EDITOR'S NOTE – Today we are beginning a 14-part series where we unveil the top 101 football prospects in Ohio's Class of 2007. These rankings were assembled by Bucknuts and Ohio High recruiting editor Duane Long. They were originally published in the May 2006 edition of Ohio High magazine. Here is the second installment with players ranked No. 31-50.
31. **** Julian Miller
6-4 215 DE/TE Columbus Beechcroft
I was watching the Beechcroft-Brookhaven game in anticipation of checking out Jeff Cumberland and the latest collection of talent at Brookhaven when I noticed a long lean athletic defensive end on the other side of the ball.
Miller has the potential to be as good as any of the other top defensive ends in this class. He has a great frame to fill out, though he is a bit lean right now. Miller could probably fill out to 250 pounds in time.
He is a bit raw and needs to work on using his hands to keep blockers off of him. Right now, Miller is using his excellent athletic ability to win battles and he will need to get stronger.
But there is a lot to like about Miller. He has a good motor and there is no question about his speed. He really does a good job when plays are run at him despite the lack of bulk. He is a battler and does not shy away. He really showed that in the Brookhaven game. They had real size up front and Miller hung in there.
A good camp season could push Miller into the top 20. In any other year, he is most likely the top defensive end in Ohio.
32. **** Daryle Ballew
6-3 285 DT Cincinnati Withrow
This is the first time Ballew has been in Ohio High since he enrolled at Withrow just before last season. I am not sure where he was before, but I am sure his previous coach is crying the blues.
Players like this in the middle of the line are hard to come by. Ballew is a load. He is nearly unblockable without a double team, and even then he splits the double team on a regular basis. He uses technique that isn't seen in a lot of college players let alone a high school junior. Ballew uses swim moves and rips and uses his hands very well.
The best characteristic about Ballew is he plays to the whistle whether the play is in his direction or not. So many kids this size don't run if the play is away from them and they take plays off but not Ballew. He is making plays down the field, and he had one play last season in which he chased a quarterback from one side of the field to the other three times.
He does a great job of play recognition as well. Joey D'Andrea is the only kid I have seen this year that does as good a job of getting off blocks.
Ballew is a natural wide body. He carries his 285 pounds well. He is nearly impossible to move and has great feet. Ballew could be a nose tackle or a one gap 3-technique. He reminds me most of is Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton.
To think this kid is this good with so little experience, this ranking could be too low when the year end rankings come out. Maryland has already offered.
33. **** Rob Trigg
6-3 245 DE/DT Dayton Chaminade-Julienne
If there is a better put together and more athletic 245 pound player in Ohio this year than Rob Trigg I need to see him.
Trigg is a real specimen. He looks like a junior in college not a junior in high school. He runs so well that that middle linebacker would be his ideal spot if he were finished growing. Trigg looks a lot like current Buckeye defensive end Alex Barrow did when he was a junior in high school.
The tape I received from former C-J head coach Jim Place showed the opposition running a lot of plays away from Trigg. I noticed it was a game late in the season and it was obvious the coaching staff saw that running at him was futile.
Trigg stands up really well against the run by stuffing blockers and shedding excellently. He has the speed and the motor to be a weak side pass rusher but shows the strength and tenacity to be a weak side end. He is a physical player so moving inside will effect him in the least.
If he runs well at camps, this will be one of the players that moves up this list the most come season kickoff issue.
Pittsburgh has already offered.
34. **** Carlton (C.J.) Peake
6-2½ 207 S Trotwood-Madison
The running back position could be added to Carlton Peake's byline. I was not aware until seeing tape that he played running back.
In fact, when I spoke to him he never mentioned playing offense at all, but he should have. He is a good high school running back, but I don't think he will be a running back in college.
Peake scored 11 rushing touchdowns as a junior at Dayton Meadowdale. He also racked up 109 tackles and six interceptions at strong safety. Numbers don't lie and that is a lot of tackles for a safety and an impressive interception total. On offense, he has a straight ahead style that shows what kind of defensive player he is.
From watching him on film, Peake is more comfortable at the line of scrimmage. He is every bit his listed 6-2 and has a long lean body. He could fill out some more, but probably no more than 225 pounds or so.
Everyone is playing bigger safeties now and Peake has the speed to go with it. He ran a 4.46 at Ohio State camp this year and was one of two juniors moved up to work with the seniors – the other being Devon Torrence
If Peake, who received an early offer from Pittsburgh, is going to be a linebacker he is in good hands. He has gone over to Trotwood-Madison to play for former Chicago Bear linebacker Maurice Douglas. West Virginia, North Carolina and Pittsburgh have offered.
35. **** Zach Furlong
6-6 220 Athlete Xenia
Zach Furlong will be one of the most interesting players to watch this year.
He played wide receiver last year and could make this list as a receiver. Furlong is an outstanding big athlete that will likely grow into a tight end. He will be a great one, too. That is, if he is not a quarterback.
Last year, Xenia had the outstanding and underrated Josh Cousins under center. That kept Furlong at wide receiver but he will be taking the snaps for Xenia this fall.
Xenia head coach Ed Mignery has been around a few big time prospects. He coached both E.J. and Brandon Underwood, both Ohio State recruits, as well as his own son, who ended up at Michigan. Mignery believes he has another Ben Roethlisberger on his hands with Furlong.
As athletic as Furlong is, there is no downside. If he isn't the next Ben Roethlisberger, then he is odds-on to be the next Jeremy Shockey.
I will make it a point to check on Furlong this year. We may know before that if he camps as a quarterback this summer.
36. *** Derrick Sherman
6-0 170 WR Cincinnati Withrow
Derrick Sherman is one of those players I would hate to play against. He reminds me of players like the Colts' Marvin Harrison and Ohio State's Santonio Holmes.
Sherman is not the most impressive physical specimen, but he is not small either. He is not the fastest player you will ever see, but there are no questions about his speed. All he does is simply make plays. ‘Wily' would be the perfect way to describe his game. A hundred receivers could line up in his spot but Sherman would be the one that finds that one soft spot in a solid zone.
He catches everything and makes it look easy with such great hands. He can contort his body in ways that nobody else can to make catches and somehow manages to stay on his feet. As a junior, Sherman had 36 catches for 498 yards during the regular season.
Sherman drives defenders nuts after the catch. As mentioned, he is not the fastest kid but his yards after the catch are as impressive as any receiver you will find. He is that elusive. I stopped counting the number of plays I watched in a row where Sherman got double-digit yards after the catch without a defender touching him. He was eventually forced out of bounds. He is like a back when it comes to following his blocking.
This is a kid with tools, football smarts, and if there is a more competitive player, I want to see him.
Sherman has an offer from Miami (Ohio) but is undecided on summer camps. If he runs well, Miami will be the first of many offers.
37. **** Ricardo Thompson
6-2 205 LB Cincinnati Withrow
I had forgotten how good Ricardo Thompson was until I saw his junior film.
This is a tremendous linebacker prospect. He is definitely a linebacker and not another one of the high school linebackers in Ohio this year that will be trying to make the tough transition to safety.
Thompson has the body to fill out to 230 or better and looks bigger than his listed 205. This kid has instincts that can't be taught. He reads the game like a much more experienced player. Thompson makes small adjustments right before the snap and puts himself into the perfect position to make the play once the ball has snapped. Withrow head coach Doc Gamble says he has been making the calls and checks for the defense since he was a freshman.
On one particular play last year, Thompson has his hand on the ground lined up as a defensive end. After a receiver goes in motion he moves a little wider, then attacks on the snap. The quarterback is trying to run a naked bootleg but he runs right into Thompson's awaiting arms.
Thompson is a physical player as well as a versatile one. He gets off blocks quickly and handles traffic well. He is a very solid tackler with good speed.
Gamble lines him up all over the field but he seems comfortable inside or outside. Because of his size, he seems best suited outside but his size keeps him from being an inside linebacker. I would want a smart, fast, tough linebacker like Thompson in the middle of the field.
He has solid grades and good camp showings could see his stock soar.
38. *** Tomaz Hilton
6-3 190 WR/S Youngstown Rayen
Being ranked this high in any year in Ohio is a sign of a top prospect and the chances of ending up playing Big Ten football are pretty good. In the class of 2007, the chances of playing Big Ten football are more like odds on.
I will need to see how well Hilton performs athletically in camps and combines later this year, but this ranking is too low if he runs up to his potential, which will be what everyone is looking for.
Hilton is going to stand up to the measuring tape. This kid is legit 6-3 and has a great looking body. A model of a modern prototype for a receiver would end up looking like Hilton.
Watching him on film just cements him as my favorite to move up the most when we are done with this class. Hilton is a big receiver and plays big. He goes up and takes balls away from defenders showing great hands and leaping ability. Hilton shows the confidence I like to see in a go-to receiver. He wants the ball and believes anything near him is his.
Hilton is also is a physical player. He will block and he likes when those smaller defensive backs are the only thing between him and the house. Hilton is going to go right at them.
He is the playmaker every offense is looking for.
If he runs well this summer I don't know how I keep him out of the top 20, even in this monster class. He has been a two-year starter at receiver and will likely get reps at a free safety this season.
39. *** Dan Ifft
6-3 175 WR Dover
Bill Greene is Ohio High's eyes and ears in Stark County.
Last year, he had been to a camp or combine and threw the name Dan Ifft at me.
I remember Ifft being a good quarterback prospect. He said he was not a quarterback and compared him to Buckeye receiver Brian Hartline. Canton Glen Oak head coach Jack Rose is the only person who has seen more of Hartline than Bill Greene, so I was a bit surprised to hear him compare anyone to Hartline.
After watching Ifft's tape, I see what Bill was talking about. This is one tremendous receiver prospect.
Ifft is a tall kid with a long athletic stride. He looks every bit of his listed 6-3, has great hands and runs nasty routes. Ifft looks like a quarter miler out there.
I don't have a 40 time on him, but I saw play after play where he blew by defenders. He runs the deep post routes and he runs the drag routes just as effectively. He can take those drag routes and turn them into touchdowns. Ifft can run every route in the book and he will not hesitate to take it over the middle.
Ifft does the little things well. He comes back to the quarterback when he sees him in trouble and he finishes his runs.
However, he was a quarterback as a sophomore, so he missed a year of development. He was a receiver as a freshman and caught 54 balls. Last year he caught an amazing 102 passes for 1,606 yards and 21 touchdowns.
If he runs well this summer, I don't know how I can keep him out of the top 30.
40. *** Tyler Replogle
6-2 225 LB Centerville
It only took me about three plays to form an opinion of Centerville middle linebacker Tyler Replogle.
Replogle plays with such reckless abandon I remember thinking he was going to kill himself before the tape was over. His game is very simple – run as fast as possible until the whistle blows or until he hits something.
Running is something Replogle does very well. Centerville head coach Ron Ullery gives him a 4.75 and that will be an accurate time. What is on the stop-watch when a runner passes the line is what gets written down with Ullery.
I think Replogle's football speed is better than that, however. He is going to impress when it is camp time. He has a 4.07 pro agility, 30-inch vertical, 340 bench press, 470 squat and 285 clean.
He had 140 tackles as a sophomore and 138 as a junior. He has a great body and Ullery thinks he could grow into a defensive end by the time he is ready to step on the field as a college player. I will not argue with that – Ullery knows a little something about talent. He coached a kid named A.J. Hawk and I think I may have heard of him before.
Replogle has and offer from Indiana with more to come.
41. *** Mark Wetterer
6-6 300 OT Cincinnati Anderson
I like to throw out nicknames and I would call Mark Wetterer the "Wall."
Wetterer is a massive kid who looks bigger than his listed 6-6, 300 pounds. This could be because he carries his weight so very well. He is a wide, square kid that looks like he is going to get even bigger. The comparison that comes to mind is former Michigan offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott.
Wetterer plays big. It is like he is a traffic cop out there – he throws up a hand and someone stops.
He plays left tackle in high school, but I think he is going to move over to right tackle if not slide down inside to guard. He has the long arms that are such an advantage at tackle. But guard seems just as likely the place for Wetterer considering the way he run blocks. When he gets his hands on a defensive player, it is over.
He shows really good technique and is clearly better than what I expect to see out of a good high school lineman. Wetterer is technically sound bending at the knee not at the waist and uses leverage naturally.
I spoke to Anderson head coach Vince Suriano right before the tape arrived and Wetterer is benching 400 pounds.
Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan are all showing early interest and he already has an offer from Cincinnati.
42. *** Charlie Hatcher
6-4 245 DE/OL Hamilton
Hatcher is one of the better defensive linemen in Ohio this year. He did not get a lot of publicity on a losing team last year, but that is sure to change with former Chaminade-Julienne head coach Jim Place taking over the Big Blue.
Hatcher is an active and very physical defensive end that will project to defensive tackle as a college player. I don't think he has the explosiveness to be a defensive end in college.
He is really good at hand fighting and gets off blocks quickly. He does an excellent job of finding the ball and has the high motor that I think is essential to any defensive player.
I like smart football players and Hatcher has that high football I.Q. and great instincts. He has a 4.75-second 40 and a nice body to build on. I can see him filling out to 280 or so with minimal impact on his speed and athleticism.
I would sum up Charlie Hatcher as simply a football player.
43. *** Ishmaally Kitchen
6-3 310 OL Youngstown Cardinal Mooney
I am a big fan of tall, long armed tackles. I am not as picky when it comes to guards. Inside players, whether they are guards or centers on offense or tackles on defense, have to stay low and play low.
So, why not go with a player that has a naturally low center of gravity?
Kitchen is a powerhouse in the truest sense of the word. He plays tackle in high school because he has unusually quick feet. Kitchen is just quick in general. He plays a pretty mean defensive tackle, but I think he is an offensive player in college. Kitchen has tackle feet but is built like a guard. He is a wrecking machine.
Mooney made the state final for the second year in a row running a lot of plays behind Kitchen. The only real concern I have about Kitchen is he needs to stay out if the kitchen. It is not a problem now, but he has a wide body and that can scare recruiters away if he is not careful.
44. *** Jaa'Rome Williams
5-10 210 TB Elyria
Let's be clear here – there are small backs and there are short backs.
Jaa'Rome Williams is a short back.
He has very quick feet and is explosive to the hole. This is a very instinctive back with a full brief case of skills. On some plays he uses those quick feet to get to daylight quickly and other plays he is waits on the blocking to form in front of him. Then, of course, there are the plays he just drops his head and goes as hard as he can until the whistle blows.
Williams runs with good power. He moves piles and falls forward. He breaks a lot of tackles and runs over just as many tacklers. Williams also finishes all of his runs. He is a downhill runner that would fit best in an I-formation offense. During the regular season, Williams had 1,167 yards and 15 touchdowns on 176 carries.
I was not aware Williams played defense until I saw a play where I assumed Elyria was playing away and wearing white jerseys. I saw the quarterback running around, so I thought Williams was about to catch the ball. All of a sudden, there was a red streak that came flying off the edge of the screen and took the quarterback completely off his feet. Sure enough, it was Williams. There were several more plays like that on the tape.
I love the way this kid plays the game. He is all out on every play and is one of the best kept secrets in Ohio.
45. *** Ben Davis
6-4 263 OL Piqua
There are going to be a lot of scouts in Piqua this coming season to see super running back prospect Brandon Saine. More than a few will go home talking about Ben Davis.
Davis' game tape offers a strong argument for him being the most athletic offensive lineman in Ohio. He is a very lean 263 pounds and is one of those kids with such a frame that looks like he needs few good meals despite being well on his way to 300 pounds. He probably won't be able to keep himself from weighing 300 pounds when he is fully grown if he wanted to.
Davis gets out and makes blocks on the second level consistently. There is one play on his tape in which Davis gets out on a safety – the way the play was designed – and he gets his man too.
Piqua is running some plays that can only be run with a lineman athletic enough to get out in front of it and Ben Davis can do that. He recorded 18 pancake blocks on the year and graded out 91 percent on his blocking assignments. He has some nasty in his game and is very tenacious.
46. *** Eric Thomas
6-5 250 OL/TE Cleveland Benedictine
Everyone wants big kids that can run and Thomas fits that mold perfectly.
Thomas doesn't catch the ball a lot in the Benedictine system at tight end but shows he is going to be an excellent blocker. This is a well put-together 250 pound kid but looks more like 220.
He moves really well and I don't see a defensive player's mindset. I think by the time he steps on a college football field Thomas will be an offensive lineman, probably a tackle. He has long arms and shows good fundamentals.
Thomas is a great kid and will be easy to coach and a pleasure to coach.
47. *** William Johnson
6-2 210 RB/DB Centerville
I remember two years ago when then Chaminade-Julienne head coach Jim Place told me about William Johnson. He said he was playing him only on defense because he already had a pretty good back. Some kid named Javon Ringer (Michigan State).
Johnson was the heir apparent to Ringer but he disappeared right before his junior year. The rumor mill had him moving to Georgia.
Late last season, Johnson resurfaced at Centerville. He did not play until the playoffs since he was not academically eligible. But this is nothing for college coaches to be worried about now, as I understand it.
Johnson had an immediate impact, rushing for over 100 yards in each of the Elks' playoff games. He is a good sized back that runs with good power and leverage. He is very strong and has excellent balance and very quick feet. I really like what I saw of him as a running back.
Ullery thinks he is going to be a safety in college. He says Johnson wants to be a receiver and thinks he has the hands to do it.
Johnson is a very hard worker. He has a 4.6-40 , 4.05 pro agility, 250 bench press and a 255 clean.
With a solid year under his belt, this could be one of the fastest rising prospects in Ohio next year.
48. *** Jordan Mabin
6-0 177 TB/CB Macedonia Nordonia
I first heard about Jordan Mabin as a freshman when he rushed for over 1,000 yards and he has continued to put up more and more impressive numbers as a running back.
I have never been a fan of small backs, but like former Dayton Chaminade-Julienne star Javon Ringer, Mabin runs well between the tackles. He does not have a big back's game like so many smaller backs that are effective inside runners. Mabin is just that elusive. He seems to be able to move his body in such a way that tacklers don't get a good shot at him – a little twist here, a quick step there and he makes people miss.
In some systems, Mabin gets a shot at running back but he is going to be a cornerback in most. That is one of the best kept secrets in Ohio. Jordan Mabin is a fine cornerback and has always been. He went down to the U.S. Army junior combine in Texas and made the all-combine team as a defensive player.
Mabin has run 4.4 before and did so again at the combine. In fact, some observers said he was the best defensive athlete at the combine regardless of age.
Mabin was one of the top performers of the Pittsburgh Scout.com combine. He was clocked at 4.44 and 4.47 seconds in his two 40-yard dash attempts. He was also timed at 4.16 seconds in the pro shuttle. Those times were among the top five out of 200 participants in each event.
As a junior, Mabin carried the ball 220 times for 1,495 yards (6.8 average) and 22 touchdowns as Nordonia posted a 6-4 record. That followed a sophomore year where Mabin rushed for 1,775 yards and scored 25 touchdowns.
He shows superior feet and Donnie Evege may be the only player in this class with better hips. Size will determine where Mabin receives offers from. There will be a college that simply does not care about size.
Simply put, Jordan Mabin is one of the best football players in Ohio, and one of the fastest. He received early offers from Pittsburgh and Indiana.
49. *** Bryant Thomas
6-1 185 QB/WR Cincinnati Withrow
This is one of the best athletes in Ohio in the class of 2007. When Withrow head coach Doc Gamble informed me that Bryant Thomas would be his quarterback last year, I was very surprised. I could not believe coach was going to move an all-league receiver to quarterback. That was before I knew about Jamar Howard, who ended up being one of the four best receivers in Ohio last year.
Howard needed someone to throw him the ball, so Thomas moved to quarterback. He had one great year running the Withrow spread offense. He threw for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns and only threw six interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes.
I don't know if he has the arm strength to be a big-time quarterback, but it is hard to argue with his effectiveness. He is a dual threat since he is a great runner as well. He is a quick-footed smart football player who showed when running the football just how effective he could be as a receiver. He has good size and is solidly put together.
Thomas is also really smart about taking punishment. If there is nothing to be gained, he goes ahead and steps out of bounds or get on the ground. If there is still some yardage in a play, he takes it right at defenders no matter the size.
I look forward to see how he runs this summer at camps. This fine, smart athlete could be one of the fastest rising prospects in Ohio.
50. *** Chaz Jones
6-0 180 S Cleveland Heights
Jones is one of the better all-around athletes in Ohio this year. He has played a number of offensive positions but played almost exclusively at quarterback this past year.
He is a quick-footed explosive athlete and receiver is a possibility, but I think he settles in at corner or more likely at safety in college.
Jones is a well put-together kid. He may get too big to be a corner, but he has the feet and hips that will likely get him a look at that position first. He is a little bigger, but everyone is looking for bigger corners these days.
There is one particular play from Jones stands out in my mind at quarterback. He was rolling right and handed off to a back that was going to run a counter. The back fumbled when he got to the other hash mark. The ball bounced right to one of the defensive backs from the defense. Jones was on the other hash mark continuing the fake and he turned and started after him. The odds were that he was not going to catch this kid since he was not a lineman or a linebacker but Jones went after him anyway with no angle to speak of. He then showed the speed to catch him. That showed a competitive spirit that needs to be seen in every player.
Jones is an outstanding student and a class act.
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