News surfaced today about a pair of kick specialists. First, it seems that there still may not be room at the inn for Raceland, Ky., kicker Aaron Pettrey. He grayshirted last year and was told last week he may have to do likewise again this fall or, at the least, enroll initially as a walk-on.
Also, it was learned that OSU will welcome Louisville (Ohio) St. Thomas Aquinas punter Jonathan Thoma in for an official visit this weekend. Thoma will join Chagrin Falls, Ohio, wide receiver Brian Robiskie and Indianapolis Franklin Center wide receiver/defensive back Donald Washington at OSU this weekend.
Pettrey, a 2004 graduate of Raceland, Ky., High School, verbaled to OSU last year but did not sign on signing day. The original plan was for him to delay his enrollment until this January. But OSU backed off on enrolling him in January and, if the Buckeyes fill all of their spots on signing day and Josh Huston is granted a sixth year of eligibility, he was told he would not be able to go on scholarship until sometime later, Pettrey said.
"They called last week and they said they might want me to wait another year or just walk on in the fall," Pettrey said. "I don't know what I'm going to do.
"(Assistant coach) Dick Tressel is supposed to call Monday and talk more about it. Hopefully, we can figure out a way I can have a scholarship in March so I can participate in spring football and play this coming season."
Pettrey is holding out hope the numbers fall his way.
"They said if Huston does not get his sixth year, then everything would be all right," Pettrey said. "But if he gets that sixth year, then they don't know. I'm just kind of waiting and seeing what will happen.
"We have looked around a little bit and we have talked to a couple of other coaches. But right now I just want to wait and see what happens after signing day."
The 6-3, 195-pound Pettrey has been taking college courses at a pair of community colleges in his area. By enrolling in time for spring quarter (which starts March 28), Pettrey would be able to join the competition for the kicking job during spring football.
As a prep senior in 2003, Pettrey hit 8 of 13 field goals with a state-record long kick of 58 yards. He also played quarterback at Raceland, setting a state record for completion percentage (71.3 percent with 32 touchdowns) as a junior. He threw for 21 touchdowns as a senior. On special teams, he recovered four onside kicks himself and also averaged 42 yards per punt.
Pettrey is also a fine basketball player (averaging 15 points per game) and baseball player (.400 average).
Pettrey caught the eye of the OSU staff was at the kicking camp in the summer of 2003. Out of 200 place kickers, he was rated the No. 1 kicker. He had also been to the Ray Guy camp for the last three years.
Pettrey received offers from Eastern Kentucky and Murray State and Tennessee was in contact and wanted him to come to a game for a visit. He graduated with a 3.0 GPA and scored a 17 on the ACT.
He said he continues to work hard to stay in shape.
"I run every day and I lift weights three days a week," he said. "I try kicking every day. I can go indoors. At our high school, we have an old gym. I have a net and a carpet and kick there."
OSU is losing Lou Groza Award-winning kicker Mike Nugent. Huston is hoping for a sixth year of eligibility. OSU also has Jonathan Skeete, who will be a redshirt freshman, and walk-on Ryan Pretorious in the fold at kicker.
Thoma brings an interesting story from St. Thomas Aquinas, located in Stark County just outside Canton.
He will leave there as a five-sport letterwinner. He played football and soccer this past fall. In the winter, he is a member of the swim team. In the spring, he plays baseball and competes as well in track.
Thoma (6-2, 185) averaged an amazing 48 yards per punt and also consistently had a four-second hang time on his punts. He was a first-team All-Ohio pick in Division V.
"This is his first year playing football," said STA coach Timothy Tyrrell, who played football at Youngstown State for Jim Tressel and also served as an assistant there for four years. "He didn't come out for football until Aug. 3. I talked to Coach Tressel about him after our second game. He and (assistant Jim) Bollman were up here, but I think they were trying to keep him under the radar."
Youngstown State offered Thoma a scholarship. He also made an official visit to Louisville and canceled one with West Virginia to see Ohio State. Thoma would get a scholarship when and if he becomes a starter, Tyrrell said. By having Thoma make an official visit, Ohio State, by rule, must put him on scholarship the moment he plays in his first two years on campus.
"Coach Tressel is doing the same thing he has always tried to do with kickers and punters," Tyrrell said. "The best kid will get the scholarship."
Tyrrell said Thoma was a natural as a punter.
"He was the player of the year in soccer in Division III," Tyrrell said. "He would come over and practice football with us for 20 minutes, then go play soccer. He is also a really good center fielder in baseball and also does the long jump and high jump in track.
"We had a running back (Dennis Underwood) who left here at midyear to enroll at Indiana. Besides Dennis, Jonathan was the best athlete in our school."
Thoma said he is looking forward to making the visit to OSU.
"They have been recruiting me since October," he said. "I came down for their game against Indiana. I came down for the game. They realized they wouldn't have a scholarship to offer and they stopped recruiting me. But then they picked it back up again.
"Louisville has offered all of their scholarships. Their punter just transferred and they said if I went down there I'd have a chance to be the starter. Coach Tressel said if I win the job at Ohio State, they have a few games before fall quarter starts and they would be able to put me on scholarship."
Thoma said it was neat to see Tressel at his school.
"I didn't even know he was coming," he said. "I just thought Coach Bollman was coming. I walked out and I saw him standing there and my heart jumped a beat. He was a nice guy and he explained how everything was happening.
"I have always been a casual fan. When they won the national championship, that's probably when I gained more interest. Around here, it's Ohio State country. Everyone is saying, `You need to go to Ohio State – it's Ohio State."
Regarding his ability, Thoma said, "I've always had a pretty strong leg. I would go out with my friends and kick long field goals. Their punter from last year struggled and Coach asked me to come out. It worked out pretty well. It's all happened pretty fast. It's pretty cool."
Thoma holds a 3.6 GPA and scored a 27 on the ACT.
Kyle Turano punted for Ohio State in 2004. There were rumors that he was also pursuing an extra year of eligibility because of a previous injury. Nothing has been announced, though. OSU also has A.J. Trapasso, who redshirted this past year, on scholarship as a punter.