Coach Jim Tressel was busy talking on signing day talking about the ones he got — like DB Ted Ginn, LB Marcus Freeman and OL Kyle Mitchum — but there were a number of close defeats as well.
The Buckeyes were oh-so-close to getting WR Dwayne Jarrett (USC) and DL Rhyan Anderson (Miami) and a few other blue chippers. Those two would have turned a Top 10 class into a top two or three class.
However, the big news came Feb. 4 when a federal judge ruled that RB Maurice Clarett was eligible for the NFL draft. That ruling flies in the face of previous NFL policy that a player's high school graduating class had to have been three years removed from school. Clarett's high school class graduated in 2002.
The NFL has vowed to fight the ruling in the court system, but it is a major loss for the league and one that could have a dramatic effort on college football.
Unlike college basketball, football has been able to hold on to the majority of its major stars — at least through their junior seasons. If the ruling holds up to future court challenges, that will change ... maybe never to the extent that is seen in basketball, given the physical nature of football, but it will have an impact.
As for the Buckeyes, Clarett was largely responsible for leading Ohio State to the national title in 2002, but he was suspended for the 2003 season for various off-the-field indiscretions. Recently, there have been reports of his ties to a known gambler. What happens next is anyone's guess.
DB Ted Ginn, Cleveland — USA Today's defensive player of the year decided to go to Ohio State, which has a wonderful tradition of hard-hitting defensive backs. At 6-1 and 170 pounds, Ginn is a remarkable athlete who runs extremely well and has great coverage skills. He has been lauded for his ability to turn and run with fast receivers and also stay with double moves.
LB Marcus Freeman, Huber Heights, Ohio — Very aware and aggressive and he should have a great chance of making an impact as a freshman. He's a big, strong and active backer with tremendous instincts.
OL Kyle Mitchum, Erie, Pa. — He was a two-way player in high school, also playing defensive line. However, he's going to play offensive tackle at the college level. He knows how to redirect pass rushers, gets good leverage and sets a solid base.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "While, ordinarily, the best offense is a good defense, none of these defenses hold the line." — U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin in ruling that the NFL could not keep Ohio State RB Maurice Clarett out of the draft.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GLANCE AT 2004: The Buckeyes won the national championship two years ago and defeated Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl last season. They should be able to reload and battle Michigan for the Big Ten title once again. Savvy QB leader Craig Krenzel is gone, and Justin Zwick, a former all-everything prep who had the Ohio State masses in a frenzy a couple of years ago when he signed, has a slight early lead as his replacement.
PRO POTENTIAL: WR Michael Jenkins — He was the go-to receiver for Ohio State, with tremendous athletic ability. Jenkins can go down the field to make plays but will also go over the middle and pick up a tough third down. Opened everyone's eyes at the Senior Bowl and now might be first-round stock, depending on his Combine workout.
DE Will Smith — He is a big-time pass rusher who has the speed to dominate. While he's not huge at 6-4 and 250 pounds, Smith has a quick first step and is always around the ball. Very solid against the run. A high first-round pick.
FS Will Allen — Great instincts and awareness. Allen is a big hitter who can turn a game around when he sticks his head in there.
CB Chris Gamble — Left after his junior season. Probably needs more polish after only playing the position full time for one season, but his size and athleticism make him one of the most coveted players at corner.
OL Adrien Clark — Lots of upside, but needs to stay focused and can improve his stock at the Combine after teasing scouts with his on-again, off-again ability at the Senior Bowl.
C Alex Stepanovich — Solid center who probably will have a tough time handling the more athletic defensive tackles. Probably a mid-round pick.
INJURY IMPACT: The Buckeyes should be healthy for the start of spring practice. However, will they have RB Maurice Clarett? They could allow him to return, although he may try to continue his fight to get to the NFL.
Big Ten Recruiting: Ohio State
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