Good and Long: Sizing Up OSU's 2006 Class

For the third year in a row, Bucknuts.com recruiting editor Duane Long provides commentary on the 20 players verbaled for the 2006 Ohio State recruiting class as well as a couple of other key prospects. For instance, Long thinks Springboro, Ohio, TE Jake Ballard brings tremendous speed as a jumbo athlete. See what he has to say about the whole group.

Good national signing day, everybody! (I borrowed that from WTVN-AM's George Lehner, by the way.)

Wednesday will be just like Christmas morning, complete with a fresh set of linebackers under the tree.

Or it's like the first day of the NCAA Tournament … or Opening Day in Cincinnati … or the home opener at the Horseshoe.

Wednesday is the day we find out where all of the nation's best and brightest are going to college. Actually, we have known for a while where many of the best players are headed. Ohio State goes into national signing day with 20 verbal commitments. Junior college linebacker Larry Grant became the latest member of the class on Tuesday, when he picked the Buckeyes over Oregon.

Of course, the suspense today surrounds two key prospects the Buckeyes were still tracking – Kentucky defensive lineman Corey Peters and Virginia wide receiver Damon McDaniel. Peters was looking at OSU, Michigan, Auburn, Kentucky and Louisville. McDaniel, who had committed to Florida previously, was apparently set to decide between OSU and Florida State.

Stay tuned here to Bucknuts.com all day and we'll report the developments as they unfold. Webmaster Kirk Larrabee will constantly update our Signing Day Central story as players fax their signed letters-of-intent to Ohio State.

As it stood Tuesday, the Buckeyes had seven national top-100 players in the Scout.com rankings. They were RB Chris Wells (No. 1 nationally), OL Connor Smith (30), DE Robert Rose (52), LB Thaddeus Gibson (58), LB Mark Johnson (74), LB Ross Homan (86) and WR-CB Ray Small (98).

Scout.com's computerized rankings had Ohio State with the No. 9-ranked recruiting class. The class ranking moved up three spots with the decision by Grant, a five-star recruit.

Only USC, ranked third, had more top-100 players than OSU with 12. Scout.com's rankings were as follows: Florida (seven top-100 players), Texas (six), USC (12), Notre Dame (six), Georgia (six), Penn State (six), LSU (five), Pittsburgh (five), Ohio State (seven) and Auburn (two). Michigan (four top-100 players) checks in at No. 13. No other Big Ten team was in the top 25.

As you wait for the letters-of-intent to pour through the fax machine at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, sit back and enjoy the following. We have comments here from Bucknuts.com recruiting editor Duane Long on all of OSU's verbals as well as the guys they may still add today.

Long shared some of his overall sentiments on the class.

"I think it's an underrated class," Long said. "They have seven top-100 players and I think they filled their needs. The offensive line was the only thing they missed and even there you look at the possibility that both tight ends they will sign could slide over to the offensive line.

"I think this is a sure top-10 class. The thing that stands out to me is how they got big speed. They got some big guys that can run. I look at (tight end) Jake Ballard and (defensive ends) Robert Rose and Walter Dublin. They are going to be in the top 10 percentile for speed for guys their size.

"And I think they quarterback for the future here with Antonio Henton. He could be one of those kids like, when you look back at the 2002 class and see a kid nobody was talking about like Troy Smith, you may have the same thing with Henton. He may be a little farther along at this stage than Troy was."

But the key to this class is the five-man haul at linebacker, where OSU lost all three starters off its 2005 team. The group includes top-100 prep picks Gibson, Johnson and Homan, a five-star JUCO transfer in Grant and highly regarded Ohio prospect Tyler Moeller.

"This linebacker class can probably compare with the A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Mike D'Andrea and Stan White class of 2002," Long said.

By the time you get through this, we may already know where some of those stars listed above have decided to go. Enjoy … and know this -- we are starting in the rest of this week with the most comprehensive coverage of juniors who could get a look for next year!!

Here are Duane Long's comments on players who figure to sign with OSU today (players with an asterisk next to their name have video clips available to view from their Scout.com database page):

Ohio Verbal Commitments

* Jake Ballard*, TE -- "You just don't see that much athleticism in a guy that big. That's really what it comes down to. I think he may follow the Eric Winston model where he comes in as a tight end, but he may end up playing offensive line by the time he gets to the next level."

* Bryant Browning, OL -- "He is a huge kid. He will play inside. I am really impressed by his work ethic. The biggest knock on him was his weight and he got his weight down. He could be a center. He is a smart kid. He will be a guard or a center. I don't think he will play tackle, even though he is a long-armed kid."

* Kurt Coleman*, CB -- "He is the most underrated player in this class and maybe the most underrated player in the country. He was a top-100 player last fall, but did not end up there. He is a top-100 player, as far as I'm concerned. I like him on offense, but he has the mind-set of a defensive player and that's where he wants to play. He could be a cornerback, but I see the Donte Whitner mind-set.

"He can run and hit. They may have to move him to safety. But, for now, given the depth they have at corner and the fact he is coming in early, he is absolutely in the mix at corner."

* Thaddeus Gibson*, LB -- "Thaddeus Gibson is as good a linebacker prospect as I've ever seen in Ohio. He has a great body and just needs to fill out. He has the instincts and the speed. The only thing that may keep him out of the two-deep this year is the fact he needs to add some weight. He is a top-100, five-star player."

* Ross Homan*, LB -- "Ross Homan is really an honest to goodness A.J. Hawk clone. He has the same mind-set, the same temperament and the same body. A.J. may have been a little stronger and Ross may be a little quicker than A.J. was at that point. I don't see him sitting as a freshman, especially with the depth situation they have and the fact he is going through spring football.

"We have seen that these kids coming in early have a huge advantage and just about all of them have made an impact."

* Tyler Moeller*, LB -- "He is probably the one kid who gets overlooked. He is a tremendous football player. He made quite an impact. If you look at Colerain the last couple of years and you saw a big play on defense, you usually saw Tyler Moeller on the football.

"He is an underrated prospect. He is another one who needs to add some weight. He is probably a sure redshirt, but he is going to have an impact."

* Robert Rose*, DE -- "If he puts it all together and can play consistently, he could be a three-year player at Ohio State. He has the physical tools that you just can't coach. He has a tremendous body. Who knows if he will end up playing defensive end or defensive tackle?

"How good he is is up to Robert. He has to be consistent. Right now, he is about 250 pounds. He could get up to 280 pounds in no time. If he stays around 265, he'd probably be a defensive end. It depends how he matures and what they want to do with him. You don't see a lot of 280-pound defensive ends. But if you have a 280-pound guy who can be quick and explosive, they will put him out there. "

* Ray Small*, WR-CB -- "He's like Ted Ginn, but runs better routes. He may not have the top end speed like Ginn. He's really a combination of Ginn and Santonio Holmes. He is probably a little better receiver than Ted coming out. He may be like Holmes, but with better speed. He has enough edge that he could also play corner. He has real good defensive ball skills. He has no fear at all and may be sturdier built than Ted was coming out of high school."

* Connor Smith*, OL -- "He is just heck on wheels. He comes off the ball like you want an offensive lineman to come off the ball. He fires off the ball and locks people up and they're done. With pass blocking, he has had so little experience doing that at Colerain. That is probably what will keep him off the field as a freshman. But if it was just about run blocking, he would be in the two-deep as a freshman."

* Chris Wells*, RB -- "He is probably the best back I have seen since Robert Smith. I have to say he is better than Maurice Clarett. He was not in as good a high school program as Clarett and he was even less protected, but he didn't miss a lot of games because of injury like Clarett did."

"This is a big kid who also has the shake and bake and can make some people miss. Clarett came in and won the job right away. That may not happen for Chris, although he is coming in for the spring and that should help his cause. But he will be behind a pretty good back already in Antonio Pittman."

Out-Of-State Commitments

* Chimdi Chekwa*, CB, Fla. -- "He is a great looking athlete. He has the size you look for in a cornerback. The thing I noticed on tape is the way he provides run support. He comes up and lays the licks. He is fearless. He is the kind of corner Ohio State is looking for. He has good athleticism and can play press coverage. He may be in the mix this year, considering their depth situation at corner."

* Walter Dublin, DE, Fla. -- "He is a great edge rusher. I love the guys with the high motor. With the depth they have at defensive end, he is sure to redshirt. I think it's interesting that they say they want to bring him in to play the Leo linebacker spot. That says a lot about that position, the one Bobby Carpenter was playing at times. He has great speed and a great motor. He is nonstop. He has a great body to fill out with."

* Aaron Gant, DB, Mich. -- "He is another fast, athletic kid to add to the secondary. He is a good hitter. Michigan comes into Ohio all the time. It's nice to go in and get one back from them, and they wanted him as well."

* Antonio Henton*, QB, Ga. -- "I see a Troy Smith clone. He may be a little bit farther along with his development than Troy was at the same stage because he's been a quarterback in that same system for the last few years. He had a great senior year. I think he will come in and learn a lot from working behind Troy. I see him being in the mix at quarterback for 2007. I think either he or Rob Schoenhoft will win that job."

* Mark Johnson*, LB, Calif. -- "Johnson is my No. 2 middle linebacker in the country. He is a huge get for the Buckeyes. With the depth they have in the middle this year, he may be a redshirt candidate. But he is a tremendous specimen. I think he comes in as a linebacker, but could grow into a defensive end. He is relentless. He just plays tough. He is a very physical kid."

* Grant Schwartz*, DB, Calif. -- "Grant is a super athletic kid. He is one of the more athletic kids in the class. With the depth they have at safety, he could eventually hit the field maybe as a linebacker. He is a smart kid with a good football IQ. He has the frame to fill out and grow into a weakside linebacker before it's all said and done."

* Dexter Larimore*, DT, Ind. -- "I love wrestlers as defensive linemen, and he is an outstanding wrestler. You can learn more about leverage in one hour of wrestling practice than you'll learn in one year of football.

"And he is not just a nose tackle. I think he can play the three-technique. He has shown some agility and ability to get into the backfield. He makes things happen. He may be the top-ranked heavyweight wrestler in the country. The last time they had somebody like that was Luke Fickell. Tim Anderson was pretty good, too."

* Andy Miller*, TE, Pa. -- "Miller is a big-bodied athlete, and you can never get too many of those. He will come in as a tight end. I think he has a better chance of staying at tight end than Ballard. He may end up on the offensive line. If he doesn't play at tight end right away, he would most likely move to the offensive line. Both of the tight ends they are taking have a chance to play because of the depth situation."

* Aram Olson*, FB, S.C. -- "With Olson, I just think about what he might be able to do in front of Chris Wells. The Buckeyes have not had a true fullback in a few years. That is something they will need if they want to go back to playing a little more smashmouth football. He seems like he will be a devastating lead blocker. He is the best high school lead blocker I have seen since Jamar Martin."

* Larry Grant, LB, Calif. -- "What can you say about a five-star linebacker and the number one JUCO linebacker in the country? He comes in with two years of college experience under his belt and he should be a more mature guy and maybe more confident and settled at the position. He has an opportunity to come in and contribute right away, especially considering the depth. I'm sure that factored in his decision. I see him as a Sam linebacker. That's what he played at the junior college."

Possible Signees

* Corey Peters, DL, Ky. -- "He is a big, thick wide body. His offer list speaks volumes. The people he has on his list show he is one of the elite defensive tackles in the country. I think he is a defensive player. I don't think he can get much bigger on his frame."

* Damon McDaniel, WR, Va. -- "I think he can be a top-10 wide receiver. He would probably be an immediate impact guy. Ohio State has some depth at wide receiver, but there may only be one guy there who can match his skills now and that's Ted Ginn Jr. You watch his highlight film and he shows good hands. He is not big in side, but he could be a flanker of the future there, really, both he and Ray Small."

Look for Steve Helwagen on Ohio News Network's national signing day special at 6:30 p.m.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories