But this year, the Buckeyes went into the Keystone state and brought out not one, not two, not three but four fine prospects for the Class of 2004. Three of those players were judged among the state's top 10 players and two of them were also national top-100 prospects. Only Penn State, which got four of the state‘s top 10 prospects, did better in Pennsylvania than the Buckeyes.
Much of OSU's success in Pennsylvania can be traced to the efforts of head coach Jim Tressel, who mined the western portion of the state effectively while at Youngstown State, and assistant coach Joe Daniels, a native of Bethel Park, Pa., and a former assistant at Pittsburgh.
The Buckeyes pulled offensive lineman Kyle Mitchum and tight end Rory Nicol, each national top-100 players, as well as wide receiver Devon Lyons and offensive lineman Jon Skinner out of Pennsylvania this year. They are the first players from that state to sign with OSU since defensive lineman/linebacker Randy Homa in 1995.
In addition to those four, OSU also made a strong push for running back Andrew Johnson and linebacker James Bryant, who each signed with Miami (Fla.).
We had a chance to sit down with Daniels recently to discuss OSU's success in Pennsylvania. Here's what Daniels had to say:
* On breaking through in Pennsylvania -- "I think more than anything, as I look at it, there were a lot of good players. We just happened to be able to get in there early on those guys. We zeroed in on them very early and then we were able to keep in contact with them and build a relationship.
"There were four really good kids, solid students and, obviously, very good football players. But I just think there were numbers there more than anything else. Pennsylvania was a good state this past year. We're looking at it for next year and I think it has a chance to be good again. Last year, there weren't a whole lot of great players over there, to be honest with you. Part of the reason we didn't get anybody is because we only offered one or two."
* On Kyle Mitchum -- "If you put the tape on and watch five plays, you say, `OK, that's enough of that.' His work ethic is good and he's a big, strong kid who loves everything about it. The weight room is where he … if you want to find him, go to the weight room and you'll find him. It's just his attitude and everything about him. He's good. He's gifted."
* On Rory Nicol -- "He's a big tight end and he's getting bigger. He came up in the spring. He was almost a tall, thin kid. He's actually gotten taller and obviously put on some weight. He's going to be a big person. I think he may end up being 6-6. I think he'll end up in that 260-pound range at least. He catches the ball well and he's a good blocker. He's a good athlete. He is also a good outside linebacker.
"I think he's going to be like Ben Hartsock, a guy who can give us that point-of-attack blocker and also a pretty good receiver and run down the field a little bit."
* On Jon Skinner -- "I think in the middle of his junior year, he tore his ACL. He actually came back and played in the state championship game. He got his knee operated in January. When I went in to see him in May, I was amazed with where he was with his rehab. We got a tape of him from the first part of his junior year and we were really impressed with him. His knee was a nonfactor. We talked to the doctors and the trainer and the coach.
"We were like, `We like everything about this kid.' There was a little bit of a gamble, no question. We went on him. Going into it, he liked us. He came up in the summer and liked everything he saw. He committed and then he had a heck of a senior year. He never had a problem and he played both ways."
* On Devon Lyons -- "Devon was a kid who was interesting. We originally recruited him as a safety because that's what he played mostly as a junior. He played a little bit of wide receiver, but at Woodland Hills that's typical. There will be a few guys who play both ways.
"All of a sudden, as a senior he plays wide receiver and it's like, `Wow!' He's a big kid. He can run. He has a great attitude as far as work ethic. He is getting bigger and bigger and stronger. I think that's going to help him run even better. He has excellent hands. As Coach Tressel and I watched his highlight film, we were like, `Uh, oh. Devon, we're going to change to receiver.'
"He, actually at first, didn't care. He said, `I don't care where. I just want to play.' As the recruiting process went on, he sort of said, `Maybe I do want to be a receiver.' "
* On his new duties as strictly the quarterbacks coach -- "When Coach Tressel and Coach Bollman and I started talking about this, we sat down and looked at it. We knew there was a fairly young group of receivers. We know the quarterbacks are young. Tress had to sort of make a decision, `Do I want to go five on offense, as most people do?' But we were five on defense, and it worked for us, obviously.
"It was the youngness of those two positions how we thought of it. They need a little bit more special attention."