on the weak side. One thing Gibson needs to do is add weight; he's around 215 now but I don't expect his athleticism to taper off too much while adding bulk. I expect Gibson to hit the two deep at weak side linebacker backing up Marcus Freeman who was a medical red shirt last season. Gibson certainly needs to get bigger but playing on the weak side will lessen the impact of this slight weakness. Expect Gibson to be a star in the future.
Kurt Coleman is a player who fell victim to the ‘early commitment curse', dropping out of the top 100 after making it initially. Certainly, that can't be based on his on the field performance. Coleman is a player I really like and in my judgement should be rated in the top five at his position. He has optimum speed but what separates him is his instincts. He does a great job of reading the play and breaking on the ball. He doesn't make many mental lapses and his film checks out very good. If Ohio State had their choice, I think they would put Coleman at one of the safety positions but given the lack of depth at cornerback, he will likely start out there. I suppose Coleman could move to safety down the road but either way, he is equipped to play either spot well. Expect him to contribute somewhere in the secondary next season.
Jake Ballard is a guy who caught my eye at the Akron Scout combine where he impressed many onlookers. I watched Ballard most of the day and I was amazed by the fact he did not drop one pass. I figured it must have been a lucky day or something. Popped in a few tapes and I started noticing a trend! I don't think he's an athletic mismatch with any second level defender but he moves well for a 6'7, 255 pound kid. I think he could go with either offensive line or tight end as far as his future at Ohio State. Initially he will come in as a tight end, but if things don't work there, he will bulk up and play offensive tackle. I really like his potential at tight end. He's big, he's strong, he can move and he catches just about everything but again, we will see how things go. Reminds me a lot of Minnesota's Matt Spaeth. Either way, don't expect much of him in 2006.
I was able to watch quite a bit of Cincinnati Colerain this year with Michigan signee Cobrani Mixon and phenom prospect Eugene Clifford on the team. Two of their Colerain teammates, Connor Smith and Tyler Moeller went on to sign with Ohio State. Connor Smith was a US Army All American, and I like his potential at guard. As far as top lineman in the Midwest? I'd give the edge to Matt Carufel (Notre Dame) but Smith is still legit. He had a shaky Army game but in his defense, Smith simply isn't use to pass protecting given the fact Colerain runs the ball literally almost every play in a power I offense. I think Smith could struggle a bit at tackle but given some time to pick up pass protection skills, he should be a fine guard for the Buckeyes. He comes off the ball quickly, is very strong at the point of attack and finishes his blocks as well as anyone.
Tyler Moeller was Ohio High School's version of AJ Hawk this year. Moeller went wild on Texas Tyler Lee and continued with a strong senior season. Moeller is undersized for a typical linebacker but is also more athletic than most. Just one of those pure football players. Unlike the other linebacker recruits, I highly doubt he sees the field in anything other than special teams. He would benefit from a red shirt year to get bigger but he could also be moved to strong safety.
As always, Ohio State picked up help from Cleveland Glenville with three commitments this year. The headliner is Robert Rose. Last year watching him on tape I thought he was more of a project/potential type guy. A year later, Rose has improved significantly and is one of the top pass rushers in the 2006 class. Rose had a strong senior season and capped it with a top performance in the Army All American game. The one thing that stands out to me about Rose and has for a few years; he does not have an 18 year olds body. He was big as a junior and is even more solid now. I think watching him these last couple years he's been able to dominate with sheer power and athleticism but really needs to work on the techniques going into college. He needs polish but expect him to help out in situations for 2006.
Ray Small is an outstanding athlete much like former Glenville players Ted Ginn Jr. and Jamario O'Neal. It should be interesting whether he ends up at wide receiver or cornerback. My guess is he will start at receiver and maybe add the defensive duties later in his career. Small is much like Michigan's version of Antonio Bass, the type of kid who needs to be on offense to get the ball in his hands. Doesn't have great size but gets great separation in his routes and out of breaks. Probably should red shirt but he could very well backup Ted Ginn Jr. as a return man. The Buckeyes also picked up project lineman Bryant Browning. Certainly a big kid who's future will depend on how he develops. Expect him to red shirt.
Ross Homan was a kid I got to check out at the Akron Scout.com combine as well as on some film clips. Now, your not going to hear me compare him to AJ Hawk, I have a grip on reality. However, I think Homan is a very solid linebacker. Watching him down in Akron, his change of direction skills are excellent. He's a very explosive kid and light footed. On the field, he shows linebacker instincts and closes on the play well. He's already enrolled at Ohio State, which will give him a jump-start on maybe cracking the two deep at one of the outside linebacker spots. Homan redshirting isn't out of the question as well.
Quarterback Antonio Henton is a kid who could end up being surprisingly good. Most who have seen him like to compare him to Troy Smith. After checking out some of his video clips, one thing you notice quickly is athleticism comparable to Smith. He also has experience out of the shotgun, something Ohio State has worked into their offense over the past couple of years. Anyone who says he's the "best quarterback in the country" needs to click on the Tim Tebow and Mitch Mustain profiles but Henton is a top ten quarterback without question. He will red shirt the 2006 season.
The rest of Ohio States class I haven't seen much of, but here are some brief comments.
Under the radar type recruit from Florida that has good size and potential. Despite being thin at cornerback, I don't see Chekwa seeing the field in 2006.
Could end up a either tackle or end in the future. Will likely red shirt 2006 but could be a surprise in the coming years.
A kid Michigan wanted but ultimately chose the Buckeyes. Again, the depth is thin but Gant will likely red shirt.
One of the better recruits on the west coast that the Buckeyes were able to grab. He enters a depth chart favorable to linebackers and could figure in the mix there.
I've always thought wrestlers gained a certain advantage in football by the things they learned on the mat. Though I never wrestled, most of the kids that did at my high school went on to be very good ball players (just thought I'd add that commentary). Larimore could end up being a strong player down the line, but will likely red shirt for 2006.
Much in the same mold as Jake Ballard but doesn't have as much experience as a receiver that big Ballard does. Could grow into an offensive lineman but will red shirt 2006.
With a talented back like Chris Wells coming in, we are likely to see a return to more I-back sets in the future. To tag team with Wells, the Buckeyes went out and got a tough, lead blocking fullback in Olson.
A legacy recruit for the Buckeyes who could see time at one of the safety positions early.
This was a strong class for the Buckeyes. They hauled in one the best players in the country in Chris Wells and hit most of their needs. They were set at most of the offensive skill positions but added key pieces for the future at each position. They probably would have liked a ‘true' tackle prospect or two but they got a good one in Connor Smith at guard. The defensive line added two outstanding pass rushers in Rose and Dublin and strength in the middle with Larimore. The linebacker corps was once depleted with the departure of AJ Hawk, Anthony Schlegal and Bobby Carpenter, but now is reloaded with five incoming players. The Buckeyes would have liked another cornerback and finished second for one of their top targets AJ Wallace, but got a real good one in Kurt Coleman. Overall, very solid class with quite a few kids possibly seeing the field in 2006.
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