Once again, Ohio State is expected to make a strong push in Pennsylvania behind assistant coach Joe Daniels. One key prospect OSU has already offered is junior running back/linebacker Jeremiha Hunter from Manheim (Pa.) Central.
Hunter (6-2, 210, 4.65) was a two-way standout for Manheim Central this past year. On offense, he had over 1,100 yards and 24 touchdowns. Defensively, he tallied 143 tackles, three interceptions and five sacks for a team that posted a 13-2 record and lost the Class AAA state championship game – a game Hunter did not play in after suffering a broken arm in the Eastern Pennsylvania finals.
A number of schools have already come calling for Hunter.
"My top five right now would be West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue," he said.
Others already in the race include Penn State, Indiana, Florida, Wisconsin, UCLA and Notre Dame.
Hunter is well acquainted with Ohio State. He attended OSU's football camp last summer.
"They have a beautiful campus," Hunter said. "I liked the stadium there and I also got to see inside their locker room. Everything I saw over there was beautiful."
Hunter struck up a friendship with one of Ohio's top junior prospects in Akron Garfield running back Chris Wells, who became OSU's first verbal for 2006 on Feb. 6.
"I got to spend some time with Chris Wells," Hunter said. "I met him and we chilled together. That's great that he has committed already to Ohio State. I know if I would choose to go there he would make me feel more comfortable."
Hunter is also familiar with Daniels as well as OSU linebackers coach Luke Fickell.
"I was in the seven-on-seven competition and they put us with different coaches," Hunter said. "Coach Fickell said he was interested in me. I know Coach Daniels met with my dad some as well."
Hunter's dad, Brian Hunter, also serves as his position coach on offense.
"Coach Fickell is aware of him and they are recruiting him as a linebacker," Brian Hunter said. "I would say that it is probably 70-30 with schools that are recruiting him as an outside linebacker more than those recruiting him as a running back. I think he is an above average running back, but he really stands out as a linebacker.
"He has gotten better and better each year. He has had two 1,000-yard seasons. He plays both sides of the ball and he makes an impact."
Jeremiha Hunter moved with his family from York, Pa., to Manheim two years ago. Manheim Central is known as the alma mater of former Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker. But even with Smoker and other highly talented players, Manheim Central had never won an Eastern Pennsylvania title game in eight previous tries.
But when Hunter was a sophomore in 2003, he had 1,400 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. More importantly Manheim Central won its first-ever Eastern final and went on and won the state title over Pine Richland 39-38 in a snowstorm. Hunter had 105 yards rushing in the title game.
"People over here say it was the greatest game they've ever seen," Brian Hunter said.
In terms of his son's exploits as a linebacker, Brian Hunter said: "He is in the mold of a Lawrence Taylor. He is quick off the outside and he causes a lot of disruptions. The thing that amazes me is the forced turnovers. Last year alone he probably had 12 forced turnovers. He has the ability to strip the ball and he returned two interceptions for touchdowns."
When asked about what makes him special as a player, Jeremiha Hunter said, "My versatility. Most linebackers are known for just being big and strong, but I bring agility, like Lawrence Taylor. I don't think I have been blocked by a lineman in the last two years. I need to work on my lower body. It will help me in breaking tackles, and I know that college linemen will be tougher to get past.
"I have probably played outside linebacker since I was in peewee football. But I have also played some at safety and even some as a defensive end. I think I'm pretty good coming off the corner like a defensive end or an outside linebacker."
Hunter participated in the national junior combine in San Antonio.
"One of the reasons we took him to Ohio State's camp and down to San Antonio was because we wanted to see how he matched up against people from outside the area," Brian Hunter said. "I think by doing that he showed he is one of the top ballplayers.
"The funny thing about San Antonio was he was probably only 50-60 percent. On our way to the airport, we stopped at the hospital and he had the cast taken off from the broken arm he had in the Eastern final game.
"He still stood out down there even though he wasn't quite 100 percent."
As for his summer plans, Hunter has not decided which camps, if any, he will attend. He will participate in the Nike Camp at Penn State April 30. He holds a 2.9 GPA.