Here we are, the last Sunday in January, with the anti-climax of recruiting staring us right in the face. Personally, I am looking forward to moving on. Recover? At this point, I would have to fall into an upholstery machine to be fully recovered. We invest way too much in the process. We get way too little out of it in the end. But the end is in sight!
Most of us read theoretical reports that are factually wrong. Hey – we write some of those, too! But, please understand, we can report the words exactly as they drip out of the recruits' mouths and still be dead wrong. They don't know – how are we supposed to know?
But that is not meant to cast a wide credibility net over all the media. After all, you have real journalists like the guys at ESPiN. And you have the somewhat jaded view from the athletes themselves. It was Bears defensive back, R.W. McQuarters who summarized it succinctly when he said, "Don't get me wrong. Everything the media writes is not wrong. But I'd say 99% of it is wrong. In my opinion. But I don't read the newspaper so I don't know. I hear things though…".
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The weather is beautiful, glad you're not here…So, tell the truth, how do you really feel about Maurice Clarett as he enters the NFL draft? Do you wish him well? Do you want him to go high in the draft and get the big money just because he played (part of) a year at Ohio State? Or do you want the karma gods to punish him for inflicting pain on all of us – punish him with a huge dose of hubris by making him into a lower round draft choice? After all (and after all the complaining and vanity played out by Maurice), the greatest "revenge" is that he doesn't get a whole bunch of money for being a jerk. Isn't it?
And why would a pro team want to take on this train wreck? Is he a Corey Dillon or a Randy Moss and worth the grief? I can't believe the NFL guys don't see what us average mortals observe. Sure enough, draft analyst Jerry Jones said much the same. "He's immature and makes very poor decisions, and he's not that fast. And they don't like people that sue them. He may be begging just to get into camp".
There you have it, Maurice. We hardly knew ye…
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Is this pundit half empty or half full?… So what if the headlines this week were something like: Buckeyes Pick Up Four Five-Star Recruits and Two Four-Star Kids As Recruiting Winds Down, you'd be a little more excited, now wouldn't you? Well, the Buckeyes have two top-ranked kids already (plus Jamario and Boone, of course…) and two more might come aboard shortly. For five stars, look no further than AJ Hawk and Santonio Holmes. Not only are they two of the best players in the country at their position, but they have proved it for two or more years. You take Dan Doering and Jake Christensen, I will take two great kids that could have gone to the NFL. Two other Great Gets are in the offing; after torturing Buckeye recruiting fans for months (and the pain is delicious, that's why we endure it…), Doug Worthington will become a Buckeye on Wednesday. I think. And Jason Gwaltney will shock the world (and Pistol Pete) and choose Ohio State over USC. Maybe. Hey – half-full, remember?
Oh, yeah, those four-star guys…Here's who I was thinking of: Can we get Dareus (Superman) Hiley eligible again? Duane saw him as a CB starter by now! If he had stayed in school. And I think that Ira Guilford comes back as a four-star safety. That's right – critics be damned, the kid has survived the public hanging and Geiger-izing and deserves a chance to play football.
OK, maybe completely full…
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The final chapter: Recruiting from the odds and ends zone…It's the final week of recruiting "season" and the final chapter in our long-winded serial as we go position-to-position to examine needs and possibilities of Ohio State football. We have worked ourselves all the way through the offense and most of the defense, leaving just the cornerbacks and kickers. So here they are:
Cornerbacks: Linebacker U? Running Back U? In the last decade or so, OSU has become Cornerback U., producing a torrent of talent going from Columbus to the NFL at this position. One more leaves us this year as Dustin Fox follows Chris Gamble, Ahmed Plummer, Nate Clements, Shawn Springs, Derek Ross, Antoine Winfield and others to the pay-for-play league. That leaves us future NFL-er Ashton Youboty manning one corner. And the other? I like the idea of future NFL Hall-of-Famer Ted Ginn there. If not, there will be a showdown between the Underwood brothers, Shaun Lane and Michael Roberts. Or, incoming superstar freshman Jamario O'Neal could man that spot. Or Donte Whitner could possibly slide over there. We do have options…
Unfortunately, EJ Underwood's talents seem to come with the curse of EJ's problems and we can't count on him being there (or his brother…) when the Buckeyes need him/them. Lane and Roberts haven't played at that level and O'Neal has a learning curve to endure. That's why I love the idea of Ginn back there (the #1 DB in the country as a senior in high school…) with some playing time relief from all of the above.
The recruits: You have the aforementioned O'Neal, perhaps this year's best high school cornerback and a talented Malcolm Jenkins from Jersey. Plus, latecomer Donald Washington says he's coming. Both Andre Amos and Brian Hartline can play the position so depth isn't a factor yet.
Next year in Ohio? Ray Small is the next great DB from Glenville's speed machine. Right now, he is a running back and receiver but Coach Ginn says he will be a great DB. And he should know! Jovani Chappel, from Trotwood Madison, is the other main name being bandied about.
Punters: And if we're not Cornerback U., we could be Punter U. In both 2002 and 2003, OSU had the best punters in the land with Andy Groom showing the way, then followed by B.J. Sander. Last season, Kyle Turano did a nice job and he would like to return for a sixth season to follow it up. If Kyle is disabused of that notion, the Buckeyes have a bunch of kickers ready to put on the shoe in The Shoe. We have scholarship punter, AJ Trapasso, who seems to be the heir apparent now that his red-shirt season and personal problems are behind him. We have scholarship punter/kicker Jonathan Skeete, who will push for the job. We have Josh Huston, who is also lobbying for a sixth year, as a capable alternative. So, OSU is loaded for the time being and possibly looking at Jonathan Thoma of Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas, who was visiting this weekend.
Kickers: And if OSU is not Punter U., well…you get the idea. We just came off the best three years of placekicking in Ohio State history. Mike Nugent's cleated shoes will be tough one's to fill. The first applicant, Josh Huston, was actually there before Mike and will be there after (perhaps). That's the only way to get playing time behind the best – go to the Six Year Plan. And behind Huston? A very patient Aaron Pettrey, who has gray-shirted and further delayed his enrollment already at the Buckeye's behest. Pettrey is a great athlete who, like Mike, played quarterback in high school. If his leg has Petrey-fied by the time he gets to use it, there is Jonathan Skeete, once again, shooting for that opportunity. Finally, there is the mysterious Australian, Ryan Pretorius, the mid-twenties South African walk-on, who would love the opportunity.
As with the punters, one of these kickers will work out (and will work out with kicking guru Jeff Wilkins, most likely…) and the Buckeyes shouldn't have to look again for a few years.
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As Yogi would have liked to have said…When you get to a fork in the road, make sure they don't use it to stick it to you. Or how about: If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. Such is the grimier side of this recruiting business where the hype eats the kids and they start believing their local message boards. Two unfortunate cases in point:
Stephen Gowland, the under-offered tight end prospect from Georgia that Ohio State seemed to pursue. He said recently, "I really don't know what's going on right now. Wake Forest offered me but they filled up. And Auburn still doesn't know if they have a spot. Ohio State also offered but I haven't spoken to them in a while. I'm thinking about walking on at Auburn." Where was that pen when the teams were coming at Stephen to give him a free four-year education?
Jesse Hester has been mentioned in some pretty fast company including the Buckeyes, Florida and Minnesota. So where is he headed? He says, well…he has no offers from his Top Five schools. "Florida is in front right now but none of these schools have offered me. At this point, I'm just looking to go to college and it doesn't matter where. I had offers from schools like Maryland, Ole Miss, Indiana and Miami but they've filled up and don't need me anymore. South Florida is my #2 school and it looks like they're going to be the only school that's going to offer. I don't know anything about them, really. From what I've been told, they pass the ball well".
If recruiting seems confusing to those of us on the outside looking in, it can be just as confusing to those on the inside looking for a place to land. And for every Jason Gwaltney and Brian Cushing and Fred Rouse who can go wherever they want (and can announce whenever they want…), there are the Gowlands and Hesters that got chewed up by the process…
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One final bullet on recruiting…As I write this, it's early Saturday afternoon. And though we all feel a little unstuck in time by the recruiting season, it will end within the next four days or so. I will predict that, by Wednesday, Ohio State will have four more commitments.
And, if not, they will next year…
For those of you out there with a similar fear of commitment, feel free to share your thoughts with Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com