Sometimes it's better to "do" right than to "be" right…
That's right. At Bucknuts, and at Scout.com, we had a great "advantage" that the Army All-Star game in San Antonio was sponsored by, well…us! That gave us early and exclusive access. That gave us a huge head start on next year as we got to interview hundreds of juniors - the top kids in the country for 2006. That also let us interview the hottest 2005 guys who had yet to commit this year. Like Maurice Wells, as an example.
Our Steve Ryan interviewed the superstar RB from Florida on Thursday and Maurice suddenly blurted out that he was going to be a Buckeye. Wow! A scoop! Right? Well, not exactly.
We had promised Scout and NBC that we would hold off breaking any commitment news until after the game. Sure, newspapers ran with the leaked story. Guys spread the news as soon as Maurice pre-taped his announcement. Television even ran the story Friday night in Columbus.
But we stuck to our guns, swallowed hard and watched the parade go the other direction.
Yes, this is the time of year in which grown men enjoy getting jerked around by a bunch of 18 year-old kids. It's recruiting season, and we are headed willy-nilly to its unnatural wrap.
The tease factor to recruiting, of course, is what beguiles all of us. Kevin Jones, from a few years back, put on a Penn State T-shirt, then took it off and laughingly substituted Virginia Tech's. You wonder why a legend like Paterno seems out of touch, eh? Or Lorenzo Booker last year told Everyone's Favorite Guru, Tom Lemming that Lorenzo was "booking" to Notre Dame, then he announced on Tom's show that he was going to Florida State. Or how about Travis Tolbert, who simply made up all his credentials. Or Devin Amodashodu who committed five times in seven weeks. Or the kid who was just interviewed just last week and said he was confused and would probably just go by how he felt on Commitment Day (I'm not attributing quotes to current recruits anymore - too many of you get upset - at me - by what the recruits actually say…).
I went through this recruiting exercise with my own kid. We visited eight schools, talked with dozens of coaches, sifted through tons of information and propaganda. In the end, we analyzed academics, football programs, places to live, prospects after college and the kind of staff I wanted my kid to "grow up around". He certainly had a good grasp of the situation well before waffling about on Commitment Day.
Contrast that to Tom Lemming's "Top Three Reasons" why a prospect goes to any given school:
1. How good are the girls?
2. How good are the facilities?
3. How much will the school enhance my ability to get to the NFL?
So, it's an exercise in masochism if you get too close to the prospect. But isn't that what makes sitting near a fire so exciting? Three more weeks of this excitement and we can get back to our regular lives. Which aren't nearly as exciting…
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Recruiting from the odds-and-ends zone…In the past eight weeks, we have covered all the team positions under a magnifying glass, with opinions and a few scattered facts. Today, we will zero in on the defensive backfield, starting with the
Safeties: OSU's top three safeties will all be back in 2005, with hard-hitting Nate Salley, "Lights Out" Donte Whitner and the big play man, Tyler Everett. In reserve - and ready to debut their stuff - is big-time athlete Nick Patterson and special teams phenom Sirjo Welch. The forgotten player seems to be Brandon Mitchell, who has shown us great stuff when he makes it to the field. And, he's on the AD search committee - that has to mean something! So, that's six quality safeties (no, we are not expecting to hear again from Ira Guilford, sadly…). But Salley and Everett are in their final year next season and Mitchell and Whitner will be out the door the year after.
Coming in, in 2005: Freddie Lenix might be a safety, he might be a linebacker. Anderson Russell might be a safety; he might be a running back. Therefore, it would be nice to get one more, and that nice pick-up would be Eric Sledge. Kyle McCarthy could be "the guy" too, and he is another guy that can play multiple positions, a Tressel trademark.
In Ohio next year: Cody Blevins from Miamisburg and Paris Edwards from Toledo Rogers lead the early pack, although our luck at Rogers has been spotty lately. We need one more this year and probably two more next…
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Big fish…that got away… Last week, in my monthly recruiting column, I concocted two lists. One listed the players we "Coulda" had but passed on - and how have they done since our decision? Well, that was last week's column (and explanation). This week we will look at the Top Ten players OSU really really wanted, but didn't get. There's an All Star cast of these guys from year's past (did you see Stanley McClover in the bowl game, f'rinstance?) but we will just focus solely on the best fish that got away in the Class of 2004:
2004's Guys OSU Really Wanted (but didn't get)
1. Dwayne Jarrett
2. Fred Davis
3. Brandon Barrett
4. James Bryant
5. Mike Massey
6. Javier Estopinan
7. Brett Gallimore
8. Olu Hall
9. Anthony Morelli
10. Darius Walker
To give these kids some latitude, not everyone is going to play their first year - team strength, positions, depth chart and the general whatnot all figure in. But - this is the cream of the crop. How did they do? Would they have helped our Buckeyes (a la one Teddy Ginn…).
1. Dwayne: Maybe the best freshman receiver in the land; Coach Conley states irrefutably that Jarrett "committed" to OSU before being swayed by Carroll's Air Force. For the season of 2004, Dwayne Jarrett caught 51 balls for nearly 800 yards and 11 touchdowns. Imagine him with Holmes and Ginn and Gonzo and…
2. Fred: Same story as Dwayne Jarrett - a long-time Buckeye lean, Petey's Pilots picked up Fred Davis in Toledo and whisked him off to Southern California. The rest of the tale diverges, however, as Fred whined and moaned during the year and got suspended by the end of the year. Stats? He was SoCal's tenth leading receiver with 4 catches for 30 yards.
3. Brandon: Another story here…OSU really wanted this swift athlete out of West Virginia (does it seem as if they lose a lot of wide receivers?). Brandon was academically ineligible - although enrolled - and perhaps we dodged a bullet here…
4. James: James Bryant did not play in his rookie year at Miami of Florida. I think we will hear some noise from this big good-looking linebacker, however.
5. Mike: Two-thirds of the Massey boys ended up at Michigan so that is certainly evidence of a genetic disorder. Brother Pat played in all 13 games, starting nine at DE. Mike was fourth on the depth chart as a tight end, behind two juniors and a senior. The jury is still out…
6. Javier: Estopinan's recruiting conclusion is still cloudy but we do know he ended up at Florida, where he was in the two-deep at linebacker his first year. Like Bryant, he would have been a good get for the Buckeyes.
7. Brett: Not yet in the two-deep as an offensive lineman at Michigan, there isn't enough evidence to jump to a conclusion here on Brett.
8. Olu: Hall wound up at Hargrave Military Academy but plans on signing with the team he originally committed to - Virginia.
9. Anthony: Morelli's folks pitched a fit when last year's Army All-Star game took Chad Henne and left Anthony back in Pennsylvania. Well, upon further review, that seems justified. Henne set the world on fire as a freshman at Michigan. And Anthony? He just set. On the bench. Near Coach Paterno. He actually got in as a fourth-stringer, completing 5 of 13 passes for the Nits. We still have yet to see if we will miss Morelli - and his parents.
10. Darius: Now, here's one OSU missed. And thet miss. Walker picked Notre Dame over the Buckeyes and then burned a hole right through the sun in his first few games, ultimately racking up 786 yards on 185 carries and running with passion. In a year when the Buckeye backs were lacking both yardage and passion, we missed Darius Walker.
We will update this group (and my 10 "We Coulda Hads") each year to see how exact a science recruiting really is. And, at the end of the recruiting year (three weeks from now), I will nominate 20 guys for this year's two lists of candidates…
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I'll take "Bowl Games" for $500, Alex…The only thing that beats good Ohio State football trivia is great Ohio State football trivia. And the question is: What did the Buckeyes accomplish in 2004 that had never been done in the glorious history of the OSU program? That's right - they won two bowl games in 2004. Never done before. Although we did lose two bowl games in a year. Twice. In 1980 (the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl) and in 1978 (the Gator Bowl and the Sugar Bowl). Now get back to the bar and lay down a few bets…
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Like lemmings, we follow recruiting…So I contacted the Head Lemming, Tom Lemming, for a 15-minute free-for-all on our radio show last week. Tom has spent the past 26 years establishing a national reputation as a recruiting guru - after a successful career as a postman. I asked Tom about "geographical biases" in covering recruiting and he was quick to point out that he was the only one without a bias; that he's national and everyone else isn't . Of course, then, I had to ask about Notre Dame and he avowed no particular bias there. We talked about Jamario O'Neal and Tom said "terrific talent but there are character issues" and that Jamario's coach (Ted Ginn Sr.) really worked politically to get him included in yesterday's All-Star game. When I asked Tom if the whole Andy Geiger/Maurice Clarett/Troy Smith imbroglio hurt OSU recruiting, he laughed and said, "The recruits don't even know who the AD is! And sometimes can't remember the coach's name". Finally, I asked a wholesome question: Who were the best high school players you ever saw? Four of the five were John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Randy Moss and Dan Marino. The best of all? Jeff George. But, then again, he had those character issues…
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The state of mind of the state of Florida…How long ago was it, really, that the images of Florida, Florida State and Miami struck fear in the hearts of college football fans everywhere? A little renegade, fast and vile, the trash-talking teams of Steve Superior, Butch Davis and Bobby Bowden seemed to all be in the Top Five nationally, all the time. But that time has come and gone…
Both Spurrier and Davis came and went - to the NFL, failing there and looking for new places to land. Bowden hangs on Paterno-style, but the program has slipped. Under Larry Coker (but with Davis's players) Miami reeled off 23 straight wins and - almost - two national championships. This year, they lost three of their final five games and then beat, yes, Florida, in the Peach Bowl.
With a collection of great recruits at all three schools, they won't be slipping much further, I guess. And with the Urban Legend taking over for Ron Zook at Florida, that program could be on its way back. But the good times aren't what they used to be…
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Slander on the front page; apology on page 57…The Sporting News joined the piling-on of Ohio State this week as they published a harshly worded op-ed piece that basically said that Troy Smith should be hanged in a public place, prior to being flogged. Then TSN went into that mindless recitation of OSU mis-deeds that they "learned" from watching the Especially Shameless Promotions Network. Wait - hold the presses! Are you telling me that NCAA president, Myles Brand praised Ohio State for the way that they dealt with Maurice Clarett? Yes, indeedy. Brand said just this week that Ohio State took " strong and transparent measures to deal with him (Clarett)". Oh, that other stuff Clarett made up? Uh, never mind…
Don't wait up for the ESPN retraction, though. They're busy creating more news to burnish their ratings…
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