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In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports, including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other sports.
Headline: Making Their Move
By Duane Long
(From Summer 2006 issue)
For most fans, the bowl games are the end of the college football season.
For the rest of us, that is just the official end of games but it is not the end of the season.
National signing day on the first Wednesday in February is the next target date. Then you have spring practice. After that, football is over for the year, right?
Not anymore. We are in the era of the combine/camp circuit. Scout.com conducted a number of combines this spring across the country, including nearby events in Pittsburgh and Louisville. Likewise, Nike brought their Big Ten combine back to Ohio State.
The OSU Nike Camp was well attended by more than 500 top prospects. Most of them were from the Midwest, although some came from as far away as South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Quite frankly, Ohio State is the right place for the combine. It is centrally located for most of the players that want to show their wares.
After a short break to end the school year, we go into the summer camps on college campuses. It is going to be an important part of the year for so many players in Ohio. Despite a deep pool of talent in Ohio, good camp showings can make it that much deeper.
One area that there are big question marks in the class of 2007 is at wide receiver. I have gotten to the point where I don't pay as much attention to 40-yard times for players at so many positions. That is not the case at wide receiver. The 40 makes or breaks players at that position. We are seeing size and skills from a number of players but we have not seen good enough times and in some cases we have no reported 40 time at all.
At the top of my list is Greenfield McClain athlete Dante Jackson. This is a name that sports fans are aware of but it is not for football. Jackson is an outstanding basketball prospect but has recently said he is seriously considering player football. He is a tremendous athlete. He has all the skills you want in a receiver but he could be an even better safety prospect.
If I was putting together a tape of the best hits I have seen for players in the class of 2007, Jackson would have more plays on the tape than any other player. He had never run a 40 before but ran a 4.65 at a combine in North Carolina. If he runs under 4.6 at any camp or combine, interest in him is going to do up dramatically.
Jackson has offers from the likes of Michigan, Xavier and Dayton for basketball. Maybe he'll see even more traffic for football.
One player I think could really benefit greatly from a good 40-yard time is Dover receiver Dan Ifft. This son of the head coach is a tremendously skilled player. He has excellent size at 6-3 and hands that I would only call remarkable. He runs routes. So many elite athletes don't really run routes. He is a battler. No defensive back is going to go up and take the ball away from him -- that is if the defensive back can jump with this outstanding leaper. A good time at camp pushes Ifft's stock up considerably.
Tomaz Hilton from Youngstown Rayen and Kendall Washington from Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas are the most impressive physical specimens in this class of receivers. Both need to improve on their 40 times, though. I have no number for Washington. Hilton has a best of 4.61 seconds. If either runs under 4.6, you will see both on the short lists of a lot of top schools.
Both are big athletic kids that know how to use their size to their advantage. If they add speed to the package, they have to offer they will have their pick of schools.
Another position where players can do themselves a lot of good is quarterback. It is the one position that college coaches really go out of their way to see players up close. At so many positions, tape is good enough to earn a player an offer. The number of top quarterbacks that don't get offers until a coaching staff sees them in person might surprise fans.
There are a number of kids in this underrated class of quarterbacks that will help themselves greatly with a good camp season. At the top of the list is Milton-Union quarterback Mitchell Evans. I think he could be the Brady Quinn of this class. You may remember that Quinn was looked at as a MAC caliber player at this time before his senior year. He then started the camp circuit and came away with offers from Ohio State, Michigan and Tennessee as well as the school he chose, Notre Dame.
Because he comes from a smaller school outside Dayton, Evans is not as well known. Smaller school kids always have the questionable competition label attached to them. It is especially acute with quarterbacks. It is a must for them to get to big school camps and show they can handle the speed of the game that elite athletes bring to the table. I think Evans becomes a national quarterback with good camp showings.
South Point's Chris Smith has been a known commodity with fans that follow recruiting but he too needs to show he can handle the step up in competition since he is at a small school.
There are several other quarterbacks that need camp to improve their offer lists. I am impressed with the skills Middletown's Skylar Jones brings to the table. He is a dynamic quarterback that can run with it as well as he can throw it. I think he is going to be one of the rising stars of this class, especially after clocking a sub-4.4 second 40 at the Nike Camp.
Miamisburg's Jason Williams is another little known quarterback that can do himself a lot of good with good showings at camp. He is more a pocket passer but he moves awfully well.
I just recently found another quarterback in this class that will do wonders for himself with a good camp season, Girard lefty Scooter Hargate. I was impressed with what I saw on tape. He is a very accurate passer and runs really well. He was hurt early last year after transferring into Girard so he is a bit unknown.
Yet another prospect that I think changes his life with a good camp season is Pickerington North quarterback Chazz Anderson. He is going into only his third year as a quarterback and his development was hurt last year because his top receiver, Terrence White, was lost for the year to a knee injury before the season started.
Speaking of White, he could be the one with more to gain than anyone. He is coming off the injury. He will need to show that is behind him. He is the one receiver in this class that has already shown speed.
As deep as this safety class is, there is a downside. Some really top kids are not getting the ink they would in an ordinary year. I look at players like Youngstown Rayen's Steve Slade and Youngstown Ursuline's Maurice Jones that would be top safety prospects any other year. They are going to have to show their stuff this summer to get on the want lists of the big schools.
I think a couple of the fastest risers could be kids in transition. Defensive end/linebacker Charlie Hatcher from Hamilton has spent the off-season looking into the coaches' office and seeing it empty. Now new head coach Jim Place, formerly from Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, is sitting in that office and nobody knows better than him how to get a kid ready for the next level. Hatcher is one of the best defensive linemen in Ohio.
LeBron Daniels has transferred from Warrensville Heights to Cleveland Glenville after his head coach took a job at another school. Daniels is a fine prospect. Schools will want to get a look at him to see if he is big enough to be a defensive end or fast enough to be a linebacker.
Some more fast risers could include Macedonia Nordonia running back/defensive back Jordan Mabin (turned a 4.45-second 40 at the OSU Nike Camp), Lakewood St. Edward wide receiver/tight end Kyle Hubbard (ran a 4.7 at OSU Nike Camp, which is respectable on that slow track at 225 pounds), Hilliard Darby defensive tackle Antonio Jeremiah (West Virginia, Michigan State and Louisville were among his early offers), Trotwood-Madison linebacker Carlton Peake (4.6 40 at OSU Nike), Cleveland Glenville linebacker Jermale Hines (4.56 40 at OSU Nike) and Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit offensive lineman Nick Schepis.