Juniors To Invade OSU Campus Saturday

Buckeyes begin push toward 2005 class with Junior Day festivities in conjunction with the OSU-Michigan State basketball game. Here, we have comments from Bill Conley on the junior day, a look at OSU's needs for 2005 and some key names to watch, both in Ohio and out of state.

Ohio State will be hosting its first junior day Saturday in conjunction with the basketball game with Michigan State at Value City Arena.

As of this writing, it was unclear how many prospects and just who exactly would make unofficial visits for this event. But recruiting coordinator Bill Conley said the event will be a key jump start in OSU's recruiting push for 2005.

"It's very informal," Conley said. "It will be a very short presentation. We will bring some of the players in. They will meet some of our players, get a tour of the facilities and then go over and watch the basketball game. It doesn't take very long and it doesn't tie up their whole day.

"It's just a first chance for us to eyeball some of these guys we've seen on tape while we were recruiting these seniors this year."

OSU will have more junior-oriented events in conjunction with spring football and Nike will return to campus for one of its training camps during the month of April as well.

"It's great any time you can get kids on your campus," Conley said.

The Numbers, The Names, The Needs

After taking some time to digest this current class, taking a look at what Ohio State landed, it is now time to start looking at what needs lay ahead for the next class and take a look at the few players who may be getting a hard look at filling those needs.

Before getting into the position needs, it appears that OSU will be in for a small class in February 2005. By Bucknuts' unofficial count, the Buckeyes now have 84 players on scholarship. That figure would drop to 83 when and if Maurice Clarett officially declares for the NFL draft. The Buckeyes will lose 14 scholarship seniors after the 2004 season -- as well as Clarett, either way, it would seem.

So, the Buckeyes will likely have at least 16 scholarships to offer.

"If I had to say today, we will probably have 15 or 16 available spots," OSU coach Jim Tressel said on signing day. "We would like to get to the spot where we are signing 17 to 20 players consistently."

Of course, four of those would-be 16 scholarships already seem to be spoken for. The Buckeyes will delay full-time enrollment for a pair of 2004 high school seniors in Florida quarterback Joe Bauserman and Kentucky kicker Aaron Pettrey. At the same time, OSU already has verbal commitments from arguably the state's top two juniors in Cleveland Glenville defensive back Jamario O'Neal and Lakewood St. Edward offensive lineman Alex Boone.

So with all of that in mind, we can look at the areas OSU figures to address next year.

Top of the list next year, as it was last year and will be for at least two years after, is the offensive line. The Buckeyes landed four in this year's class that will be contributors and likely quite early. The need is still great. They need to see several more classes like the current one to get the talent pool, and the numbers, up where they need to be.

With offensive linemen you play at least five in a game and quarterback is the only position where we see as many recruits not pan out as the offensive line. The Buckeyes are off to a great start with Boone (6-8, 300) already in the bank.

Copley OL A.J. Haas

Other top targets are A.J. Haas (6-6, 265), a tackle from Copley, and Rocco Cirroni (6-7, 250), another tackle from Warren Harding. Jim Cordle (6-5, 285) from Lancaster had a really good year. Phillip Pollard (6-5, 260) from Westerville South is another intriguing prospect. Corey Maisel (6-4, 290) from Youngstown Ursuline is really coming on.

This class does not have the depth of last year's. But at the top end, with Boone, Haas and Cirroni, this class is as good as it gets. It is crucial to land another fine class. Cirroni is a heavy Buckeye lean.

Quarterback is another position of need in my opinion. That need will increase should Bauserman choose to play professional baseball and I think that is likely to happen. I would be even more worried about this position if not for hearing good news about how well Todd Boeckman is coming around.

Clayton Northmont's Tyler Horner (6-2, 185) is the top quarterback in Ohio and likely the only Big Ten caliber quarterback in the state in the class of 2005. Horner threw for 2,308 yards during the regular season. I was disappointed that OSU passed on Cleveland St. Ignatius' Brian Hoyer (Michigan State) and a lack of prospects in this upcoming class was part of that disappointment. I think the Buckeyes will go out of state to fill this need. I would not be surprised to see names start popping up very soon.

It might be a bit of a surprise to hear this from me, but I think tight end is a need position. Jason Caldwell is a senior. Ryan Hamby is a junior. Stan White Jr. may be able to help as an H-Back. But at his size, he is not going to be able to do any in-line blocking. That leaves Louis Irizarry, Rory Nicol and possibly Chad Hoobler, who may get a look at linebacker. Two tight ends, especially in a run dominated offense, are not enough. Jim Ramella (6-3, 220) from Cleveland St. Ignatius is the name to remember here. Craig Carey is another.

Those are the only real needs that I see. The cupboards are very well stocked. I would like to see a speed rushing defensive end in this class, you can never have enough of them, with Glenville's Curtis Smith (6-2, 235) the one player in the state that could fill that role so we could see the Buckeyes going out of state to find a player for that position. Troy‘s Todd Denlinger, a 6-4, 265-pounder with 4.71-second speed in the 40, could also get a strong look.

I think cornerback could also use some shoring up with two seniors on the roster and E.J. Underwood going to be a junior. With the talent level in state so high I could see the Buckeyes really go out and stock up at corner. O'Neal (6-1, 180) is already a Buckeye but the ranks are chock full of Big Ten caliber talent. Brandon Harrison (5-10, 180) from Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, Brad Jones from Canton McKinley (6-3, 190), Kendall Davis (5-11, 175) from Alliance and Adam Myers-White (6-3, 200) of Hamilton are just a few of the names at the top of a very talented list.

Similar to the quarterback position, OSU may need to go outside the state to find a top caliber tailback. Dayton Chaminade-Julienne's Javon Ringer (5-10, 190) may be the state's best with back-to-back 2,000-yard season, but he needs to improve his academic profile. Akron Hoban's Tyrell Sutton also put up big numbers (2,355 yards in 2003), but some may question his size (5-9, 180).

The state's top wide receiver, Warren Harding's Mario Manningham (5-11, 160), has already issued a verbal to Michigan over Ohio State. But Canton GlenOak's Brian Hartline (6-3, 175) may not be too far behind. With the way OSU was pursuing New Jersey's Dwayne Jarrett down to the wire, finding another receiver may be a huge priority in next year's class.

Cleveland Glenville's Freddie Lenix (6-0, 195) plays linebacker, but could project as an impact safety at the college level.

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