With recruiting season in full tilt and just a few weeks left, I thought I might toss out a few thoughts to consider today and in part II tomorrow.
Despite the depth in this class, Ohio State could use a few studs at these positions (in order of need).
Offensive line – This is priority number one in my book. Leon Hart and Kyle Mitchum have to be the two biggest fish out there for Ohio State right now. The Buckeye staff should be calling them every 5 minutes to "give them a little love" and let them know just how important they are to the success of the Buckeyes in the future. Yes, the football program will not collapse without them (see Morris in 2002), but they certainly could help solidify future success. In fact, Hart probably could challenge for a starting job and Mitchum would probably be in at least the two deep from almost day one. Losing as many players as they are up front, this is the year to land High School All Americans who want to challenge for early playing time. For Mitchum, it appears to be a battle between Iowa (who the Buckeyes pasted in the Horseshoe) and Ohio State. I tend to think Mitchum will end up in the Scarlet and Gray because he can get to the NFL just as easily from OSU as from Iowa, and Columbus is a whole lot closer to home. Hart probably has to be considered a long shot. He seems to lean toward playing in the SEC and staying close to home. It is not a done deal yet, but it would be painful for Buckeye fans and coaches to lose a second player in two years to an Auburn program who has yet to manage 10 wins under Tuberville and has not shared (let alone won one outright) an SEC Championship since 1989…
Defensive End – If you want to dominate in football, it starts along the lines, and an unblockable defensive end can ruin the day for an opposing offense. All of the planning by coaches goes down the tubes when their team cannot block the people up front. If you doubt it, call up a coach on the Michigan or Oklahoma staff and ask to chat about what went wrong with their vaunted offenses in their bowl games… Landing Gholston is good news for Ohio State, but the men in the Scarlet and Gray still could use more help. As of now, only Marcel Frost (and possibly Gholston) has the athleticism to possibly be a Will Smith caliber player. If the Buckeyes could land one or two of Harvey, Hall, Young, or Anderson – then the position would be in good hands for the future. These studs have to recognize early playing time is something that they can get at OSU if they deserve it, but that does not mean they will choose to come to Columbus. It is very possible and even likely that they will share the fate of players like Stanley McClover and Turk McBride. Those two snubbed the Bucks last year and instead of getting to seeing the field in a BCS game on a top 5 team, they played in lesser caliber bowls on teams that accomplished a good deal less.
Tailback – Not only did Ross and Hall fare poorly in 2003 yardage production, but their final season in the Scarlet and Gray will be 2004. That means the Buckeyes look to be thin at tailback in 2004 (barring a Clarett return) and 2005. Haw and Pittman will be nice additions, but a stud tailback with serious vision and size would be ideal. Just like 2002, I expect the staff to play the player who earns the field time from day one. If the right player signed on the dotted line in a few weeks, that might once again be a freshman.
Wide Receiver – While Ohio State has enough wideouts to replace Jenkins, Gamble, Carter, and Lee, the Buckeyes still need one more big bodied receiver (and possibly two). This is why it is important for Fred Davis or Dwayne Jarrett to join this class.
GRADING THE CLASS
Granted, real grades cannot be passed out until (1) the recruits actually sign and qualify and (2) they have played a couple of years and it becomes clear how well they have panned out.
Still, if we are going to just grade the class according to the rankings of the recruiting sites, no matter if OSU signs another player from here on out – this class deserves an A.
How does that figure?
There were 117 division I-A teams this year. If you were to break this down like a classroom grading system, placing in the top 12 would mean you have done better than 90% of the teams out there. Placing in the top 10 would mean you have scored better than 92% (A-). Currently, Ohio State sits right around #5 in most national recruiting rankings – meaning they are scoring a 95% or better compared with the rest of the "class."
If Ohio State actually ends up landing Davis/Jarrett, Mitchum, and a player like Hart or Harvey, then this class will undoubtedly rate in the top 3-4 subgroup and will rank up there with the 2002 haul. That would equate to a grade of 97 or 98%.
So remember that no matter what – from here on out, this class and the work of the Ohio State staff has to be considered "A" material. The Buckeyes could even lose Hart, Mitchum, and Davis/Jarrett, and it is still a fine job by the coaches in Scarlet and Gray.
MORE BAD NEWS THAN GOOD NEWS…
Expect this to be the case from now until signing day.
Ohio State is in on or has a serious shot at the following players:
- Xavier Lee – Quarterback/Athlete, Florida
- Anthony Morelli (possibly) – Quarterback, Pennsylvania
- Leon Hart – Offensive Line, South Carolina
- Jeremy Zuttah – Offensive Line, New Jersey
- Kyle Mitchum – Oline, Pennsylvania
- James Bryant – Linebacker, Pennsylvania
- Andrew Johnson – Tailback, Pennsylvania
- Darius Walker – Tailback, Georgia
- Gartrell Shavers – Tailback, Florida
- Dennis Kennedy – Tailback/Defensive Back, Florida
- Raymond Williams – Tailback, Ohio
- Fred Davis – Wide Receiver, Ohio
- Dwayne Jarrett – Wide Receiver, New Jersey
- Devon Lyons – Wide Receiver/Defensive Back, Pennsylvania
- Albert Dukes – Wide Receiver, Florida
- Anthony Reddick – Defensive Back, Florida
- Derrick Harvey – Defensive End, Maryland
- Willie Young – Defensive End, Florida
- Rhyan Anderson – Defensive End, Wisconsin
- Olu Hall – Defensive End, Virginia
- Anthony Hill – Defensive End, Virginia
- Javier Estopinian – Defensive End/Linebacker, Florida
- Chris Zellner – Defensive End, Florida
- C.J. Hunnicut – Defensive End, Florida
- Nader Abdullah – Defensive Tackle, Louisiana
- Loius Holmes – Defensive End?, Florida
Given the few slots left for this class before Ohio State is up against the 85 scholarship limit, only a fraction of these players will sign on the dotted line with the Buckeyes in a few weeks. Playing the recruiting game to the hilt as this staff has in 2003-04 means that there will be disappointments, and it means you will come in second or third for a good many prospects. Even if the Buckeyes landed the maximum number of players from the above selection (and there are others out there not on this list), they can only get 1 in 4. So, for every commitment, there will be at least 3 that have to go elsewhere and probably 4 or 5.
Thus, I repeat, there will be more bad news than good news for Ohio State between now and signing day.
How should fans react to this?
First, don't have a melt down. Ohio State missed out on a number of great prospects in the final years of John Cooper's tenure. Michael Munoz, Andy Christophel, Pat Massey, Antonio Hall, and Pierre Woods are just a few of the many. However, Ohio State still won a national championship in 2002-03. In other words, no single recruit is going to make or break this class (or any class for that matter).
Second, don't spend so much time mourning over the flavor of the week that you forget this is already (barring decommitments) is already a top 5-7 group without another warm body. Add a couple of talents the caliber of Hart or a Mitchum or a Davis (or Jarrett) and suddenly the Ohio State recruiting class is a top 3-4 haul with the outside shot at being ranked in the top 2 come signing day.