We are digging two Wells in Columbus this year!
Yes, that was a seismic shock a week ago when Chris Wells, one of the top backs in America made a point of it to become the first commitment in the Class of 2006. Hey – think of this: On February 1, we felt OSU could have a "hole" at the running backs' position. Five days later, two Wells existed where that hole once was! What a week, eh?
Which brings up a story, of course. Two actually – and this time they are related. Long before Bucknuts broke the news about Chris Wells this past Sunday, we were onto that same story in a similar vein way back in October. We were asked to tone the whole thing down. Why? Because no one wanted to spook Maurice Wells, who was strongly leaning to the Buckeyes. So, we removed the stories from the front and even deleted threads from the message boards. Why not? We could take that one for the team…
Which takes me back to the similar story from January 2001. Jim Tressel becomes the new head coach in January and a volatile high school junior wants to commit right away: Maurice Clarett. The Buckeye staff asks him to keep his powder dry until after Commitment Day so that they don't scare off two seniors they wanted: Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross. Right after LOID, Maurice did commit and the Buckeyes went on to win the national championship.
I love the symmetry for 2005 – the Year of the Buckeye!
One final related anecdote: I asked Maurice C – after he committed – where he thought he would be early in his upcoming freshman season. "Why, Mr. Bucknuts," he responded. "I will be the starting tailback". I laughed, and said, "Where will that put Lydell Ross". "Well," he mused. "I guess that would put him over on the bench, next to Coach Tressel".
There's a kid that never lacked for confidence. He put the "con" in "confidence". And when all the pros and cons with Maurice are finally counted, let's see what he does with the "pros"…
Meanwhile, welcome home Chris Wells!
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You want "W's" this year?… Then it's no coincidence that "W" is the recruitable letter of the year. Yes, once the Big Dubya did his thing (you know, the inauguration and all that…), we focused on the other important Dubyas around the scholastic football world.
First, OSU stacked up W's along the defensive line like a picket fence. Williams, Worthington and Wilson form the best www for the Buckeyes since the start of the internet. "Gw" didn't fit, but OSU picked up another great "w" in Maurice Wells to solve our running issues in this class.
Based on the way that the alphabet trend is going in Columbus, you had to have liked OSU's chances with Ohio's No. 1 recruit this year: Chris Wells…
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More alpha bets in 2005…And more alpha males to focus on. OSU needed depth on the offensive line last year and generated the best haul –arguably- since the missed (mess?) haul of five years back when they went 0 for 3 on Michael Munoz, Antonio Hall and Andy Christopfel. This year? They had two Top 100 guys in Alex Boone and Kevin Bemoll plus a rising star in Jim Cordle. But one of the "B's" left the hive, as Bemoll was nervous to go so far from home. That stung. And left the Buckeyes a little short of the desired three-deep to develop a continuum of outstanding offensive lines.
So to replace the one flown "B", OSU will be looking at a couple of big "B's" in 2005: Justin Boren and Aaron Brown. These Killer B's are just part of a treasure trove of offensive line talent in Ohio this year. Think names like Conner Smith and Jacob Ballard and Ryan Palmer and Lee Tilley, as well. And think that's the reason the staff didn't take more O-lineman last recruiting season…
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A New York state of mind…Way back in the day, the Buckeyes went mining for talent out of state. It was the Class of 2000 and the gold mine OSU searched that year was the state of New York. And they came up with two nuggets: From Utica, Ohio State hauled in DE Will Smith; and from Harrison, they got a commitment from Sammy Maldonado, who had just broken the all-time rushing record in the state. Will worked out pretty well (understatement font on here…) and is now in the NFL. Sammy never made it at OSU and transferred to Maryland where he toiled in relative anonymity.
Fast forward to the Class of 2005. Back to New York we go and out of Athol Springs, Ohio State lands the "next Will Smith". His name is Doug Worthington. And out of Babylon, they were close to getting another record-breaker in Jason Gwaltney. Yes, the parallel ends there as Gwaltney disappointed Buckeye fans by re-committing to West Virginia. Hey – maybe he just "transferred" faster than Sammy. Who knows…
BTW, in between Sammy and Jason, a kid named Michael Hart broke all the New York state rushing records. But that's another story entirely…
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The "Most Wanted" list…A few columns back, I put together a list from last year's recruits (the Class of 2004, that is) of both kids the Buckeyes desperately wanted (and didn't get) as well as kids they could have had (but didn't take). We then looked into how well they were doing and said we would keep you up on them each year.
My next ambitious assertion was that I would compile a new list every year for both categories. So – ahem – here is the category of "Kids Ohio State Wanted (but didn't get)". On the 2004 list, the winners were: Dwayne Jarrett, Fred Davis, Brandon Barrett, James Bryant, Mike Massey, Javier Estopinan, Brett Gallimore, Olu Hall, Anthony Morelli, and Darius Walker. Some on that list have performed quite well a year later (see: Dwayne Jarrett and Darius Walker, for instance). Others have disappeared (look for: Fred Davis and Brandon Barrett, for instance). We detailed them all.
Now, here is the list to put into our time capsules for review again next year, from the detritus of the Class of 2005 recruiting season:
1. Mark Sanchez
2. Kevin Bemoll
3. Rico McCoy
4. Walker Ashley
5. Alex Daniels
6. Jason Gwaltney
7. Mario Manningham
8. Selwyn Lymon
9. Dan Doering
10. Shawn Oatis
A pretty good group there. Let's check back in a year to see how they fared in their first season in college ball…
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And that other list…Under the "Guys Ohio State Coulda Had (but didn't take)" list, last year included: Delbert Ferguson, Miles Williams, DaJuan Morgan, Brock Bolen, Ray Williams, Gary Russell, Brian Hoyer, Louis Holmes, Gartrell Shavers and Andrew Johnson. Although, as you could expect, these guys had less of an impact in Year I than the other group, some showed up well (Gary Russell is one) while others have yet to show up at all (Miles Williams and Ray Williams are two).
For this year's cast? Here is my list of nominees:
1. Javon Ringer
2. Ronnie Wilson
3. Brandon Harrison
4. Conredge Collins
5. Carlton Jackson
6. Tyrell Sutton
7. Ryan Brinson
8. BJ Travers
9. Adam Myers-White
10. Antwon Hight
At one time or another – plus or minus those looming academic issues – all of these kids could have been Buckeyes. Let's see how they do at the schools at which they ultimately play…
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Finally, let's talk coaches and integrity…There is a broad public brush at work right now, painting Ohio State with a somber tone when it comes to "athletics" and "integrity". I think it's a bunch or horse hockey, really. Are we saying that the athletes don't have integrity? Or the coaches? Are the coaches misleading the kids in a form of bait-and-switch to get then to come to Ohio State? No, let's leave that for the Albert Means and SEC crowd…
Ohio State is suffering under the ESPN-spewed cloud that our coaches are conspiring with our athletes. But break it down: there are three instances being referenced. 1) Coach O'Brien offering to help defray expenses to a basketball player that didn't come there 2) Maurice Clarett repeating old tirades that Ohio State made it too easy for him after he came there and 3) Troy Smith accepting a few hundred bucks for a job he didn't perform while he was there. That's the sum and substance of all the leering remarks, the knowing nods and sarcastic winks.
Looking at the two football cases, Clarett wanted to come to Ohio State in the worst way (which he did…) and it had nothing to do with the coach's sales pitches (see explanation in the first segment above). Troy Smith barely qualified and was passionate about getting to OSU although he almost wasn't offered entrance opportunities. So, are our coaches – or the university – showing some absence of integrity in these instances? Are they tricking anyone?
Contrast those questions, if you will, to Southern Cal and their most recent recruiting class. They marketed their program and got kids to commit based on the continuity of a winning program and the strength of individual coaches. Then, offensive super-coach Norm Chow quits. A week after Commitment Day! Offensive line coach Tim Davis left for the NFL, as well. Recruiting coordinator and D-line coach, Ed Orgeron became Head Coach at Ole Miss, taking along special teams coordinator Dennis Slutak.
So, for whom are these kids playing? The coaches are allowed to leave but the kids have a legal commitment that binds them to the school. Talk about your bait-and-switch.
Meanwhile, our coaches are working with our kids, and working through the problems as well. Kids are kids and kids have problems. They don't need the lectures, they need the support.
And don't lecture me about coaching ethics in this world of big money contracts to coaches that simply follow the gravy train. Their only defense? They might be whores, they're just not cheap whores!
And now I rest my case…
Mr. Bucknuts will be resting his case until the first of March when his initial recruiting review for the Class of 2006 will be foisted upon the Bucknuts world. In the interim, you can contact him at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com