OSU's Class Came Together

Recruiting is never an exact science, so getting to the 23 scholarships that were signed, sealed and delivered to the Ohio State football office on Wednesday required some effort on the part of the Buckeye coaching staff. Some position groups went above their targeted goals while others fell short in the 2011 class.

For example, no one would have expected that Ohio State would have received letters of intent from four linebackers, but that's exactly what happened.

The Buckeyes, in fact, didn't even have any commits from linebackers until early November when three-star prospect Conner Crowell of Walford (Md.) North Point became commitment No. 18 in the OSU class.

By the time signing day rolled around yesterday, linebackers coach Luke Fickell had LOIs from Ryan Shazier, Ejuan Price and Curtis Grant to replace departing seniors and two-year starters Brian Rolle and Ross Homan.

"We had two seniors, and going into the recruiting season we thought we might be taking two guys," Fickell said. "But we had the opportunity to be in on four great players, guys that we didn't think could pass up."

Shazier was the second linebacker to commit to Ohio State, and he was a Florida Gator when Crowell pulled the trigger in early November. But the coaching chance in Gainesville helped reopen things for the four-star prospect from Plantation, Fla., who visited OSU in early December and committed on Dec. 17.

Price pulled the trigger exactly one month later, as the Pittsburgh Woodland Hills prospect chose OSU over Iowa. The four-star player then considered the hometown Pitt Panthers all the way up to National Signing Day before deciding to stick with his Ohio State commitment.

It was just as difficult to get Grant, a five-star prospect and the No. 19 player in the country, to Columbus. Fickell noted the Buckeyes have had little success in Richmond, Va., in the past but that offensive line coach Jim Bollman did a good job of identifying Grant's talent and interest early in the process.

The more OSU got to know about the Hermitage High School star, the more they liked, and vice versa. By the time Grant visited in December, the Buckeyes were a major player, and the No. 1 OLB in the class made his decision on signing day.

Fickell said it didn't take too much convincing to get the rest of the coaching staff to go along with adding four players to his linebacker room.

"We might have put on the board to take two, but we all also know that we're going to take the best kids we have available," he said. "All these guys know it's about competing. We have guys with versatility. We have Ryan who is 208 pounds right now but who knows – in a couple of years, he might have his hand on the ground being a rush end.

"That's the thing, we just want to make sure we have the right kids and right people. The team is first."

Ohio State also didn't expect to take a specialist until late in the process, but long snapper Bryce Haynes forced his way into the picture. The Cumming (Ga.) Pinecrest Academy product came to the fore after Ohio State received his tape, and the Buckeyes decided to send an offer his way in early December.

"It went through here like wildfire when we got his tape and we watched it," running backs coach Dick Tressel said. "It was like, wait a minute – 10 snaps in a row and the guy is right there just catching the ball. You thought the film had stopped, then you timed a couple of them and pretty soon you have to start looking for a space to get a guy like that in your class."

The Buckeye staff also found room for a late offer at the quarterback position. Cleveland Glenville QB Cardale Jones was a long-term target of OSU, and the Buckeyes finally pulled the trigger on an offer the weekend before signing day.

Though OSU got a commitment from the nation's No. 2 signal caller in Braxton Miller during the summer, Jones patiently waited for his offer and then acted on it with a signing day announcement.

"We felt like we had to go out and get both of them," quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said.

However, the coach admitted the decision to offer Jones – the nation's No. 24 QB – did not come easy. The ability to delay Jones' enrollment until January to separate his eligibility from Miller's by a year helped.

"It was more of a later decision," he said succinctly. "That's what we decided."

While those positions were the recipients of some late help, one spot fell short of the initial target. OSU had commitments from four linemen for nearly 10 months and looked to be in good shape for another – Cleveland Glenville's Aundrey Walker – before signing day.

But Walker chose USC in the late going, then a legal issue involving three-star Cleveland JFK prospect Chris Carter left Ohio State with only three signatures as of yesterday.

"I think we were headed toward a number of four or five, so (we're) a little bit short there at the moment," Bollman said. "We'll see how things evolve and develop."

Carter could sign with OSU at a later date, but as of the final moments of signing day, Bollman's position group was the one that came up a bit short while some others got richer.

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