Babb Bits - Running Down The Remaining Targets

There are five prospects who as of Sunday morning, still had not let their decision be known. Who's going to wind up where? Charles Babb checks in with some opinions and gives some guesses as to which players may wind up being Buckeyes.

With recruiting almost at a close, the Buckeyes are looking seriously only at a few remaining targets. Given possible leaders and destinations, let's take a look at each one:

Brian Robiskie

What would cause him to choose Ohio State? For starters, there is the distance factor. His father is an assistant coach in Cleveland. With it looking possible he might keep his job under a new boss, Robiskie's family would be close enough to watch him play. There is also the depth chart at wideout for the Buckeyes. They are bringing in several wideouts this year, but even so could be thin. Albert Dukes may or may not be around at this time next year depending on his legal issues, and Bam Childress and John Hollins have finished their eligibility. One injury could see an incoming freshman on the field for four and five wide receiver sets all season. Also of note is the success Ohio State has had at the position at the NFL level. Michael Jenkins, Chris Gamble, Ken Yon Rambo, Terry Glenn, Chris Sanders, and Joey Galloway among others have had more than a cup of coffee in the NFL over the last decade.

What would cause him not to choose Ohio State? When the Florida schools come calling it is very difficult to resist. Though statistically they actually do not call many more pass plays than Ohio State, the reputation and the perception is that Florida schools (like Miami and Florida) are pass happy while the Buckeyes are not. With his father's job status still uncertain, it may be that his family is not going to be living in Ohio after all, and Robiskie has stated point blank distance from home is not an issue. Further, the depth chart at Miami (who is also recruiting him) is about equal to that of the Buckeyes; both schools could use a body or two at wide receiver despite having what looks to be an outstanding nucleus returning for 2005 and 2006. Finally, it may not be a big deal to some recruits, but Miami offered before the Buckeyes. If this is important to Robiskie, then he could be Florida bound.

My Guess? With his family in Ohio and his father a coach for Cleveland, Robiskie will stay close to home. He can do that by playing Columbus. Since neither depth chart offers a significant advantage, the Buckeyes have to be considered the favorite for his services.

Jason Gwaltney

What would cause him to choose Ohio State? Without question, Gwaltney would challenge for the starting tailback job from day one. There would be no waiting in line behind several other upperclassmen or a heisman candidate. Reggie Bush and LenDale White both play at USC, but there is no returning starter in Columbus. Also, the Buckeyes have started underclassmen and even a freshman tailback under Tressel, proving they will play the best man for the job. They could start another if Gwaltney were to choose the Scarlet and Gray. Gwaltney could become the 2005 version of Adrian Peterson or Maurice Clarett (in a good way only) in Columbus or a bench warmer in California. He would be closer to his family, and they could undoubtedly see him play more in Columbus than L.A. Perhaps most alluring is the reality that while quarterbacks win the Heisman at USC these days, the tailback is still going to be the center of the offense in Columbus. No less than five tailbacks have won Heisman trophies at Ohio State - the most at one position for any single program in the history of the award.

What would cause him to go to USC? Last year Pete Carroll made a load of promises to recruits. Undoubtedly Carroll is making promises about playing time to Gwaltney right now, and Gwaltney - at just 17-18 years of age probably believes him. A recent article even quoted Gwaltney where he claims Carroll told him they needed a big back because LenDale White is injury prone… Huh? White had over 140 carries as a freshman and 200 as a sophomore - and this guy is supposedly brittle and in need of a backup? Further, Norm Chow is the guy everyone wants to play for if they are on the offensive side of the football. Never mind that Chow could be leaving soon (the Titans are hard after him as their offensive coordinator) or that the NFL is reportedly set on giving Carroll another shot as well. Also, despite having a campus located closer to the bad section of town than the beach, the weather has to look more appealing (especially this time of the year) than that of Columbus or West Virginia.

My Guess? Don't laugh at youthful naiveté, but Gwaltney may honestly believe he would play along with Bush and White. Who knows but that he might have already been promised the moon and stars above by USC's staff. Fred Davis also believed these coaches after being promised all sorts of playing time and then was first moved to tight end in the fall, and finally sat the bench in 2004. However, the brutal reality that while Ohio State's third and fourth string backs carried the ball for over 100 times together, USC's third and fourth string tailbacks were given only 59 carries in 2004. White and Bush were the only two with significant carries and while only one of the top 4 rushers at tailback return for Ohio State, all four of those return for USC - among them are two sophomores and a freshman. If Gwaltney listens to Carroll, he will be in California next fall sitting on the bench behind four returning players; if he looks at the depth chart and reality - he probably stays closer to home and may start at Ohio State in 2005. Prediction? Gwaltney swallows the lines of Carroll, follows in the footsteps of Fred Davis, and mostly rides the pine in 2005 and 2006 instead of starting in Columbus.

Walker Ashley

What would cause him to go to Ohio State? The Buckeyes do return both starting defensive tackles, but if Ashley is quick enough, defensive end looks to need serious attention in 2005. Mike Kudla and Jay Richardson are both serviceable, but both have been injury prone. Vernon Gholston appeared ready to take the next step by the end of the season, but that is not a sure thing either. Joel Penton plays as much inside as out, and he lacks the quickness to reach the quarterback consistently from the outside. Redgie Arden has yet to play decisive minutes anywhere due to off field issues. That leaves just a couple of freshman who redshirted and the incoming recruits between Ashley and the field. Also of note was the fact that Ashley spoke highly of the way Ohio State has recruited him as a person instead of just as a football player. Defensive line coach Jim Heacock is not going anywhere, and since 2002 last three years, none of his starters on the Buckeye defensive line have gone undrafted by the NFL. Finally, the Buckeyes are a puzzle piece or two from making a serious national title run in 2005, and one of those is along the defensive line…

What would cause him to go to USC? Well, one might want to take a look at what Pete Carroll is doing in recruiting these days. With a promise in one hand and a passel of assistant coaches in tow, Carroll is landing almost whomever he wants. His in home visit was said to be impressive, and Carroll apparently waxed eloquent about the depth chart and where Ashley might fit at USC. He also said that there was nothing to worry about with the distance factor (though Jarrett and Davis might dispute this assertion). Though the Trojans are incredibly deep at both defensive end and defensive tackle, Ashley may honestly believe he could start. Like Ohio State, USC may be gearing for another title run in 2005 and Ashley may decide he fits better in California.

My Guess? See Gwaltney. I truly have no idea what Carroll is selling these young men. Despite the likelihood of assistants leaving and even the NFL courting Carroll, top players are flocking to USC like moths to a flame. They have to know they cannot all see the field, but each seems to believe they will after talking with the coaching staff. My guess is Ashley ends up somewhere other than Ohio State.

Lawrence Wilson

What would cause him to come to Ohio State? First and foremost is the reality that Ohio State is not only the in state school, but it has stayed with him throughout the course of the recruiting year. When Notre Dame fired its coach after assuring the family Willingham's job was secure, Wilson decommitted and looked around to see Jim Tressel still interested. Those that fired his would be coach are still pulling the strings in South Bend, and that may mean something in the end. Also there is the depth chart; the Buckeyes are in need at the defensive end position. Ashley, Worthington, and Wilson could find themselves playing meaningful minutes and if talented enough - starting for the Scarlet and Gray. The instability of Notre Dame and the program's recent fortunes might also be a concern. Notre Dame just fired its head coach after three seasons and since 1996 has had five head coaches (Lou Holtz, Bob Davie, George O'Leary, Ty Willingham, and now Charlie Weis). Notre Dame has not won a single bowl game or finished in the top ten in over a decade while Ohio State has five wins (three in a row), a national title, and two second place finishes as well as a sixth and a fourth in that span. Worse for Notre Dame is the reality that there is absolutely no proof that a career assistant (Weis) who has spent his time in the pros can transform a troubled college program into a winner. Meanwhile, Jim Tressel can pull out any of his five national championship rings to show he knows what it takes. The sure bet both for his career and the stability of the program is Ohio State.

What could cause him to go to Notre Dame? For the longest time Wilson appears to have been looking for a reason not to play in Columbus. From his original commitment to Willingham to his refusal to cross out the Domers from his list to even considering a visit to Michigan recently - he appears to want to go somewhere other than Ohio State. That ‘somewhere else' has mostly been Notre Dame, and thus the Golden Domers have to be considered the favorites in this two horse race until proven otherwise. If Weis is able to smooth over matters with the broken promises and Willingham's incredibly early dismissal (three years and one of those was a 10 win season), then Wilson could be headed to South Bend. Notre Dame is not that far from his family, and despite the depth chart being loaded against him playing early - a team with as many losses as Notre Dame over the last decade is clearly a program in need of a talent infusion.

My Guess? Wilson appears to really want to go to Notre Dame. He is uncertain and rightfully so. Notre Dame has been under whelming on the field for the last decade and its firing (or resignation) of no less than five coaches in just the last nine seasons has to be some sort of record in the modern era. Right now this seems to be a coin flip, but I will guess that if he really wanted to be a Buckeye he would have chosen a while back.

Donald Washington

What would cause him to come to Ohio State? As of right now, the Buckeyes are the most powerful football program to have offered Washington, and they see his athleticism fitting in at safety. 2005 would likely be a season for him to get his feet wet and play on special teams and in mop up duty behind Salley and Donte Whitner with an eye on starting in 2006 or beyond. Ohio State has had phenomenal success in placing defensive backs in the NFL over the last decade, and this has to be attractive to any potential recruit. Nate Clements, Michael Doss, Dustin Fox, Antoine Winfield, Damon Moore, Donnie Nickey are just a few of the names who have, will, or are playing on Sundays after starting at Ohio State.

What would cause him to go elsewhere? With his statements since December that Ohio State was his leader (even before they offered a scholarship), the Buckeyes would be tough to beat. About the only possible ways this one could fall apart is if: (A) he believes the ridiculous rumors among negative recruiting coaches that the Buckeyes are in danger of NCAA sanctions - despite the statements of NCAA president Miles Brand supporting Ohio State recently OR (B) he is playing the recruiting game and just trying to heighten the tension before a ‘surprise' selection OR (C) he only wants to play wide receiver.

My Guess? While Prescott Burgess blazed a path on the low road a few years back with his recruitment and desire to play games with multiple coaching staffs, I don't think Washington will do the same. He says Ohio State leads. Ohio State it is.

Final Count:

Robiskie and Washington in

Gwaltney, Ashley, and Wilson out

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